'Parenthood' premiere leaves room for growth

By Michelle Hart
On March 11, 2010

 "Parenthood," NBC's newest edition to its primetime line-up, has all the elements that should make it the best show on television. It boasts a talented cast including Lauren Graham ("Gilmore Girls"), Peter Krause ("Six Feet Under") and Dax Shepherd. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer ("Arrested Development") produce the show along with head writer Jason Katims of "Friday Night Lights." Those facts alone give the show enough credibility to create some serious buzz. But does the show live up to this buzz? 

Given that the show only has a few episodes under its belt, that question is relatively difficult to answer. "Parenthood" centers on the Braverman family and, much like ABC's "Modern Family" and "Brothers and Sisters," encompasses different sides of the family. In fact, "Parenthood" owes much to those former two shows and it may appear to many viewers as NBC's reaction to its success. For the Braverman's, the dysfunction runs deep, but just like every family in the history of television they still love each other. There's the irresponsible brother who refuses to grow up and commit; there's the single mother who struggles with balancing family and her social life. These are all archetypes of the family drama we have seen before. 

While "Parenthood" is based on the 1989 comedy film of the same name, starring Steve Martin, this new rendering stresses the drama way above the comedy, which makes for more than a few tonally awkward moments. The show, like the family it portrays, goes from batty to sober, mostly within the same scene.

As with any ensemble show, there are going to be certain storylines that become more interesting than others. "Parenthood" is no exception. Lauren Graham brings many of her Lorelai Gilmore sensibilities to her role as Sarah Braverman. Though she is stuck again playing the single mom, Julia Braverman-Graham, Erica Christensen, for example—who is a fairly unexciting actress in her own right—plays the clichéd, hard-working mother who does not get to spend as much time as she would like with her children. That story provides no new or interesting nuances to an overdone and trite television show staple.

Perhaps that will inevitably end up being the show's biggest bane: its inability to pierce the veil of predictability. Viewers will be able to see the show's "twists" coming from a mile away. But maybe, that isn't the point. This is indeed just the show's introduction. Maybe the show's writing and producing—capable as they are—will eventually show us something different. If "Arrested Development," "Six Feet Under," "Gilmore Girls," and "Friday Night Lights" taught us anything it's that the most talented creative teams can turn tried-and-true concepts into something refreshing and exciting.

"Parenthood"airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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