Five Reasons Why “Parenthood” is a Superb TV Series

by on December 4th, 2010
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Family dramas come and go, and often they are missing something to make them truly memorable and ultimately watchable. But once in a while things come together to make something really worth watching. That’s what’s happened with “Parenthood” which is now airing its third season. Here are five reasons why this show excels where others don’t.

The Cast
With a nice mix of well known stars together with some lesser known actors, this show was cast for success. Our two names here Lauren Graham of “Gilmore Girls”, and the “Six Feet Under” and “Dirty Sexy Money star Peter Krause. The two of them play the two oldest Braverman siblings Sarah and Adam, who are joined by Crosby (Dax Shepherd) and Julia (Ericka Christensen). With the parents Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) forming the two older generations, it is actually the actors of the third generation who really make this cast a wonder. In particular, we get the amazing Mae Whitman playing Sarah’s rebellious daughter Amber. She proves that not all Hollywood child stars burn out or fade into oblivion. They can actually have intelligent, adult acting careers. Especially notable is Max Burkholder who plays Adam’s Asperger’s syndrome son Max, with such believability, one might wonder if the boy really is afflicted in real life. Together they make an ensemble that is a joy to watch. The actors here make us cheer these people on, rue their bad decisions and basically love them for all their faults.

The Story
As noted, family dramas are nothing new. We’ve seen some that have taken on extremely strange and unusual situations, from the super-rich to the supernatural. But those that show the real side of life without stepping into melodrama or farce are few and far between. While this may seem less than special to some, for many, watching people who we can identify with is in some ways comforting. The Braverman family is just such a group, and it’s no stretch to imagine these people living just around the corner from us. What a lovely change of pace when we have so many medical, criminal, political and reality shows on the air these days. “Parenthood” gives us a type of reality we can get lost in and smile at, without it ever seeming predictable.

The Script
Without an excellent script, this would all get lost in the shuffle. And the script here is marvelous. Ever notice that in real life, it is a rare occasion when everyone waits their turn to talk? Sure, that happens in a classroom or boardroom or other formal situations. But in real life among family and friends, people talk over and behind others. The script here takes that perfectly into account. Here we get many scenes where the focus of the conversation is simply the slightly louder voices, over the accompanying chorus of other people in the background. You might think this makes for confusion, but thankfully it doesn’t. That’s because of the next reason.

The Direction
With the actors, story and script in place, the thing to bring it all together is great direction. The key to good direction is making sure there’s chemistry on the screen. And we get this in spades, right from the first episode of season one. The proof here is in the little things we get that make us believe this group of people is a biological family. The directors succeeded with this by watching out for the little things. We’ll hear a vocal inflection or gesture in one person that shows up in another. We even get this happening within the main characters that we only notice later on when someone new comes into the cast. For instance, when Sarah’s ex-husband comes by, we suddenly see things in him that we’ve already seen in his son. These things make us believe they are related, and that’s magical to watch.

The “Oh No” Factor
This last reason may be totally subjective, and is probably based on my (and my husband’s) personal experience alone. The main reason why I think that “Parenthood” is one of the best TV series on television today is because it has the thing that I call the “Oh No” factor. This factor has nothing to do with shocking or surprising the audience in any way. No, what this refers to is the thing I say the moment I see the closing credits. You see, when an episode comes to an end, I’m always disappointed that there isn’t another 30-60 minutes more of the show. If that doesn’t prove how good this show is, I just don’t know what does.

Today you can have your fill of excellent dramas with cops, doctors, lawyers and politicians. There are shows with teens and in-betweens and even supernatural dramas to thrill and excite you. But if you’re looking for a realistic family drama to sink your teeth into, you can’t go wrong with “Parenthood”.

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