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The Best Show You’re Not Watching: “Parenthood”

October 21, 2012

Is anybody watching Parenthood? What’s Parenthood, you ask? It’s a TV show. It has Peter Krause and Lauren Graham and Dax Shepard. It’s based on a Steve Martin movie? It’s on NBC. Right, yeah, it’s an hour-long drama type thing. No no, it’s not an old show, it’s on now, on Tuesday nights. So you’re saying that you don’t watch it?

I get it. No one else watches this show. Or, a few people do: my parents watch it. One of my favorite co-workers watches it. And I watch it. And that is probably all. So here I am with a message: you should try watching it too!

“Parenthood” is based on a movie that I’ve never seen, a 1989 production that was directed by Ron Howard and starred Steve Martin, who gamely holds his children by their ankles on the cover of the VHS. Like the movie, the show revolves around the vast and varied members of the Braverman family, and they are configured much the way that the Modern Family family is configured: the oldest parents have a big house, and their four children live nearby, each with a family dynamic of their own to contend with. Much like in Modern Family, they live in California where it’s always warm, and the whole gang often gets together for spirited dinners.

At the center of the show is Peter Krause, who we all remember lovingly as Nate from Six Feet Under (I’m just going to assume, from now on, that all Nuclear Salad readers were fans of “Six Feet Under.” It makes me feel more connected to you). Krause plays Adam, the oldest brother who often shoulders the problems of those around him. Adam and his wife Christina have two children, one of whom, Max, has Asperger’s.

Then there are the rest of the siblings: Sarah (Lauren Graham, being even better than she was in Gilmore Girls), who has moved, with her two teenage children, back into her parents’ house; Julia (Erika Christensen), an accomplished and very professional lawyer who is the breadwinner for her husband and young daughter; and Crosby (Dax Shepard), an immature but sweet guy who has to grow up fast when he learns that he’s the father of a five year-old boy. Presiding over it all are Zeke (Craig T Nelson) and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia), the patriarch and matriarch, respectively.

So, what happens? Just life. Now in its fourth season, the show has followed these characters as they go through daily struggles and larger, heartbreaking struggles. Sarah’s kids, Amber and Drew, have dealt with high school and their often-absent father, and both have changed significantly; it’s been cool to watch them figure stuff out. (Arrested Development fans: take note that Amber is played by Mae Whitman, aka Anne, aka Egg, aka “Her?”, and that she is in fact really adorable and very talented.) Sarah, who, in her forties, is still learning what she wants, has cycled through her own dramas while also trying to be a good mom. Crosby has fallen in love and messed it up and figured it out again, and learned to be a dad. Adam and Christina have dealt with unemployment and infidelity, and learned how best to love and care for Max as he grows up with all of the difficulties Asperger’s brings. Zeke and Camille have worked to keep their marriage together and to continue to be good parents to their adult children.

So why should you watch it? Listen, this show makes me cry Every. Single. Week. And I know that could be counted as a negative—like, who wants to watch a sappy, soapy drama? But I’m here to tell you that it’s not sappy, or soapy. Because dammit, life is hard! It’s hard when you’re young and it’s hard when you’re old and it’s real damn hard for that middle part, too. Relationships are INSANELY difficult; families are confusing; new shit is always popping up to learn how to deal with. It’s a challenge, consistently, even when it’s great.

All of that life stuff is genuinely well-reflected in Parenthood, and it consistently makes me think, reflect, and feel deeply. That’s good TV, folks. Let’s get to watching it, shall we? It’s on Tuesday nights. So yeah, that’s this Tuesday. It’s at 10 PM EST, so if you think you’ll already be in bed (or out doing something cool, if you’re cooler than me), just Hulu it later. See? This is easy, and it’s fun, and it feels good.

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