When ‘Parenthood‘ premiered, I let loose with an epic rant about its lousy portrayal of my hometown of Berkeley. Since then, the show has built a following. NBC renewed it for a second season this week. And I’m going to eat my words. While it is still not the most accurate depiction of the Bay Area, it has developed into a good family drama. In fact, with ABC’s ‘Brothers & Sisters‘ focusing more on corporate intrigue and melodrama these days, ‘Parenthood’ is the only true family drama on network television right now.
Tuesday’s episode focused on realistic situations: parents concerned that their child might have a behavioral problem, a teenage girl who is sick of her mother assuming she will follow in her footsteps, a father hoping his son will rescue him from a bad real estate deal. In a sea of crime and medical dramas, old fashioned family problems seem innovative. The cast’s chemistry has improved. They actually seem like they could be related.
The elder Bravermans, Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), sporting the worst hair on television not glued to Bret Michaels’ scalp, and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) are the most interesting characters. When Zeek lightly asked her about what he remembered as a funny incident when one of their children vomited on her, she quietly told him that it was an awful experience and he left her to fend for herself. Their kids seem largely unaware of how terrible their marriage is. I am curious to learn more about why their relationship has lasted.
There was even one convincingly Berkeley scene: Jabbar’s spectacularly awkward fifth birthday party. Crosby (Dax Shepard) invited the rest of his family to meet the family of the son he just learned was his. Zeek wrongly assumed Jasmine (Joy Bryant’s) African American family hated Crosby because they were militants who hated white people. Camille impressed Jasmine’s mother by revealing that she knew the meaning of Jasmine’s brother Sekou’s name. I started to laugh. One of my next childhood next door neighbors was named Sekou. Well played, ‘Parenthood.’ Lose the neckties, make the classrooms a lot grungier, research where people actually eat, amp up the weirdness, and you might actually get it right.
Watch the latest episode below: