Herc Embraces Tuesday’s Rebirth Of Ron Howard’s PARENTHOOD, Fathered Anew By FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Mastermind Jason Katims!!
I am – Hercules!!
In a couple weeks we get to my favorite new series this season, an FX crime drama titled “Justified,” and tonight we get my second favorite.
The guy in charge of NBC’s new iteration of “Parenthood” is Jason Katims, who simultaneously serves as showrunner of the excellent “Friday Night Lights” (which itself has at least two more seasons to run on NBC). This “Parenthood,” set in Northern California, occasionally feels like the pricier, blue-state version of the West Texas-set “Lights.” It also reminds me a lot of the strongest storylines found in “thirtysomething.”
As has been widely reported of late, this “Parenthood” is actually NBC’s second run at turning Ron Howard’s superb 1989 Steve Martin dramedy into a TV show.
The hourlong version is more loosely based on the movie than was the sitcom. The Buckman clan has become the Bravermans. Black sheep Larry Buckman (Tom Hulce in the movie) is now womanizing Crosby Buckman (“Punk’d” refugee Dax Shephard), who seems to have more of a real career going than did Larry. Helen Buckman (Diane Wiest) is now Sarah Braverman (“Gilmore Girls” icon Lauren Graham), and Sarah’s ex is a rocker rather than a dentist. Changes abound, but every character from the movie seems to have a an easily identifiable counterpart in the hourlong.
Some trivia related to the half-hour sitcom version of “Parenthood” that hit NBC in late 1990:
* Leonardo DiCaprio played the sitcom version of Garry Buckman-Lampkin, embodied by Joaquin "Leaf" Phoenix in the movie version. In the 2010 version, a different version the character, played by Miles Heizer, is named Drew Holt.
* MTV's "Remote Control" host Ken Ober played Nathan Merrick, the sitcom version of Rick Moranis' Nathan Huffner character. The 2010 version is a stay-at-home dad named Joel Graham and played by Sam Jaeger.
* Joss Whedon wrote on the “Parenthood” sitcom two years before the movie version of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” marked his feature debut. Sarah Watson (“The Middleman”), whom I introduced to Whedon at a “Superman Returns” screening, is on the writing staff of the 2010 version.
The terrific cast includes also Craig T. Nelson (“Poltergeist”) and Bonnie Bedelia (“Die Hard”) as the parents of the parents, Peter Krause (“Six Feet Under”) and Monica Potter (“Saw”) in the Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen roles, Sarah Ramos (“American Dreams”) and Mae Whitman (“In Treatment”) as teen cousins, and Erika Christiansen (“Swimfan”) as the family’s youngest mom/lawyering overachiever.
Like all Katims’ “dramas,” “Parenthood” is at its core a finely honed character comedy. I love the passive-aggressive means Crosby’s girlfriend uses to herd him toward compliance and commitment. I love the expressions on the faces of the stay-at-home moms following a crack the working mom makes to her dad (that an errant microphone inadvertently captures and amplifies). I love that NBC let most of the adults end up smoking their kids’ confiscated marijuana in a parking lot at the end of an episode. Given the well-mined subject matter, the series is good about subverting clichés. The two episodes NBC sent along for review had scenes I loved, but none I wholly disliked. (A rarity for any project.) And Katims – whose credits include “My So-Called Life,” “Relativity” and “Roswell” in addition to “Lights” – has a track record solid enough I can only imagine this already-sharp series improving from here.
The New York Times says:
… unexpectedly compelling … “Parenthood,” with its polished scripts and beautifully shot exteriors, seems like a last gasp of television past …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… what "Parenthood" lacks in edginess, it more than makes up in nuance. … has a talent pool and a pedigree that puts it in a class of its own. …
The Chicago Tribune says:
… Even when the show gets a bit melodramatic or overwrought, however, "Parenthood's" good intentions radiate throughout its many story lines. But do good intentions make for reliably compelling family drama? That depends on your tolerance for its frequent tonal shifts and occasional manic intervals. …
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… turns out to be a wonderful adaptation and revision of the original movie … If the two episodes NBC made available are any indication of the quality going forward, "Parenthood" would rocket to the top tier of family dramas on network television. That's because it does the near impossible for any extended-family drama: It manages to be poignant and funny without becoming ridiculously soapy and larded with cliches. … This is a series that seems to understand that family is complicated (though in this case, thankfully, not too dysfunctional, which has been a writing crutch in our modern times). The portraits of each are both adult in nature but gilded with humor.
The Newark Star Ledger says:
… it’s smart and warm and knowing, and it casts its net so wide that at least part of it should connect with you. …
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… executive produced by Jason Katims, who also wrote Tuesday's premiere and has been the guiding force behind "Friday Night Lights." But anyone expecting as nuanced a portrayal as the family of Coach Taylor on "Lights" may be disappointed. "Parenthood" is so over-stuffed with characters that depictions of the realistic, messy details of family life get squeezed out in favor of broader strokes. …
The Washington Post says:
… Packed with appealing actors (Peter Krause in the Martin role; Craig T. Nelson in Robards's paterfamilias role), this new "Parenthood" is boring, disorganized and weirdly missing the tender texture of its original source. …
The Boston Herald says:
… It’s a series that zips along in one direction, suddenly accelerates in another and veers out of control into a swamp of sugar and schmaltz. …
The Boston Globe says:
… a fairly promising ensemble dramedy … One advantage to the cross-generational approach is variety. “Parenthood’’ is brimming with characters and issues, one or two of which will probably engage your interest. …
USA Today says:
… Despite good intentions and a few good performances, too much of this Parenthood rings false — and almost all of it pushes far too hard. …
… a credible dramedy … Katims has worked magic with "Friday Night Lights," and some of the family drama here is certainly promising. Castwise, moreover, the bench is impressively deep. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… NBC's sweet, extraordinarily well-cast dramedy is worth the wait. … Even if much of the show is pretty fantasy -- like those lights strung up over the picnic table that perfectly fits the entire extended family -- the Bravermans' story is one everyone can get into. "Parenthood," like the experience itself, is an evolving tale, and one worth watching.
10 p.m. Tuesday. NBC.
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Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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March 2, 2010, 7:27 a.m. CST
Is it me or from the commercials it seems Modern Family is doing this already but with more heart and laughs.
March 2, 2010, 7:53 a.m. CST
If the network had any faith in this show at all, why bury it opposite The Good Wife?<p>8)
March 2, 2010, 7:58 a.m. CST
Kind of ran out of gas after the first season. I think this show, with its cast, has some potential.
March 2, 2010, 7:59 a.m. CST
It was big in the 80's for awhile, when everyone thought it was the most horrible thing imaginable, then AIDS stole all of it's thunder. Breats Cancer was the hot topic for a good run, and now Jenny McCarthy has made Autism chic again. Having an autistic kid is almost the new adopting a third-world kid. <p> Plus, to paraphrase Denis Leary, it's much less disheartening to claim your kid is autistic than to just admit they're lazy and stupid.
March 2, 2010, 8:01 a.m. CST
not Breats cancer. You'd think that something that takes up the majority of my brain activity would be easier for me to spell.
March 2, 2010, 8:20 a.m. CST
I got into it because of Krause, but man, by the end that show was so much fucking fun. They would make such interesting stylistic choices.
March 2, 2010, 8:27 a.m. CST
Did middle America prove that they are retards once again by making Leno number one?
March 2, 2010, 10:12 a.m. CST
and her handlers made the right choice. Wasn't ABC courting her to join the cast of Scrubs? I think better to join a (sort of) new series than the slowly dieing Scrubs which will likely be gone by the end of this season.
March 2, 2010, 10:20 a.m. CST
March 2, 2010, 10:28 a.m. CST
A shame Maura Tierney wasn't able to return in time to this show, I was looking forward to see her doing comedy again. Lauren Graham is a good second choice though.
March 2, 2010, 10:40 a.m. CST
After SFU and The Lost Room, he's become one of my favorite underrated actors.
March 2, 2010, 10:49 a.m. CST
With them in competing shows that are both going on my DVR, it makes me wish for the return of "Sports Night"
March 2, 2010, 11:08 a.m. CST
the melodrama, very light on the comedy. I'm hoping that's not the case; will be checking it out in hopes it's just another case of a poorly-promoted show.
March 2, 2010, 12:04 p.m. CST
All the commercials I've seen just show Craig T. Nelson (who I like) yelling, or show Lauren Graham, who I still hate after that last dreadful season on Gilmore Girls (I know, not her fault). I like Friday Night Lights (have already seen the latest season due to having DirecTV), but there's no way I'm watching this. It looks tedious and melodramatic and overstuffed. I'll just stick with Modern Family, which is heartfelt and hilarious.
March 2, 2010, 1:14 p.m. CST
after Maura Tierney had to drop out. Love her. I was never a Gilmore Girls fan and I just can't stand Lauren Graham.
March 2, 2010, 1:58 p.m. CST
March 2, 2010, 3:44 p.m. CST
...it's being diagnosed as much as ADD was in the '90s. It's turning into a catch-all for any developmental issue a child may exhibit. I don't think there's anything different in the water.
March 2, 2010, 4:32 p.m. CST
....to the Late Night 11.35pm slot on the first night back. <p> I can't help but wonder if Herc is going to report on this and do one of his ratings-palooza articles relishing Leno's supposed ratings demise at the 10pm slot. <p> <p> I'm betting that since this is likely to be a common occurrence with normal service restored and Leno kicking Letterman's butt in ratings on a regular basis from here on out, that we'll never see or hear Herc mention ratings ever again. EVER! <p> Maybe in September he'll do a little piece for Conan's first show back, until Coco drops back to a distant fourth behind Leno, Letterman and Nightline, and then never mention ratings again. <p> What says Herc? Yes? No? Shall we never speak of this again?
March 2, 2010, 7:37 p.m. CST
March 2, 2010, 7:38 p.m. CST
Where do you see anything about autism in this article? I've read it a dozen times.
March 2, 2010, 8:39 p.m. CST
I'll definitely give it a chance
March 2, 2010, 10:45 p.m. CST
Overly broad and unduly burdensome. I love Lauren Graham. Yeah- like too much. I also like Krause and Mr. Incredible, too. But this show was a scattershot shitpile that makes "Brothers & Sisters" seem plausible. I'll give it one more week, but unless Graham screams "fuck me, Santa" next week, I'll probably not watch anymore.
March 3, 2010, 6:52 a.m. CST
...means that most of middle America continues to suck ass.
March 3, 2010, 8:14 a.m. CST
A genre I can't quite warm up to and the issue on why I think Modern Family is overrated.
March 3, 2010, 10:06 a.m. CST
Like the previews would have you believe? <P> Also how come these people never seem to have to be at work? And why do they have all their really personal conversations, out in the middle of a crowded public place? <P> It was OK really really fucking cliche though.
March 3, 2010, 1:09 p.m. CST
Modern Family doesn't have enough characters staring at things set to music for this to be a copy, although I do feel the same detachment from the present in this show. Watching rich white people try and process their lives isn't very appealing to me (and it feels so much more insulting in this economy for some reason), no matter how many cast members have talent. It was also sad to think Graham and Krause are now reduced to filming actual car commercials to be on TV. Not just product placement style commercials, but actual commercials!
March 3, 2010, 2:49 p.m. CST
More fallout from the demise of the The Jay Leno Show. I like Ron Howard. I like the way he looks at things and the way he directs movies, and he has said that during the filming of this movie in 1989 he had the kind of issues with his children the characters faced in the movie "Parenthood". And therein lies the fault. This show seems like a refugee from 1989. Cliched characters, poor execution of plot points, and a simplistic script all combine to make this a show we have seen before and seen done much better. It plays like a "very special episode of 'Providence'." The point is, there is nothing new here. The overbearing father, the son who wants to raise his son differently, a mother who hides in the background (although with a very special secret!!), the slacker son who fears commitment, the ambitious attorney daughter, and the divorced daughter with troubled children in tow who moves back home, all combine to to make a very slow hour even though the action zooms from one scene to another. And therein lies another problem. Just when we get an idea of who these characters are, they cut to someone else, with no time to reflect on what just happened. If this were done by anyone else, it would be gone next week, but this is Ron Howard we're talking about, so it will get a lot of chances to fail. But it should, and quickly.
March 3, 2010, 4:57 p.m. CST
by Incomplete Gamer
You guys understand that this is a pilot, right? Most of the complaints I've read ring hollow when you consider that there was less than an hour of actual material here. "We don't see them work." "We don't get to know enough about the characters." "Not enough happens." Yeah ... because it's the PILOT! This isn't one of those shows where it has an immediate hook or a mystery that needs solving, it's about getting to know this family and knowing what they are going through. With such a large cast, it's unrealistic to want to learn everything about them in one episode. They need something else for episodes 2, 3, 4, etc. Also, complaining about not seeing the characters work in Parenthood is like bitching that Jack Bauer never goes to the bathroom. If you think the show goes nowhere now, imagine having to sit there and wait for the cast to finish their respective jobs.
March 4, 2010, 9:22 a.m. CST
by I am_NOTREAL
Not horrible, not great. I've always liked Peter Krause. I'd say a 70-80% shot that I'll watch episode #2. A good deal heavier on the drama than the com, but generally well acted, shot, and put together. Bonnie Bedelia looks a LOT different - it was sort of unsettling hearing the old Holly Gennarro McClane voice coming out of a totally different face. It almost seemed like a dub.
March 4, 2010, 9:27 a.m. CST
by I am_NOTREAL
It's got a lot of buzz these days. Don't have the numbers, but it's being diagnosed at some astronomically higher rate than in years past. That's the kind of stuff you hear all about when you have a newborn / toddler. And Rhinosaur, did you get your name from Soundgarden's "Down on the Upside," or something else?
March 4, 2010, 9:30 a.m. CST
by I am_NOTREAL
It's got funny moments, but I hate Sofia Vegara's voice--it may be her real accent, but it sounds like a put on--and the gay couple alternates between amusing and irritating. Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen are the best things about it, but the whole talking-to-the-camera device just needs to die. With three sitcoms using it heavily right now, it's way overdone. At least it was somewhat organic in The Office, back when that show was actually good. In Modern Family, it's just a lazy way to deploy jokes that the scripts aren't clever enough to make happen within the framework of the story. Cheap and irritating.
March 4, 2010, 5:04 p.m. CST
(made popular by Boston Legal)
March 5, 2010, 12:37 a.m. CST
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