“I’m doing the right thing, right?” If you caught maybe five or ten minutes of the Olympics these past couple of weeks, you can almost imagine NBC asking you that very same question. After all, the way “Parenthood” is being marketed makes it seem like it’s supposed to be the 100% surefire cure to EVERY SINGLE ONE of NBC’s problems. Gone are the days of fourth-place shame, and it’s clear skies from here on ahead. Or, maybe it’s the opposite of all that. I forget.
It’s important to realize that the premise of “Parenthood” isn’t new, so there’s little chance of the show being groundbreaking in any way. Really, the most you can hope for is that the writing will be better and the characters more engaging than the last show like it. It wasn’t the ratings giant NBC was hoping for, but still, last night’s premiere did meet those expectations, and dare I say, exceeded them? Also no, but it was pretty good. Much like these things do, “Parenthood” deals with a large family, sometimes spending their time together, sometimes not. Each of the kids — along with their spouses and their own kids — are all in slightly different situations. They live, they love, and they learn. Along the way we learn that some parts are much more entertaining than others.
Overall, I think the decision to bring in Lauren Graham to replace Maura Tierney was a good one (Tierney bowed out of production last September because she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer). She’s a good actress and more than believable as a single mom almost at the end of her rope with two teenage kids. Still, I’m thinking it might be hard for her to get out of that Lorelai Gilmore frame of mind. She delivers some of that dialogue a little too quickly if you smell what I’m cooking. Peter Krause plays Peter Krause as the easily frustrated everyman. Most of the the pilot’s more poignant moments come from a storyline involving his son being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
It’s Graham’s and Krause’s stories that play at the heart of the show. Krause shows real emotion coming to terms with the fact that there’s something wrong with his son. Graham’s scenes with Mae Whitman (our beloved Ann from “Arrested Development”) play as some of most show’s most natural (although a surprisingly small amount of time is spent dealing with their relationship). The other brother and sister, played by Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen, almost seem like they were thrown in to the show out of necessity. Shepard is the younger son who discovers he’s got an illegitimate child. He’s funny in the role, but that’s just it, the whole thing seems like it’s there to serve the show’s need for comedy. Christensen’s character, a working mom who feels distant and detached from her young daughter doesn’t offer very much in the show’s first episode. And that’s important to remember. It’s only the first episode, so we’ll have to see how everything plays over the next few weeks/months.
“Parenthood” has no chance of not being compared to that other show about a large family, “Brothers & Sisters.” I think one of the largest things that separates the two is that “Parenthood” doesn’t have the underlying sense of foreboding that “Brothers & Sisters” sometimes does. I don’t feel like there’s a mistress who’s about to be introduced or a drug habit that’s about to be revealed. Now that’s not to say that these things won’t happen, but the show’s lighter notes keep you from looking for it.
Again, from NBC’s marketing of the show, it looks like they expect “Parenthood” to be a game changer. Honestly, that’s probably not going to be the case. It looks like they’ve got a good, solid show, but the entire thing’s going to be hurt because of how hyped-up it’s been. *cough, cough* “Studio 60,” anyone? And even that show got a full first season. NBC’s obviously got some money riding on this, so I think they’re going to give it every chance to succeed.