“Parenthood,” My Dysfunctional Second Family.

14 Nov
What if this entire post was about the 1989 hit Steve Martin film, Parenthood, instead of the popular television show currently airing with the same title. That would be funny. And topical!

What if this entire post was about the 1989 hit Steve Martin film, Parenthood, instead of the popular television show currently airing with the same title? That would be surprising.

It's actually about the television program, starring these people.

It’s actually about the television program, starring these people.

When I was on maternity leave last fall, I noticed that my baby slept a lot. Like, a lot. Similar to the resting patterns of a dog, in fact: poop, get tired, go to sleep, repeat. And he was always on my lap, so I couldn’t move or do anything else (because all new parents know that your energy is just so high that all you really want to do is run around and clean, and not just sit on a couch staring straight ahead, wondering what happened to your life and if you’ll ever sleep again). So with all this “down time” I watched a lot of shitty daytime television (please see my post about said shitty daytime television here) and that just made me feel really lonely and sad and dirty. I decided that I needed a fresh start!  Watch a show that everyone has been telling me I would love and that will make all my exhaustion magically disappear! I chose Parenthood because two of my girlfriends had encouraged me to watch it and, in fact, we watched a couple of episodes on a vacation, about a year prior. I wasn’t that into it (please see my post about said dislike for first episodes here), but I certainly didn’t hate it. So I gave it a shot during my son’s 15th nap one day, and to my surprise, I loved it! I totally forgot that I was tired and I became a rejuvenated and productive person who was adding something to society. JUST KIDDING! Man, I was so tired. But at least it gave me something to look at. And the characters all seemed worse off than me, which didn’t hurt either.

Parenthood is the story of the Braverman clan, and all of the dramatic situations that seem to endlessly surround them. There is never a boring day for these people. They don’t just go to the store, they get in a car accident on the way there, and then end up dating the person that hit them and then break up with that person the same night. They don’t just have dinner, they confront one another about their demons over a glass of wine until someone storms off in a rage, gets in a car accident, dates the person that hit them, etc., so on and so forth. The Braverman’s are made up of: the dad Zeek, played by Craig T. Nelson of Coach fame. Remind me to tell you the story of how my mom used to make me march in a square every time the Coach theme song came on. Actually, don’t remind me; the mom Camille, played by Bonnie Bedelia, which I think is the best name of a human ever and if I have a girl, I will name her Bonnie Bedelia. And do you know that her older brother is  Kit Culkin, controversial father to Macauley and all the other Culkin kids? SHOCK; and their 4 kids, each of whom have their own families. I have a funny problem, which is that I could watch a show for 10 years and I will not be able to name any of the main characters. So I will tell you their names, but I will also tell you how I refer to them in my head, or aloud to anyone who will listen to me talk about how much I love this show. Also, SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD. I can’t help it. I have a lot to say.

The oldest son is Adam (or The Oldest One), played by Peter Krause, and he is my favorite of all the characters. I love me some Adam. Adam is the most level-headed and together member of the Braverman family, therefore he is the one that everyone turns to for advice and support. And they gave him a haircut this season, so he’s looking pretty hot lately. Is that weird to say? It’s just how I feel. Some people think bad boys are sexy, but I think responsible and loyal, clean shaven men are much sexier.

Yeah, hold that baby and support your wife! That's what the ladies like to see.

Yeah, hold your daughter and support your wife! That’s what the ladies like to see.

Adam is married to Kristina (Monica Potter, or Blondie), and they have a daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos, or Mousie), a son Max (Max Burkholder, or The Brother), and the new baby Nora (baby). Kristina used to really bug me – she was just always like, “Adam, blah blah blah. I’m a mom, blah blah blah. I’m worried about everything, blah blah blah.” But then Kristina got diagnosed with breast cancer in season 4, and Monica Potter played the character so brilliantly and beautifully that I’ve decided I no longer hate Kristina. In fact, I now adore Kristina and I especially like her short new do that she’s sporting after losing all of her hair last season (and by losing, I mean hiding under a painfully obvious bald cap). The amount of tears that I cried while watching Kristina’s scenes could fill an entire bathtub. I would get crying headaches. You know when you cry so much that you accidentally scrunch your head too tight for a long period of time? Yeah, I did that for an entire season. If it wasn’t for all that Advil and red wine I was ingesting, I might not be the healthy person I am today.

This was me.

This was me.

I think she should have been nominated for 100 awards, and I am now Monica Potter’s #1 fan. Haddie, on the other hand, doesn’t really do anything for me. She’s fine. I do think that she actually looks like the offspring of Adam and Kristina, though, so I give the casting people kudos for that. And she’s off at college, so no one ever hears about her anymore, which I also give the show kudos for.

Adam and Kristina

Doesn’t the sister look like the parents? I think it’s creepy.

And then there’s Max. Max  has Asperger syndrome, and Burkholder is so amazing that for the first couple of seasons I thought he had Asperger’s in real life (he does not, he is just a really good actor). Please please forgive me, but I have always had mixed feelings about Max. First, let me just say that I went to school for counseling and took a particular interest in Asperger syndrome, so what I know about it academically, although very limited, tells me that this is a fairly accurate portrayal of a child living with Asperger’s. I also think it’s incredible for the show to deal with this issue, as autism is awfully prevalent and rarely talked about on television. And, as I said, Max Burkholder is INCREDIBLE. Seriously. But for purely shallow and personal reasons, I found it difficult to watch his scenes in the first few seasons because they were loud and hectic and confusing and stressful. This happens to be what life is like when you have Asperger’s, so there was nothing wrong with how the show dealt with the character and how he interacted with his family. In fact, it provided some of the most touching scenes of the entire program, and a rare glimpse into life with autism. But I really don’t do well with people talking over one another and yelling and chaos. It does something to me that I’m sure I should go to therapy about, but I don’t care for it. So I hope you don’t think I’m totally heartless when I say that every scene with Max made me feel a little crazy. Max has since grown up a lot and they’ve cut down a bit on the loud talking, crazily chaotic scenes, so I’ve actually grown quite fond of him now. And I love that he’s discovered photography. The sister, though? Still meh.

Sarah Braverman

The next sibling in line is Sarah Braverman (or Lorelai Gilmore), played by the beloved Lauren Graham, pictured above. Sarah used to be married to Seth, played by John Corbett (or the guy who was on Sex and the City for a while and is now the voice actor for every commercial on television and radio), and they made Amber (Mae Whitman, or, Ann from Arrested Development) and Drew (Miles Heizer, or The Mumbler). Sarah is the cool single mom who’s pretty and will talk to her kids about anything and is a bartender and who lived at home with her retired parents for the first four seasons. Icky fact: it was recently brought to my attention that Lauren Graham and Peter Krause are a couple in real life. I reject this relationship because they are siblings. YOU ARE BROTHER AND SISTER. GROSS. But back to fiction, now. Sarah was engaged to Mark (Jason Ritter, who is SO good), but they broke up over Ray Romano. That’s right. You heard me. Everybody DOES love Raymond, including me and Lorelai Gilmore. Romano plays Hank, a photographer in Berkeley (where they all live) who Sarah goes to work for, and ends up falling in love with. I am making this announcement now, and I feel completely at peace with it: I have a huge crush on Ray Romano’s character. Did you just barf in your mouth? That’s your problem. He’s so cute with those hipster glasses and his grumpy attitude. He’s like a young Walter Matthau! I really want them together. I’m passionate about it.

Sarah and Hank

Amber started out as the lost deviant of the family who wore all black and didn’t give a damn. But she’s grown up into a responsible heart breaker, who wears quite a bit of color and is about to (maybe) hastily get married. I’m proud of her! Men fall for Amber right and left, which goes to show you that extraordinarily short people deserve love, too. I’m not so into her most recent relationship, but I have a feeling it will end badly, so at least I have that to look forward to. I kind of wish she was still with that politician. The one that she broke up with and never spoke of again BECAUSE HER AUNT DIDN’T LIKE THEM BEING TOGETHER, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE BOTH ADULTS. Let it go, Alex. The show has, so you should too. Drew is the quiet younger brother who recently knocked up his high school girlfriend. I was really proud of Drew for breaking out of his shell and getting a girlfriend, but come on buddy. Learn how to properly use a condom, you know what I mean? Ooh, I bet he didn’t know because he doesn’t have a father figure and most 17 year old boys wait to have intercourse until their dad gives them a tutorial. I get it now. He’s currently getting it on with a girl who looks 15 years too old to be in college, but hopefully he covers his junk this time around.

Crosby

Crosby (or Kristen Bell’s Guy, played by Dax Shepard) is the third Braverman child. He is married to a perfect looking dancer named Jasmine (or The Pretty One, played by Joy Bryant), and they have a son Jabbar (played by Tyree Brown, who Crosby didn’t meet until he was 5, but don’t worry – they get along swimmingly) and they have a new baby, Aida, who never sleeps. Crosby is a former playboy/musician who lived on a boat and did his laundry at his parent’s house and mooched off of his siblings. But then he became a dad and a husband and cleaned up his act, just in time to buy an immediately successful recording studio in the most expensive neighborhood in San Francisco, with Adam. Crosby is very charming and funny and I’ve grown to really like him and root for him. I like the way he interacts with Jabbar, and I kind of appreciated that he didn’t connect with his new baby right away. I thought that was very real and honest and it was the perfect set up for a cute as pie scene when the baby stares at him and takes the bottle for the first time and then Crosby loves her. I mean, this show knows how to do it.

Crosby Baby

One criticism of this little family unit: maybe Jabbar could stop talking like a baby now. He’s what, 8? 9? Must he always say things like, “Daddy, what are we having for dinnow?” “Aw you and mommy fighting?” “Why the baby always crying, daddy? She’s loud,” said with a pouty face. NO. Talk like a normal kid. We’ll all accept that you’ve aged. This isn’t a Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen type of situation – we’re ready for you to talk like the tall, probably 14-year old in real life that you are (he’s 9, according to the “internet.” Show me the birth certificate, is what I say to that).

Not pictured: Victor, their adopted son who once through a bat at the little girl's head. She kind of deserved it, though.

Not pictured: Victor, their adopted son who once threw a bat at the little girl’s head. She kind of deserved it, though.

Julia (or Kristi, as I call her, because she reminds me of my friend Kristi, played by Erika Christensen) is the youngest Braverman. I think that of all the characters on the show, Julia has grown the most. She started out as a stereotype of a Type A, driven, competitive lawyer mom. But since quitting her job, going through a failed adoption of a baby, and now adopting a tween with anger issues, she’s evolved into a Type A, driven, competitive lawyer mom who has had to deal with a lot of disappointment and is trying to figure out who she wants to be next. Julia was definitely not my favorite, at first (which does not at all resemble my feelings for my friend Kristi, whom I love), but once the show brought out her soft side as she was going through the first adoption, I totally fell for her. That storyline was BRUTAL. It just kept going back and forth and back and forth: Zoe, the knocked up coffee cart girl at the office, is going to let Julia raise the baby; Zoe changed her mind; Zoe will do it; Zoe’s douchebag of a boyfriend wants money, so now Julia is out; Zoe is back! And this time for good!; Zoe had the baby and she is keeping it and oh my god I can’t even see through my tears, this is heart wrenching. It was a real roller coaster, you guys.

But then things were looking up at the end of season 3, because Victor (Xolo Meriduena, or Mad Kid) came along, needing a home. Although Victor got off to a rocky start with the family, he joined the baseball team and Julia sat out in the school parking lot all day, just in case Victor needed to leave school (p.s. can kids just wander out of school, willy-nilly in California? Back in the day, I had to go to the nurse’s office and fake nausea in order to go home. What’s next? Computers in the classrooms?!?) so I thought their relationship was looking up. But then, bam! Victor decided that he only liked her husband Joel (Sam Jaeger, or Hot Husband) and hated Julia and their daughter Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae, or Whiny One) and then he called the cops and threw bats through doors and all sorts of nonsense and nothing was good again. He seems to have warmed to the entire family this season, just as Julia and Joel’s marriage is starting to crumble. Isn’t that always the way?

Parenthood is on Thursday nights at 10/9c on NBC. Make sure that you have plenty of tissues on hand, and if you’re drinking, only get tipsy because tipsy crying is cathartic and drunk crying is really ugly. I should have stuck with that counseling thing! That was sage advice!

One Response to ““Parenthood,” My Dysfunctional Second Family.”

  1. Humble Admirer November 24, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    Dear Broadcouching,

    Thank you and screw you. Mostly because you are a great read. I love having your input on most topics. Really hilarious. I say screw you because I have become a new fan of “Parenthood” because of your “Parenthood,” My Dysfunctional Second Family posting on November 14.

    See, I had succuumbed to the fact that I would forever be in the minority to love that now canceled show, “Brothers & Sisters” on abc. Truthfully, it was only up until I discovered that the ‘brother’ was incestuously falling for the not-sure-your-my-sister-so-I-think-you-should-be-my-girlfriend-character who, by the way, also reminded me of our mutual friend Kristi. (Maybe secretly, Kristi should be on primetime shows like “Brothers & Sisters” and “Parenthood” because they are writing about her anyway?!?!)

    So, on to why I think you should be screwed. Well, you enticed me with impeccebly descriptive reasons to love this show. I am only 6 shows in and I already hate that you were right about the tissues. I mean… really right.

    The most incredible reason happened tonight after watching Episode 5 when Adam, Drew, and Max were playing baseball, or catch, or some other sportsmanly thing that happens with a ball. I don’t know because I never did that thing. But what I did do in my long ago youth was “perform” and I mean, PERFORM! My cousins and I used to gather at family functions (aka, fiestas) and come up with little skits (aka, dance routines set to Tiffany or Debbie Gibson, or Vanessa Williams) and perform for the family during these gatherings. Well tonigt, at a thankfully familiar, cousin sleepover, we started singing to some pop songs off youtube. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to see my daughters and niece sing from the hightest peaks of their vocal chords to songs I will probably never ever admit to knowing the lyrics to, but I do, so it was pretty incredible. Incredible because for a moment, I had what Adam had. That frozen in time moment when you see just how much your children have grown. Just how much you might have actually missed. And just how much you might be making up for it when you are belting out that last verse of the Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” cover by Masha. (It is the best cover of this song. Ever. BTW)

    And back to Parenthood to the moment when Adam, Drew, and Max are playing baseball, or catch, or some other sportsmanly thing that happens with a ball. It’s that small and fleeting moment when you realize you really do love being a parent and you really do love being a parent to your children. That moment when you realize, your kid isn’t crazy after all and she is really quite intriguing and expressive, and creative, and beautiful, and wise beyond your control. I had that moment with my children (as I do often when it really comes down to it) and felt such a bursting sense of pride for both my girls and the super amazing niece I was in charge of tonight.

    Then I came into my room, turned on some “Parenthood” and started bawliing at the last scene of Episode 5. So, thank you and screw you for getting me into such a great show. It’s really your fault I have fallen for Parenthood and not that it deals with anything I might remotely relate to. At all.

    Signed,

    Your Humble Admirer

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