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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Parenthood chooses heart over laughter

    Last night was the premiere of NBC's newest hour dramedy, Parenthood.  Loosely based on the 1989 movie of the same name, it is about a large family of still connected adult siblings, their parents, and their offspring (think Brothers & Sisters, if the show focused on the young children more).  It works because it drops the goofiness of the movie and focuses on the family relationships.  The character names and plots have changed from the movie, and it provides a welcome intelligence from the network's other programming.      The series features four grownup siblings: Adam, Sarah, Julia, and Crosby.  Adam (Peter Krause, Dirty Sexy Money), the most well adjusted of the group, is a hardworking father who wants what is best for his children, but is having a difficult time dealing with his son Max's (Max Burkholder) recently diagnosed Asperbeger's Syndrome.  Luckily, he has the help of a supportive spouse, Kristina (Monica Potter, Boston Legal).  Crosby (Dax Shepard) is the slacker, who works in a music studio, but is afraid of commitment.  Looks like he'll have to grow fast, though, he has just been told by a stripper that they have a son.  Julia (Erika Christensen, Six Degrees) works hard - too hard, as her daughter clearly prefers her father, Joel (Sam Jaeger, Eli Stone) in all things parental.  Lastly, but far from least, is Sarah (Gilmore Girl herself, Lauren Graham, who replaced a sick Maura Tierney in the role at the last minute), who married a deadbeat and has just moved her two teenagers back into her parent's house.
     The patriarch of the family is Zeek (Craig T. Nelson, Coach).  He was hard on his kids, and he continues to be on his grand kids, or at least on Max.  Zeek is trying his hardest to toughen Max up, thinking the boy's problems are a result of weak parenting or not enough motivation.  It will be extremely interesting to see how Adam deals with Zeek as the Asperger's story unfolds, as Adam clearly has plenty of issues with his own father.  Not much was seen of Zeek's wife, Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) in the pilot, but her comment about her husband being a jerk may foreshadow an ally for Adam.
      All in all, it was a great attempt for NBC at a serious drama, and if it does anything like similar shows on other networks, they may have a hit on their hands.  It's still too early to tell how the ratings will do, but I found the characters easy to relate to, and while a bit slow moving, the plot was interesting enough to set a season pass for on my TiVo.  If nothing else, watching this cast is enough of a reason to watch.
     Parenthood will rerun the pilot this Saturday at 8pm, and air new episodes Tuesday nights at 10pm on NBC.

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