I’m not going to lie, I wanted to put together the whole “Best Shows You’re Not Watching” series all because of “Parenthood” — hands down one of my favorite shows on television.
Why? Simply, “Parenthood” is TV at its best. And after three seasons the show has finally come into its own as producer Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights“) has found a way to masterfully use its sprawling, multigenerational ensemble and air episodes that truly represent the family dynamic. Week after week it risks cheesiness, flirts with convention, then delivers some of the most heartfelt moments you’ve ever seen.
Constantly growing stonger, “Parenthood” centers on the Braverman family: sixty-something Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) and their four adult children: dependable Adam (Peter Krause), perfectionist Julia (Erika Christensen), can’t-get-it-right Sarah (Lauren Graham), and easy-going hipster Crosby (Dax Shepard). There’s also Adam’s wife, Kristina (Monica Potter); Julia’s husband, Joel (Sam Jaeger); Crosby’s fiancée, Jasmine (Joy Bryant); and seven children, that range from a newborn to a nineteen-year-old. Needless to say my “sprawling, multigenerational” comment was not an overstatement.
But its how these characters come together and tackle the tough issues in life — from Adam and Kristina’s struggles with their son Max (Max Burkholder), who has high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome (as does Katims’s own son) to Julia adopting an eight-year-old child, and everything imaginable in between — that truly make this show exceptional. Katims manages to make the show not only about the growth of each individual character, but also how the individual families and overall Braverman family progresses as a whole.
Hitting a particular high-note a few weeks ago, in “There’s Something I Have to Tell You,” the episode detailed the emotional experience of Adam and Kristina telling the family she had breast cancer. It was one of the most purposeful, heartbreaking albeit understated, scenes on television (certainly Emmy-worthy) and you couldn’t help but want to grieve with the characters. It was such a real episode; handled in a honest, believable way that most shows wouldn’t dare. It’s one of the many current arcs that suck you.
Perhaps the reason “Parenthood” works best is because it reminds us of something we often forget — how complicated life is, for everyone. And how often family is the key to surviving it.
The Verdict: Looking for the perfect family drama filled with tear-jerking heartbreaks and uplifting laughs, “Parenthood” is for you. While not the easiest show to jump into (I found this out as I tried to explain the multiple Braverman family storylines to parents), you’ll certainly be glad you did.
Airs: Tuesdays at 10/9 CT
Starring: Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen, Sam Jaeger, Savannah Paige Rae, Sarah Ramos, Max Burkholder, Joy Bryant, Miles Heizer, Mae Whitman, Bonnie Bedelia, Craig T. Nelson, Tyree Brown, Xolo Mariduena