Monday, 31 May 2010

Things I Love about NBC's "Parenthood" and One Tiny Thing I Don't

I haven't written about this show yet, but I've been raving about it since its premiere. I finally watched the finale this afternoon (Only six days after it aired, but give a girl a break. I'm writing a PhD thesis, after all), and, not surprisingly, was happy with the way it left things for the summer. Before I dive in to the things I love about it and all of it's boundless potential, can I just ask, what is going on with Craig T. Nelson's hair?? I was so distracted by his comb-over/curl-under look that I couldn't really quite get into Zeke's scenes this week. Has the hair gotten worse? I think the hair's gotten worse.

Moving on. Some of the biggest surprises for me during this first season have been the acting chops of both Dax Shepard (who knew? Kristen Bell, that's who) and Monica Potter. During these first thirteen episodes, we've had the opportunity to see both of their characters grow a little bit and in very different ways. Potter has a way of making her character Kristina understated but effective, and I loved the way Kristina got all suburban housewife passive aggressive with Sarah last week in defense of her daughter. In her scenes, there's a sense that she's keeping everyone together whether they realize it or not. I doubt that she'll get award recognition this year, but I think her performance is one of the best on a show of really good performances.

I think Dax Shepard, however, might get an Emmy nomination this year. Who didn't get a little misty when Jabar (who is officially the most adorable child actor on TV, displacing the increasingly awkward kid who plays Jamie on One Tree Hill) asked if he could call Crosby "Daddy"? Yeah, I know, it's a little emotionally manipulative, but in this case I'm okay with that. Shepherd has done a great job with a character that might not work as well in the hands of a less capable actor (that right, I just used Dax Shepard, who started his career on MTV's Punk'd, and "capable actor" in the same sentence. Seriously, Kristen Bell has good instincts). I'm looking forward to seeing how his character develops in the future.

There's so much more to rave about: there's the overlapping dialogue, the actors' chemistry, the fantastically moody teenagers, Peter Krause not playing a total d-bag, but the last thing I want to mention is the relationship between Lauren Graham's Sarah and Mae Whitman's Amber. I'm pretty sure that in the last 10 years (anyone else miss Gilmore Girls as deeply as I do?), Graham has solidified herself TV's best single mom with an edge. She's said in interviews that she was nervous about playing another single mom on a TV show because of the inevitable comparisons, but that she liked the idea of playing someone who makes a lot of mistakes as a mom. During the scene when Sarah told Amber that Amber "brings everyone down", it was heartbreaking and entirely authentic. My impression of the character is that she's been burned a lot, she's totally broken, and she really makes a lot of mistakes, but that she's trying to be better just like anyone who sees how her mistakes effect others. I love that Sarah is imperfect and that we get to see her mistakes! But the forgiveness at the core of her relationship with Amber is beautiful, because even when she royally messes up like in that scene, Amber knows that she's one of the few people that believes in her, despite her mistakes. Constant grace and forgiveness is what makes that relationship beautiful.

My theory for why this show works so well is because it respects its actors. Its executive producer Jason Katims has a history of being on shows that respect their actors' talents (My So-Called Life and Relativity, among others), and he's currently the head writer of the best show on network TV Friday Night Lights. NBC gets hard-core redemption points for keeping this show on the air. Don't know about you, but I'm loving Parenthood, and hoping we get to see it for years to come.

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