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Published October 14th 2012
Family drama at its best
Parenthood is a US drama about patriarch Zeek Braverman (Craig Nelson), his wife Camile (Bonnie Bedelia), and their tribe of four children and six grandchildren, as they try to tackle the trials and tribulations of everyday family life.
The Braverman Family, image from the Channel 5 website
Unlike most family dramas, which usually focus either on forced comedy or overly dramatic chaos, the situations in Parenthood are naturally funny, realistic and warm, exploring family life as it is and presenting a flawed group of people who are tied together by love and loyalty.
Adam Braverman (Peter Krause) is the eldest of Zeek and Camile's children. He bears the brunt of the responsibility for the whole Braverman clan and struggles to deal with change within the family unit. When he and his wife Kristina (Monica Potter) discover that their son Max (Max Burkholder) has Aspergers syndrome, Adam finds it hard to adjust to the unfairness of the situation and finds himself not being able to do anything right, especially by his teenage daughter, Haddie (Sarah Ramos).
Adam, Kristina, Haddie and Max. Image from the NBC website
Emotional and insecure in her late thirties, Sarah Braverman (Lauren Graham) moves back home with Zeek and Camile when she realises her life has been destruction and chaos since the breakdown of her marriage. Bringing with her her two teenagers, the delinquent Amber (Mae Whitman), who is endearing in all the wrong choices she makes, and the stoic Drew (Miles Heizer), who is desperate for a father figure, Sarah tries to start fresh while consumed by the thought that it is too late for her to have a life of her own.
Zeek, Sarah, Amber and Drew. Image from the NBC website
Judge Julia" (Erika Christensen) is the most together of the Bravermans but gets a bad rep for it. A successful lawyer, Julia is the breadwinner in her house, leaving her husband, Joel (Sam Jaeger), at home to look after their spoilt daughter Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae). Julia is torn apart that her daughter prefers Joel's company and bed time stories, and grapples fiercely with the everyday issue of wanting to have it all.
Julia, Joel and Sydney. Image from the NBC website
Crosby (Dax Shepard) is as far from the sensible stability of Julia and Adam as it is possible to be. Irresponsible and carefree, Crosby's life is changed as he discovers a son he never knew he had and he is forced to grow up fast. Hilarious and personable, Crosby makes more mistakes than his teenage nieces and nephews, but is entirely lovable no matter what he does.
Crosby Braverman. Image from the NBC website
Although there is plenty of drama to keep an audience hooked, the reason I keep going back to Parenthood is the characters and the way they are presented. It seems like there are a lot of people to keep up with, but storylines are handled with care and there is never too much going on at once, unless the intention is to overwhelm the audience for the purpose of empathy. Everyone talks over each other, adamant in their point of view, in nearly every scene, which makes each household seem realistic and relatable, and they are given such rich backgrounds and motivation that every pain they feel on screen is heartbreaking. More so because it is realistic pain and the drama is never taken too far.
One significant highlight of the series is when the family are all together and they start to dance (which happens quite often). It is horrendously embarrassing (or would be if you were related to them) and is a great touch that brings the fragile family together in moments of domestic happiness.
Braverman family dinner. Image from the NBC Website
I had seen several of the actors before, but they are such a great cast that I immediately forgot that they were Lorelai Gilmore and Mr. Incredible and they became my own on screen family that I am now dangerously emotionally attached to.
This show is perfect for lovers of Gilmore Girls, Grey's Anatomy, and any other programme that combines natural everyday comedy with the honest drama of real life.