Several times throughout the year, my family gets together for the holidays to enjoy the craziness that large family get-togethers seem to bring. There is ‘drama” among the adults, tantrums from the children, and my sister and I always get stuck between the kids and adults not quite sure which end of the spectrum we belong to.
But at the end of the day, when we all sit down to eat with one another, there is heart and warmth flowing through the air in a family that I am glad to say I belong to.
Watching several families come together for dinner on NBC’s new dramedy ‘Parenthood” felt familiar enough to grab my attention for the hour. The show, which is a spin-off of a 1989 film of the same name, begins when Sarah (Lauren Graham), a single mom who escaped from a marriage with a ‘tortured musician,” decides to uproot her two teenage children, Amber (Mae Whitman) and Drew (Miles Heizer), and move back home.
Meanwhile, Sarah’s brother, Adam Braverman (Peter Karuse) is not only dealing with bad umpiring throughout his son’s little league game, but is taking hold of his wife Kristina’s (Monica Potter) recent discovery that their son Max (Max Burkholder), has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
While at times the pilot episode did have a melodramatic and stuffy feel, the scenes in which Adam and Kristina realized just how much they needed to help their son really resonated.
The choice to accurately portray a child on television with this disability, which was made out of the personal connection of one of the creators, has proved to be a bold and wise choice. It brings the heart of the family to the forefront of the action.
But while this was the story that really catapulted the pilot episode, there was a hell of a lot more taking place. Adam and Sarah’s other sister, Julia (Erika Chistensen), is the stereotypical workaholic mom who has allowed the demands of her career to take precedence over the needs of her daughter, Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae). Her husband Joel (Sam Jaegger), on the other hand, gets the advantages of being the stay-at-home dad whom cuts Sydney’s food and sings her to sleep. If Sydney weren’t so darn adorable, this would probably be my least favorite storyline, given its been-there-done-that feel. But she’s just so cute.
Finally, the youngest brother of the four adult siblings, Crosby (Dax Sheperd), is dealing with his own commitment issues when he finds out that his girlfriend Katie (Margerite Moreau) is keeping donated sperm in her fridge because her biological alarm clock is about to go off. As Crosby is about to finally jump into a real relationship with Katie, an old flame walks right into the picture with a son he didn’t know existed. Of course.
Tying the whole family together is the overbearing father, Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), and the oddly seldom-seen mother, Camille (Bonnie Bedelia). With stories branching off from every character in every possible direction, the nature of the show can feel somewhat overwhelming.
But this proves to be both the curse and blessing of ‘Parenthood.” The constant flow and smooth transitions between the plots of the brothers, sisters and their children allows for new stories to keep the show fresh. There were a few too many tears (six crying scenes if I counted correctly) and not quite enough laughs.
Yet, it was still a very fun episode. The actors had a family friendly chemistry that resonated with me over the course of the hour. They seem totally in tune with each other, which helps create a very believable on-screen family something many other televisions shows struggle with.
While the show may not have that immediate love at first sight feeling I’ve had in the past, it certainly had the strength and room for growth that I am more than willing to tune in to see.
‘Parenthood” airs on ABC on Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
Rosenberg is a member of the class of 2012.