Take a scoop of Steve Carell's "Dan in Real Life" (2007) add in a couple helpings of Steve Martin's "Parenthood" (1989) and what do you have? "Parenthood," 2010-style, a new drama series from NBC launching this March.
I felt a little funny when the folks at NBC asked me to review the pilot of the show. First off, I'm not a TV-watcher. Second, how do you review a SERIES? I mean, it's not like reviewing a movie where you get to see the whole thing, beginning to end. And then there's the idea that you're sent a "rough-cut," which means scenes, storylines, and entire characters may be removed before the final airing.
All the same, I was up for the challenge. After all, I'm a parent. There should be something I could say about the pilot, even if I had no idea who the actors are, due to my own pop culture ignorance.
And the actors... apparently, it's a star-studded cast, including "Gilmore Girls'" Lauren Graham, "Traffic's" Erika Christensen (who I recognized but thought was Julia Stiles), Peter Krause from "Six Feet Under," and Craig T. Nelson from Coach (the only actor that I, being a television Luddite, readily placed).
The show centers on each of the four grown kids of Zeek (Nelson) and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia), and their relationships with each other and their own families. The three generations offer plenty of fodder: Zeek can't understand why eldest son Adam (Krause) doesn't try to toughen up son Max. Meanwhile, single mother Sarah (Graham) must move back with Zeek and Camille, her two teenage kids in tow. Youngest son Crosby (played by Dax Shepard of "Baby Mama") is dealing with commitment issues, and youngest daughter Julia (Christenson) is trying to create a relationship with her own daughter who openly prefers her stay-at-home dad (Sam Jaeger).
While the story was off to a bit of a slow start as I tried to juggle names, places, and relationships (I originally thought Sarah and Adam were husband and wife, rather than borther and sister), the storylines soon fell into place, and I found myself swept up in the normal trials of this obviously close -- and slightly crazy -- family.
Parents in any stage of life will be able to find some character or parenting challenge to identify with, whether it's a rebellious teen, dating as an adult, handling a learning disabled child, or simply navigating the waters of three generations of family life. At the end of the pilot, I was actually sad when it ended, which says a lot for this TV-adverse mom of three.
While it's not a show I'd watch with my kids (topics such as sex and infidelity definitely put this in the PG-13 range), I would love to watch it with my husband. It would provide a lot of material for conversations about parenting styles and "what ifs." If a show can generate laughs and further communication, well, then, it gets a thumbs-up in my book.
"Parenthood" from Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Jason Katims debuts Tuesday, March 2 (10-11 PM Eastern) on NBC.