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Parenthood - New TV Series on NBC


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#1 of 97 ONLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted March 02 2010 - 05:27 PM

My dislike for Steve Martin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles aside) and Ron Howard (virtually everything he's directed) meant I never got around to seeing the 1989 feature film nor the original attempt at adapting it into a TV Series. From what I can tell, they took the basic, broad premise of the movie -- four children and their parents struggling with parenthood: one the father of a son with Asperger's, one the divorced mother of two troubled teens, one a wife feeling that her husband has squeezed her out of her daughter's life, and one a slacker, directionless father to a biracial son -- and ditched everything else. The inccessant NBC promos during the Olympics and my love for Lauren Graham convinced me to tune in.

One thing I was not prepared for was how much Peter Krause, in the Steve Martin role, is the first among equals in this ensemble. The entire family revolves around him, and he mostly bears the burden well. The parents (played by Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia) gravitate a little too close to the batty liberal old couple that are a sitcom staple at first glance, but Nelson's patriarch in particular ultimately comes across as the classic old school American father, territory that Ed O'Neill has been in total command of all season on "Modern Family". Lauren Graham adds some much needed comic relief to the show, even as her storyline is full of affecting dramatic moments. Graham swings between the two poles better than anyone else working today. Erika Christensen has graduated to adult roles, as the extremely successful alpha female that is watching her home life slip away from her. Dax Shepard plays the resident Type B of the family, who has been gliding through life relatively care-free until his girlfriend manipulates him into promising him a kid right before he discovers he conceived a young son with an old flame.

And that's just the core family. Mae Whitman and Sarah Ramos are effective as the teenage daughters to Graham's character and Krause's character respectively. Sam Jaeger is non-threatening and domesticated as the stay-at-home husband to Christensen's high-powered lawyer.

I grew up in an extended family that met for holidays and anniversaries and that was pretty much it, so the idea of four siblings that constantly weave in and out of each others' lives is completely foreign to me. This stellar cast sold it for me, with a filming style that translates "The West Wing's" breakneck verbal pacing to the domestic front. In the short-term, I think the show's juggling too much, because we never get to spend enough time with any of the stories. That being said, there were several moments in this pilot where I choked up a bit, which is a tribute to the performances -- especially Peter Krause's as the seemingly ideal dad that's on the verge of cracking up just under the surface.



#2 of 97 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H

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Posted March 03 2010 - 05:41 PM

I thought it was excellent.  Like Adam, I am not a Ronnie Howard fan and have never seen the movie, but I think credit for this success belongs to Jason Katims.  It's got the same heart, realism and respect for the characters that Friday Night Lights does.  Hopefully, it won't share the struggle to find an audience.

The kid playing Max seems pretty talented.  I believed his condition, which has to be tough to convey for such a little guy.


#3 of 97 OFFLINE   Kevin Hewell

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Posted March 05 2010 - 09:04 AM

I want to hear what the "Arrested Development" fans had to think.


#4 of 97 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted March 05 2010 - 10:34 AM

As a father of a child with autism, I really related to the one character, though I thought it was played a bit too over the top.

Our son has all of the key issues, some of the things the show brought up reminded me of him.  For our son he can't stand to be around people who are eating (stop eating!) because he can't take the noise; and of course, self-harming behaviors are normal, or just the experience.. so the repeated diving into a puddle?  Yeah, I got that.  They had some of those elements really dead on and they played it very well.

I think sometimes they play the emotional impact up a bit.. there are moments that are incredibly difficult that I don't think they will go into with this show, but I admire them for a realistic take on it.  It's hard to play kids with autism, because many are pretty bright, smart kids.. they just have significant social integration issues that prevent them from moving out of the shell. 

I dislike the storyline of the mother/rebellious kids.  Not just a little, a lot.  Then agan, I guess most families have black sheep.

There were too many things shoved into an hour to really work for me, but it's going to be interesting to see if they can balance so many characters and storylines


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#5 of 97 OFFLINE   Rob Willey

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Posted March 06 2010 - 07:45 PM

It took me a few minutes to place the actress playing Lauren Graham's daughter, then I realized "Oh yeah, she was the first daughter in Independence Day."
"That suits me down to the ground."

#6 of 97 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 07 2010 - 12:10 AM

I think she was Anne from "Arrested Development" too.

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#7 of 97 OFFLINE   Garrett Adams

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Posted March 07 2010 - 08:49 AM

During the first 15 minutes I thought there were too many characters. Other than knowing Krause was the star I couldn't tell who was who. Then all of a sudden it came together. I'm hooked.



#8 of 97 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 07 2010 - 09:35 AM

Not sure I like the younger brother or sister characters, but it is a full house of characters, that's for sure.

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#9 of 97 ONLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted March 09 2010 - 06:04 PM

I liked this episode more than the pilot. Mae Whitman does a tremendous job humanized the most unlikable character on the show. Her breakdown in the car instantly inverted my opinion of Amber, and there are lots of touches scattered throughout that made me believe that she's as intelligent as her mother made her out to be.

I can empathize with Sarah on the job front, too: the feeling that you've aced an interview only to not get it is excruciating. When you know you were only even considered because of a personal connection, it's even more demoralizing. At least Sarah got a phone call and an explanation why; such basic courtesy has become virtually non-existant in the modern economy. I'm glad she didn't slip right into her dream job though; that's not how real life works. Even happy endings take hard, sustained work to achieve.

At my high school job, I worked with a kid that had Asperger's. If there was work to be done and the procedures were clearly defined, he did very well. If a situation called for flexibility and rapid adaptation, he was helpless. Very polite, very friendly, but absolute hell to spend a six hour shift on a slow day with. There are instinctual social boundaries that you don't even notice until you encounter someone who doesn't comprehend them. I would find myself getting angry with him without understand exactly what he did that made me angry. I couldn't understand why he made what were to me blatantly obvious mistakes, because I didn't understand how he perceived the world. Max here is more petulant than the guy I'm talking about, in the way that grade schoolers tend to be, but certain moments rang true - especially the obsessive focus on a few core interests. My coworker loved poker. He could explain all of the intricacies and different hands and psychology etc. for hours on end if given the chance. I loved seeing Tom Amandes pop up as the psychiatrist; he gets typecast as pompous jerks, when he's so much better in warm roles like this one.

The tragedy in the case of this family is that the emotional commitment that Adam and his wife need to devote to Max means that their older daughter Haddie is effectively ignored. Her confession about the pot was her crying out and saying, I'm going through some stuff and I can't handle it on my own. But her parents, still rocked by the Aspergers diagnosis, barely took the time to process it before refocusing on problem #1. I can't say I'd have done any different in their schools, but that's going to have bigger consequences down the road.

The focus on Julia's outburst about the New Age mommy not even working seemed to be on the alienated soccer moms, but I wondered how her husband felt; here he's given up his career so she can pursue hers and still have a family, and she basically dismisses that sacrifice with a snort. If I were in his shoes, I'd be pretty pissed.

Crosby still hasn't come to terms with being a father. He's still in flight mode.


#10 of 97 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H

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Posted March 11 2010 - 11:00 PM

The intro reminds me of the Wonder Years.  This show has some good music.


#11 of 97 OFFLINE   Mikel_Cooperman

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Posted March 12 2010 - 08:16 AM

I like the show. I hope people give it a chance.
Great cast. Sometimes the humor seems a bit forced but overall good vibe from the show.
I do wish they would give Bonnie Bedelia something to do though.


#12 of 97 OFFLINE   Scott Hanson

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Posted March 14 2010 - 04:10 PM

     Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Sun 

I think she was Anne from "Arrested Development" too.
Who?


#13 of 97 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 15 2010 - 04:48 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottH View Post

     Quote:


Who?
 

George Michael's girlfriend, Bland. I mean Ann.

#14 of 97 OFFLINE   Scott Hanson

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Posted March 15 2010 - 06:06 AM

     Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR 

George Michael's girlfriend, Bland. I mean Ann.
What is she funny or something?


#15 of 97 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 15 2010 - 06:17 AM

This interexchange is making me miss Arrested Development all the more...

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#16 of 97 ONLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted March 16 2010 - 05:41 PM

Another good episode. So far, this show doesn't do big episodic plots; instead each hours is full of the sort of exceptionally well-observed moments that we all have. The sad shot of Sarah and Amber trying to share a single bed made me feel a whole lot better about my own life; it's the kind of moment when you ask, "Can things get any worse?" So far, the only storyline that isn't working for me is Julia and Mr. Mom. Julia and Sydney don't seem to have any real chemistry, and much like Julia herself, we find ourselves on the outside looking in. All of the moments that would make us connect with Sydney as a character happen with Joel offscreen. The storyline that's working the best for me is the Adam and Kristina storyline, both because Peter Krause is an incredible anchor and because we're right there in it with them, and with Haddie too. Lauren Graham makes virtually every moment she shares with her on-screen kids touching and/or memorable. The three of them have a sort of shorthand directness that allows them to express more to each other in a few words than the other characters express with whole scenes of dialog. Dax Shepard is the real suprise so far, coming off a career of playing pricks in dumb comedies and reality shows. He's doing really great and often quite subtle work here, and makes you buy that he's the father of this little stranger instantly. Crosby and Jabar have great chemistry; you can tell that the little kid that plays Jabar trusts Shepard.


#17 of 97 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H

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Posted March 18 2010 - 10:10 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Lenhardt 

Another good episode. So far, this show doesn't do big episodic plots; instead each hours is full of the sort of exceptionally well-observed moments that we all have.
I don't know if you watch Friday Night Lights, but it's basically a Katims hallmark.  This is really a companion show.

Also, terrific music.



#18 of 97 ONLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted March 23 2010 - 05:22 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg_S_H 

Also, terrific music.

I've also been wowed by the songs. Using a Bob Dylan classic for your theme song is a bold choice, but the show has great, apropo tunes scattered throughout the episode.

The rhythm of this show is sort of strange. Instead of television's traditional four act structure, it flows with a more cinematic three-act structure and devotes the final act break to resolution. When the show breaks for commercials around the 10:45 mark, I find myself reaching for the clicker before I do a double-take on the time. For instance, tonight's episode "felt" like it was over on the beat with Adam standing outside his daughter's bedroom door listening to his wife explain him.

That's not a criticism; I reach for the remote because I've been trained by convention to do so, but the quality is such that the "extra" amount of show is a pleasant surprise. It wouldn't work on a more plot-heavy show, but it works here. Every character earned their moments tonight. Mae Whitman has a tremendous balancing act to perform, and she does it masterfully. Not only does she have to go up against the phenomenal Lauren Graham week after week, but she has to pull off a mixture of confidence and insecurities for Amber that are opposite of Sarah's; Amber forgives Sarah for things that Sarah would find unforgivable, and punishes Sarah for offenses that Sarah would find minor. One minute she's describing how to wage war on parents with sardonic self-reflection while taking a drag on a cigarette; the next she's a natural caregiver with Sydney. Dax Shepard did a terrific job of conveying the warmth that makes Crosby so naturally likable, while demonstrating the selective listening that is at the root of his flaws. Craig T. Nelson finally got a moment to a shine with that scene in the bathroom where he starts reminiscing about his sexual highs and lows while Drew, mid-grip, stands frozen and aghast under the running water. No one else could have played it as well. I enjoyed the other storylines, as well.


#19 of 97 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H

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Posted March 23 2010 - 10:06 PM

Maybe it's the quality of the cast, but they found their footing quick.  Maybe from the word go.  It's the best new show on TV by far, but it's shedding viewers every week.


#20 of 97 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H

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Posted March 31 2010 - 11:42 PM

Another good one.  I'm glad Crosby finally broke the news to Katie.  He probably could have handled it a little better.  I thought Drew and Sarah were a little rough on Adam, since they know how Max can be.  Adam's probably the best TV father since Coach Taylor, and he has the added burden of being the father figure for not only his nieces and nephews, but his siblings as well.  I hope we get more of this than The Unusuals, which was another brilliant show with criminally low ratings.  It bit it after ten.