If you don't already watch Parenthood on NBC, you're missing out on the best show on TV. It's about a family, led by Craig T. Nelson and Bonny Bedelia, their four adult children, and the assorted in-laws and grandkids. All around amazing characters, storylines, dialogue, all of it. Here's what sets it apart from the rest:
While the women who play the main characters are all gorgeous, they are not the stick-thin actresses you see on some other shows. None of them are overweight, but they do have bodies that at least resemble real life. They're dressed appropriately for their body type and age, and when the characters are at home with their kids, their wardrobes aren't magazine perfection - they're in cute, comfy, SAHM clothes. Or, sometimes frumpy SAHM clothes. So, pretty true to life.
While of course there are storylines that make me roll my eyes (hello, long-suffering Kristina - can anymore sadness come your way?), I love that there are such realistic storylines. I laughed when Jasmine and Crosby had a new baby, and it wasn't all adorable coos and cuddles - they were fighting about getting up in the night, and Jasmine was angry and resentful when she always had to be the one to feed the baby. I wish that new parenthood was represented this way more often, because it's much more realistic.
Another storyline that I loved (and hated) was when Joel and Julia tried to adopt a baby, and at the last minute, the birth mother changed her mind. There was no happy ending, the birth mother didn't show up to swelling music in the last ten minutes saying never mind, they could adopt the baby. She just... changed her mind. Like women do. And they didn't get the baby they had been planning and hoping for. It was devastating, but wonderful to see represented on TV.
While there are storylines about issues common to many TV shows (infidelity, health problems, alcoholism, etc.), they also touch on other issues more rarely seen (Autism, PTSD from serving in the military, foster care, to name a few).
A Main Character With Asperger's
The first thing that made me fall in love with Parenthood as a show that stood out for the rest was the inclusion of a main character with Asperger's, which is on the Autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorders and other disabilities affect so many families, yet I could count on one hand the number of family sitcoms I've seen where a main character has any sort of disorder or disability. Max's Asperger's isn't a very special episode, and it's not what the show is about. It's just a part of who he is, and a part of what makes their family what it is. Sometimes it's a focus of an episode, sometimes it isn't, but it's just part of Max's character. My heart aches with their family as they make decisions about how to help him navigate life, and while I don't have a child with Asperger's, as a Special Education teacher, it rings true to the issues and conversations I know some parents go through with their children.
When I have problems, I don't go to a therapist, a hot neighbor, or even a friend - my first stop is my family. A sibling, a parent, an in-law... somebody who has known me for years and loves me anyway. And I think that most families are this way. What I love about Parenthood is that it shows the characters leaning on each other, going to their siblings, parents, grandparents, or extended family for advice and comfort, something I find sadly underrepresented on TV - and the way they do it here is beautiful.
There's Rarely a Good Guy or a Bad Guy
The show portrays conflicts between spouses, parents and their children, siblings - usually two people who love each other very much. They disagree - sometimes it's major, sometimes minor, but nearly always, there are two defensible sides to the argument. There is no villain of the family, and no angel - just people who love each other, disagreeing about real things, each of them with valid points.
It Gets Me Every Time
I challenge you to watch an entire season of Parenthood and not cry at least a couple of times. If you're like me, it'll be more like every episode. Maybe this shouldn't be on a list of good things about the show, as it sometimes reduces me to shuddering sobs and ugly cries - and I do not look like the lovely Monica Potter, pictured above.
If you haven't been watching it, jump right in. Or catch old episodes on Hulu, Netflix, or watch from the beginning of this season on nbc.com.