The Brief: Based on the Steve Martin film of the same name, it’s an ensemble drama featuring the extended Braverman family.
I found it impossible to watch this show without at every step comparing it not only to the film of the same name, but more importantly the well established show Brothers and Sisters. Each show has a large ensemble cast based around three generations of the family. The shows have very similar tones, falling into that middle ground between comedy and drama (or occasional melodrama).
There’s some good talent in the cast. Peter Krause and Lauren Graham are enough to make me check a show out all by themselves and make sense as siblings,Monica Potter as Krause’s wife is also a name and face I recognise and she is great in this. The two younger siblings are also okay, and there’s some talented young actors playing the various children. Each character and actor works, but they don’t feel like a family, they don’t have the instant chemistry which I saw from the pilot of Brothers and Sisters. This is a real shame, but may be due to the fact that a lot of the pilot was reshot, when Lauren Graham replaced Maura Tierney who had to withdraw due to illness.
Maybe the issue with the overall chemistry stems from the fact the family dynamic didn’t really work, the parents didn’t feel like strong enough characters. The oldest son (Krause) is the de-facto leader of the family, his father is treated more as a problem to be dealt with rather than a strong foundation and the mother was almost non-existent as a character. I hope that the family dynamics will become more settled as the show continues, working out the different connections, strengths and weaknesses, but I worry that by focussing on ‘parenthood’ instead of ‘siblinghood’ the relationships are all vertical and not as easily interconnected.
I think if I wasn’t such a fan of Brothers and Sisters I would have liked this show a lot more, as it was it felt a bit like a cheap imitation. So many things that happened in the pilot I could look at comparable scenes in Brothers and Sisters and see that they’d done it better. It didn’t have the energy or the extremes, an episode of Brothers and Sisters will make me laugh, cry, cringe and cheer; it wasn’t that I thought Parenthood was bad, it was just that it didn’t really evoke much of a response from me at all.