Friday, February 11, 2011

Parenthood.


I don't write about TV that much on here, which is a shame since TV is awesome and I like it a lot. The fact that I currently internet-stalk many people/blogs who write about TV extensively and write about it quite well makes writing about it even more intimidating. My problem with writing about things I like which I don't have enough practice writing about always come back to the fact that I often can't articulate much more about a subject than, "I like it a lot!" According to my tags web over there on the right side of the page, I clearly do not have much trouble blabbing my opinions about music and food, probably  admittedly because music and food have for a long time been my lifeblood, the things that help my arteries and organs keep on ticking. But other things--mainly, books, TV, and movies--also inspire me to actually throw back the covers and face the world everyday, yet I often can't express more than "I liked it! A lot!" about said novel/episode/film. Which is annoying. So, I'm making it a point to practice more starting now. Phew, okay, meta-cognition time over.  

Although there are always countless cool shows on channels like HBO and Showtime and the like to obsess over, and to discuss as frequently as possible with everyone you know about how awesome they are (see: Stuff White People Like #85: The Wire), basic cable really has a lot going for it the last couple of years, mainly due to the addition of Modern Family (which I'll write about eventually) and Parenthood. Parenthood has SO MUCH going for it, people, starting with the cast. There's Peter Krause, from the dearly beloved Six Feet Under; there's Lauren Graham, from my favoritest of all favorites, Gilmore Girls; and there's Coach--from Coach, duh. I think the biggest sign that this show has done its thang is that I am starting to no longer see Peter Krause as Nate Fisher, or Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, or Coach as Coach--they are all truly now Bravermans. (Okay, it can be a little hard sometimes with Lorelai/Sarah, although I do think there are important differences in their characters, I just know Lorelai SO WELL.)

Another thing it has going for it: a GREAT theme song. Bob Dylan laced over baby photo montages? Yes, please! I feel like the art of the theme song has been slowly lost over time, but it's important, man! Remember when Grey's Anatomy used to have a great theme song, as well as the L Word (for like a nanosecond)? Six Feet Under had one of the greatest theme song openings of all time (of all time), but nothing else is really coming to mind. Which is sad, people, since I have watched a lot of TV. But Bob singing Forever Young, now that is a good choice. The Rod Stewart cover would have been a little cheesy (although let's be honest, I love it), but Bob's ability to sing sentimental lyrics without any sentimental tinge in his voice, ever, makes it just right.

As the name suggests, the show follows the highs and lows of parenting and life of one extended family, starting with the matriarch and patriarch of Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) and Zeek (Coach), and the families of their four children: Adam (Peter Krause), Sarah (Lauren Graham), Crosby (Dax Shepard), and Julia (Erika Christensen). This show has an almost monstrously huge cast, but somehow, I like every  one of the characters and find each storyline plausible and engaging. I even like Julia, even though she is high strung and kind of crazy, because it's so easy to laugh at her high-strung-craziness; I also even like Kristina (Monica Potter), Adam's wife, even though she's neurotic and also kind of crazy, because you can feel that her craziness comes out of the intense overprotective love she has for everyone in her family. Although, I guess I can't actually say that I love everyone, since I really hate Sydney, Julia's spoiled brat of a daughter. Some higher minded people might just think she's sassy and independent; I think she's a bitch. Yeah, I don't care if she's six. She's a horrible person. Yeah, that's right.

What I really admire about this show is how it deals with issues which aren't really addressed elsewhere on basic cable: most obviously, autism, since Max, Kristina & Adam's son, has a pretty serious case of Asperger's. Max Burkholder, who plays the character of the same first name, acts his part so well that Kathy and I have had serious discussions about whether he has autism in real life (as far as I can tell from my scant internet research, he doesn't). Kristina & Adam's frustration, stress, and ultimately intense love and protection of him is also highly realistic and moving. In addition to the Asperger's thing, I feel like they have had some really apt story lines about the recession, which would seem like a pretty boring topic to address, but in terms of reflecting what could be a "real" American family, is actually an incredibly important one. While the struggles of Adam's shoe company is a recurring plot line, I was actually most impressed by an episode from last season in which Zeek has to reap the fallout from a bad investment and thousands of dollars lost. While they unfortunately haven't touched back on it, it showed how these types of things happening to an older generation creates not just a loss of money but a sense of loss of self, a loss of certainty and self-confidence in their ability to control their world.

Best Characters: The two teenaged girls are fantastic: Haddie (Sarah Ramos), Kristina & Adam's daughter, and Amber (Mae Whitman), Sarah's daughter. Amber may be one of the most true-to-life teenagers I've ever seen on TV, and what makes her great is that her aloof angst, her deadpan sarcasm and her general cynicism about the world doesn't become an Angsty Teenage Character Cliche, because it's offset by her moments of vulnerability and her huge heart. See: her freaking out over nerves before playing a song at an open mic night; also see: any touching bonding moment with her mom. Any time she OR her mom cry I just about lose my shit. What I've learned from Parenthood: Mae Whitman and Lauren Graham are two of best criers, EVER. While Amber's personality can easily take the spotlight, I actually think Haddie, the smart, "good girl" who's also struggling to find herself, with an equally strong ability to roll her eyes at her parents, is a fabulously real character as well. I am ready for the love-fueled drama between her and her parents to be over, but still, I think Haddie's strong reaction to being told she can't date someone she's fallen in love with is a realistic one. What could be worse than that as a teenager (or just as a person in general?) Not much.

Even more likely to be hidden behind these two strong girls is Drew (Miles Heizer), Sarah's son, but I think he's a quiet gem. His quiet awkwardness is just SO. GOOD. The fact that his thoughts and feelings are normally a mystery to his mom and pretty much everyone around him is so good; the episode where he struggled to fit as a Normal Cool Guy with kind of awful boys from high school, all of whom were obviously just as inwardly insecure but showed it on the outside less, was SO painfully good. I also really have a soft spot for Zeek. First of all, his name is brilliant. Second of all, he is so blustery in his old ways, but tries so hard to be a good, sensitive guy for his faltering relationship with his wife, and also for the rest of his family, that he is just ADORABLE. I love him, even when he says offensive things. I love him most when he says the perfect thing.

Weakest Characters: With such a huge cast it is obviously difficult to have each and every character fully developed, but there are a few that leave me either feeling nothing, or feeling like I want a lot more. One is Joel (Sam Jaeger), Julia's husband. Other than knowing that he somehow puts up with a crazy wife and a bitchy daughter, I really don't know much about this dude, even though I still like him. Then there's Jasmine (Joy Bryant), Crosby's fiancee. I know she's a really good dancer, and I know that she's super duper hot, and I know that I was real pissed at her when she took Jabbar, their son, away from Crosby for awhile. Maybe I still haven't gotten over this, even though they're both back and living together and happy now, because I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY love Crosby, and so really want Jasmine to be deserving of his love. I also feel like I want more out of Camille. She is definitely slightly more developed than Joel or Jasmine, but I feel like we see more of Zeek's inner turmoil and growth than we do hers. But she is also super duper hot for a grandma--that hair, and her fashion! Phew. So good. Also, have I mentioned yet that I want her and Zeek's house/compound/gardens? It is the most amazing home in the world and fuels my dreams of when I will someday be a grownup. I WANT IT. REAL BAD.

So, uh, apparently I CAN write about TV. For a long time. Congratulations if you made it all the way through. Aaaand may you stay forever young. Ba da bum.

5 comments:

  1. SYDNEY IS THE WORST. maybe there's be a very special parenthood where she dies.

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  2. You make me want to watch this again. My mom used to work for the mother of Ivy Ann Schwann (the little blond girl)...funny little factoid for you!

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  3. I do not watch this Parenthood show but the best theme song ever is clearly "When you walk through the garden", or whatever its actual name is, from The Wire. And they do a slightly different version for every season! No one else does that!

    I am so white.

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  4. "Some higher minded people might just think she's sassy and independent; I think she's a bitch. Yeah, I don't care if she's six. She's a horrible person. Yeah, that's right."

    love it.

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  5. I heart "Parenthood" as well, big time. And thought this article was really interesting about why some people don't/can't watch it:

    http://popwatch.ew.com/2011/02/16/parenthood-too-real/

    Of course I totally dig seeing REAL LIFE on tv in a non-reality show format, so bring it on Bravermans!

    Did/do you and Kathy watch "Friday Night Lights"? The guy who created 'Parenthood' worked on FNL for a while and it shares some of the same awesomeness in characters and real life family relationship portrayals.

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