Every once in a while, a television show comes along that gets me excited about snuggling up on the couch after the kids go to bed. It doesn’t happen often, and all too often when it does, the show quickly gets cancelled and I swear I’ll never let myself fall in love again — without confirming a full-season order.
When Parenthood premiered back in 2010, I thought I’d check it out. I knew it was loosely based on the oh-so-awesome 1989 movie starring Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen (and a host of other famous faces), and I’m a sucker for a good ensemble drama. I found myself pulled in by the Braverman family — their sibling squabbles and family dinners, their child-raising challenges and career controversies, their dumb decisions and heartbreaks. And, of course, the love that binds a family together in a way that no other unit can ever quite replicate, for better or for worse. In that first season, most episodes ended with the family congregating for a meal or a grandkid’s baseball tourney or a traditional game of touch football in the backyard. But I forgave them the cheese. There was so much to love.
Of course, because I love it, Parenthood has been on the brink of cancellation pretty much since it began. That’s my curse, and I apologize. I tried not to let myself get too invested because of it, but I’ve had to surrender to the exasperating, irresistible charm of these characters and trust that the rest of the world will come back from the black hole of reality TV and see what they’re missing.
I’ve realized that the reason I love this show so much is because some of the characters and their choices drive me crazy — but isn’t that just like any real family? They started to grow on me. And even though I don’t really like some of them, I kind of love them. I think the writers nail so many conversations and situations perfectly and the actors have created these complicated characters who are never just their archetypes. And yes, I cry. Every. Single. Week. It’s cathartic.
I’m even going to discuss the characters here. That’s how much I care. You’re going to think I’m crazy if you don’t watch this show, but if you do, please join in!
Zeek and Camille Braverman (Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia): The patriarch and matriarch of the clan are retired hippies who live on this quaint, sprawling property and paint and work on cars and help navigate their adult children’s dramas.
Crosby (Dax Shepard): He’s the dorky/cool free-spirited member of the Braverman family who just sort of floats through life doing his thang… People always have to bail him out and lend him money. He drives me crazy — like, grow up already! But then he did, and decided to marry Jasmine and make a family for their surprise son Jabbar and, well, now he’s Jasmine’s problem. And his brother Adam’s (see below), because they started a business together this season, even though Crosby is so irresponsible and impulsive.
Julia and Joel (Erika Christensen and Sam Jaeger): Julia’s your typical overachiever: A workaholic lawyer married to a stay-at-home dad (who is totally hot) with a precocious daughter. Except it’s never quite as perfect as all that, is it? They suffer secondary infertility, then adopt a nine-year-old boy, Julia messes up at work and quits and then struggles with the stay-home life. Joel goes back to work as a contractor (hot!) and they have to figure it all out.
Sarah (Lauren Graham): The prodigal daughter returns home to live with her parents after she finally ends things (or does she?) with her drug-addict musician husband. She has two teenaged children who are damaged and brooding. Bad things happen to Sarah, but it’s never her fault (that’s sarcasm). I find myself yelling at the TV because she does the dumbest things and seems completely oblivious, and everyone just sort of rolls their eyes and says, “Oh, that’s Sarah.” You know she’s just going to mess up her life over and over again, especially when it’s all going well. This exact thing just happened on the show. Again. (Farewell, guest star Jason Ritter!) Oh, Sarah. (But I love her daughter, Amber, played by Mae Whitman, who is underused on this show.)
Adam and Christina (Peter Krause and Monica Potter): Adam’s the oldest Braverman. I find him so pompous and short-tempered that I’ve never enjoyed him (even though I love Krause). His wife is another story. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure how to take her — she was the supermom, dealing with a teenaged daughter and a son recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. She had life scheduled to the minute, and seemed the perfect supportive wife and mother. Somehow, Potter has turned this clichéd character, who could have so easily become grating, into someone so relatable and flawed and beautiful and real. I totally get her. (A good example was her recent advice to Julia for getting her new son to do his homework: She brings out a caddy of candy. “Bribery,” she explains flatly. “If I were on Oprah, I’d call it an incentive system, but you just bribe them. And it works. And you should never feel bad about it.”) I admire how hard she tries and how strong she is and how she can still laugh and put this lovely smile on her face no matter what she’s faced with. Because that’s what we have to do as moms, right? (Yes, I know she’s not real person!)
And then they gave her cancer. And now I have to watch every week as she suffers through (Potter is doing an amazing job) and cry along with her at the thought of her leaving her family. Adam is showing a whole new side that I knew was there, deep down, and the writers are so wonderfully capturing all of the complicated discussions and poignant moments that have to happen now. And if they kill her off, I swear I will never watch again. But they won’t kill her off, because this isn’t Dexter, damn it. It’s a good, reliable, heart-wrenching drama that you should be watching so it won’t get cancelled. Deal?
I feel like I should write them fan mail, but I’ve never even done that for Jon Bon Jovi, so I can’t start now. Actually, I guess I just did. Maybe I’m a little obsessed. But tell me I’m not alone?