Lunchtable TV Talk: Parenthood

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In one of those lengthy periods in life when I am at best misguided and at worst in the throes of  losing my mind, I decided to watch ALL six seasons of the TV show Parenthood. Widely lauded during its run, I never saw it. And I continued to slog through all the droning, annoying seasons despite being almost perpetually annoyed. I hate watched it in the same way I hate watched the dreadful Brothers and Sisters. How can networks keep making these huge-family dramas in which every possible bad thing that happens happens to just one family? (Sure, the odds are greater when the family has four or more siblings in it, as these stupid shows both do. Parenthood was worse, though, because it also delved into more than just the siblings.)

I recently read an article about how streaming services like Netflix releasing entire seasons of bingeable shows allows the viewer to gloss over the weaknesses in the overall fabric of the show and its construction. We get the whole story at once, which might not be the most technically effective way to tell episodic stories, i.e., we have a 10 or 13-hour movie in some of these series rather than an actual serial. I don’t find that this weakness is evident in made-for-streaming shows… but I do see this weakness (and this might just be personal preference) in shows like Parenthood. I noticed, for example, that in every single episode, someone says (and sometimes more than once in an episode) some variation of “we need to talk”: “We need to have a conversation”, “Can we talk?”, etc. And all they did was talk – endlessly. You would think this would interest me because I loved shows like In Treatment, in which the entire show was just talking – a therapist and his patient in an office. Nothing else. But no. That was riveting. Parenthood is just a whine-fest of misguided self-righteousness. And it is from this starting point that I definitely saw major plot and writing deficits – all smooshed together with histrionic, self-involved characters (almost all of them – not just the dude who was supposed to be the “irresponsible younger Braverman brother”).

I cringe just writing the name “Braverman” down, remembering all of Craig T. Nelson’s toasts and boasts about the greatness of the almighty Braverman family. “He can get through it because he is a Braverman.” The show spins around this ridiculous premise. (Somehow TV families, especially large ones, like to rest on this idea… that because of their size and “complexity”, they are more interesting or special than all other families….).

From the whining and constant hyper-intensity of Monica Potter’s Kristina (it’s either “everything is crap because my son has Asberger syndrome” or “I have cancer”) to the whining “I’m not good enough and am a loser” mantra of the ever-annoying Lauren Graham’s Sarah, from the bitchiness of Erika Christensen’s Julia to the endless, endless, endless crying and whining about everything courtesy of the otherwise brilliant Mae Whitman as Amber, this show is… just such shit. It’s been over for some time, and as such should probably not *still* annoy me this much, but I saw the title in a list of things I had seen and felt irritated all over again!

I want to be able to write something better about it… that is, something more descriptive, at least devoting a bit more effort to making my analysis a bit more constructive. I realize that my view is unpopular, and that I am in the minority, but there is no way to fix this pile of dung.

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