So, true story: I know these parents who have a teenage girl who racked about a $1,000 cell phone bill—all to one number! And when the curious parents dialed the number to see who it was, it was some “Yo yo, wassup!” type of loser. Who, once the parents hacked their daughter’s Facebook account, turned out to be her boyfriend, whom she’d kept secret for weeks. Can you believe?!?
Well, I don’t need you to believe, just to suspend your disbelief for an hour or so every Tuesday night, when a mildly idiotic dramedy called “Parenthood”—whose most recent episode contained the “cell phone & secret boyfriend” subplot—airs on NBC.
I’d been meaning to watch “Parenthood,” which is loosely based on the 1989 movie starring Steve Martin and Dianne Wiest, for some time now, but since it usually runs opposite “Lost,” and since I kept forgetting I could watch it on Hulu, I didn’t get to catch an episode until Saturday, when NBC was showing it to people who don’t get out on weekend nights—i.e., parents like me.
The premise is complicated: “Parenthood” follows the travails of the extended Braverman clan—paterfamilias Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), his wife, Camille (Bonnie Bedelia), and four or so adult children in their 30s (Peter Krause, Erika Christensen, Dax Shepard) who have their own kids crotchfruit as well. They all live together in the Braverman family compound, several million dollars’ worth of acreage in Berkeley, California. And, you know, they just try to survive.
Among many, many plot points: Adam (Krause), the eldest son, is beset by responsibility and trying to keep his temper under control, none of which is made easier by his son Max being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. There’s Sarah (Lauren Graham), who’s broke, divorced from a rock star with a drug habit, has two rebellious teenagers, and has just moved back in with her family. And there’s Julia (Christensen), a driven lawyer who worries that her daughter prefers her SAHD husband.
And actually, those aren’t even plot points—just the background material. Every week, tons of shit happens: Sarah hooks up with an old flame, her brother Crosby (Dax Shepard) finds out he’s the father of a 5-year-old boy, and Julia and her hubby attempt to have a date night.
Is it any good? Of course not, but not for the reasons you might be thinking. Yes, it’s annoyingly modern, with references to Facebook and bong hits and lots of people talking on cell phones all the time. And yes, the actors are all just awful, particularly Peter Krause, who seems not to have shed the beatific-idiot look he mastered on “Six Feet Under.”
What I really hate about “Parenthood” is just that so much happens on the show. As I’ve learned over the past few months of blogging about my life as a father, parenthood is often quite—well, not boring exactly, but not exciting either. You don’t have an entertaining crisis every week, let alone enough TV-worthy events to fill a Bay Area family compound. Mostly, you’re just trying to get through every day, and hoping that actually nothing unusual will happen at all, that the kid will take her bath and eat her dinner and go to sleep at the appointed hour without discovering a new way to turn all of your lives upside-down.
I know, I know: Who expects reality from TV? Not me, certainly, but there is one thing I do want—when you name your NBC family “Braverman,” aren’t they supposed to be fucking Jewish? Hello, NBC?