I tuned into NBC’s premiere of the drama “Parenthood” last night expecting to be disappointed. After all, the 1989 film on which it’s based is one of my all-time favorites, even before I had children. So when half-way through the program I’d already teared up and laughed out loud several times watching the Braverman family dynamics, I resigned myself to the fact I was adding another weekly show to my already full TIVO schedule.
The laughs came mostly from stand-out Lauren Graham — playing a single mother to two trouble-making children — and Dax Shepard as a non-committal but affable guy struggling with Peter Pan Syndrome who is “potentially in negotiations to get engaged” to his girlfriend whose biological clock is loudly ticking. After promising the girlfriend he’d be ready to become a father within three years, he’s shocked to learn he already is one.
One of the most compelling story lines promises to fall with Peter Krause’s character, whose son may be facing a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Krause poignantly captured the heartbreak of a parent realizing something is amiss with a child and the scene where he confides the news to his own father, played by Craig T. Nelson, was a tear-jerker. If you weren’t at least misting at that point, check your pulse.
Nelson is fantastic and believable as the rough-and-tumble yet loving family patriarch. Bonnie Bedelia plays his wife, and while her role was minuscule in the premiere, surely NBC brass is smart enough to make better use of the veteran actress in future episodes. There’s every reason to believe she will receive a bigger focus down the road — there were hints that Bedelia’s character may at some point experience the betrayal of infidelity.
“Parenthood” also deals with the trade-offs of being a high-powered working mother, dating as a single parent and adult sibling relationships. The one slightly annoying aspect was the perhaps unrealistic portrayal that an extended family can attend every event that every child engages in. (The entire family — grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and all — went to a Little League game and a school recital, and the implication was that such attendance is mandatory for the Bravermans.)
Every new show has its glitches, but to me “Parenthood” had very few. And while it differs in some ways from the movie, it does the original justice.