“Parenthood” is a show that flies under the radar. There are no dead bodies, medical crises or supernatural incidents. It’s that rarest of television shows, a family drama that deals with actual real life family problems. In other words, the Braverman family is struggling with raising kids and paying bills, not worrying about how they are going to spend the millions of dollars they received from selling the water rights to some land — no offense, “Brothers & Sisters.” They are a true modern family complete with a stay at home dad, a child with Asperger’s syndrome, and multiple helicopter parents. Here are ten reasons why you should be watching.
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1. Sibling Rivalries
It’s not all about parenting. The relationships between the adult Braverman siblings are among the show’s most interesting. Adam and Julia (Erika Christensen), the family’s two overachievers, often judge their less successful siblings. Adam just shredded his little brother Crosby for cheating on his fiance with his son’s behavioral therapy aide Gabby, but he was really just angry that Gabby quit because of it. Sarah is constantly embarrassed that she hasn’t accomplished more. When they argue, years of resentments come into play. The scenes can be so intense and real that they are often stressful to watch, but any one who has brothers and sisters will be able to relate.
2. It’s A Chance to See The Friday Night Lights Cast In New Roles
“Parenthood” is produced by Peter Berg and Jason Katims, the same people who are responsible for “Friday Night Lights.” Now that FNL has finished shooting its final season, they are bringing over some of the cast members to play roles om “Parenthood.” Minka Kelly, who played Lyla Garrity and was recently cast as one of the new “Charlie’s Angels” has been playing Gabby, the behavioral specialist helping Max cope with his Asperger’s. Michael B. Jordan, best known as Vince, the East Dillon Lions quarterback, is Alex, a nineteen year-old alcoholic who manages a food bank. Jeff Rosick (Buddy Junior) popped up as a teen bully. “Parenthood” is the perfect cure for your Dillon withdrawal pains.
3. You Can Watch “Lost’s” Michael Emerson Obsess About Bugs
It looks like Ben Linus made it off the island. On the February 15th episode of “Parenthood”, Michael Emerson made a memorable guest-starring appearance as Amazing Andy, a man with Asperger’s Syndrome who works as a children’s party entertainer. Amazing Andy loves bugs like Jack loves Kate. And he is ruthless about the precise time and way he will show his bugs to the children. It’s a hoot to see the head of the Others as a gentle eccentric.
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4. John Corbett Is A Convincing Druggie
John Corbett is the patient, nice husband on “United States of Tara.” He was the patient, nice guy on “Sex and the City.” He was even the patient, nice father in “Ramona & Beezus.” On “Parenthood,” he gets to stop being patient and nice. He’s alternately heartbreaking and scary as Seth, Sarah’s alcoholic ex-husband who has recently decided he wants to spend time with his kids. One moment, he’s the fun Dad who is taking his son to the batting cages. The next, he’s threatening a group of kids who don’t want to leave the cage. His character is ambiguous. On one hand, being praising his son Drew for punching a bully on school grounds sets a terrible example. On the other, Drew needed to learn to stand up for himself. Corbett made Seth the achingly real bad boy that every woman has dated, the one who would be so amazing if only he could get it together.
5. A Kindergarten Play With 6 Year Old Black Panthers
“Parenthood” featured a thrilling multi-episode arc about a kindergarten class play. No, really. Slacker Dad Crosby wrested control of the Calrifornia history-themed play from stay-at-home dad Joel and discovered he was in over his head. There were 5 year-old Eve Harringtons, stage fright, and as much drama as any Broadway show. When the play finally premiered, in the January 18th episode Opening Night, it turned out to be the most ambitious and possibly inappropriate kindergarten play ever. Do you want to see a five year-old wearing Marilyn Monroe’s white dress and wishing JFK a happy birthday? How about a bunch of mini Black Panthers plotting the revolution? Of course you do.
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6. Teenage Girls Who Care About More Than Clothes and Popularity
Most teenage girls on television think about nothing but clothes, boys and their social status. Amber and Haddie, the two Braverman teens, are a refreshing exception. Haddie (Sarah Ramos) is a do-gooder who relishes her role as student council president and volunteers at a food bank. If that sounds dull, she also fell for an older guy that her parents don’t want her to date, but their relationship involves AA meetings and sorting clothing donations, not sex and partying. Rebellious Amber (Mae Whitman)is an aspiring songwriter who actually has talent. She may spar with her mother, but she has a good head on her shoulders and wants nothing to do with her addict father.
7. Real Estate Porn
The characters on “Parenthood” range from lower middle class creative types to upper middle class professionals. Their houses, however, are all multi-million dollar dream homes. The Braverman patriarchs have a sprawling, shabby chic manse complete with a guest house that is every bohemian’s fantasy. Contractor Joel (Sam Jeager) must have built his modern multi-story house that is ready for the cover of Architectural Digest. Even dancer Jasmine and music engineer Crosby have a spacious, airy apartment. It’s even more impressive considering the show is set in the Bay Area, one of the most expensive housing markets in America. Forget about the writing and acting. This show is worth watching for the set design.
8. Offices That Double As Living Rooms
Have you ever wished your friends and family would drop by your office, unannounced, in the middle of the day? Do you wish you could socialize in your office without getting fired? If the answer is yes, this is the show for you. Adam is a seemingly busy show company executive, but all of his relatives have no qualms about dropping by to discuss their problems in the middle of the workday. Even lawyer Julia recently ended a meeting when her sister Sarah showed up to discuss a girl’s night. The Bravermans have the most understanding bosses ever. They also seem to have lengthy face-to-face conversations about things people normally discuss via e-mail. Share the fantasy and watch.
9. Sarah’s Realistic Career Trajectory
Sarah Braverman (Lauren Graham) is the family rebel. While her siblings were building careers, she was chasing after musicians and having kids. As a result, she is broke and living with her parents. She finagled an internship at her brother Adam’s shoe company based on an idea she had for children’s shoes with a built-in GPS. On any other show, she would have turned out to be a design genius and been promoted to executive within a few episodes. That’s not what happened. She succeeded only at dating multiple co-workers. When she asked the company’s new owner for a raise and promotion, he made it clear it wasn’t going to happen. She went back to bartending. It was refreshingly realistic.
10. Parents Who Don’t Always Have the Answers
“Parenthood” shows that even good parents often have no idea what they are doing. Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina’s (Monica Potter)decision to forbid their teenage daughter from dating an older recovering alcoholic seemed like common sense. But their refusal to consider her point-of-view led to her moving out of the house. Sarah’s attempt to help her daughter Amber prepare for an open mic night ended up making Amber so insecure that she didn’t want to do it. Episodes frequently end without problems being solved. It’s comforting for real life parents to see the struggles of raising children accurately reflected on a television show.