Have You Been Watching.. Parenthood?

From its title and glossy promotional images, you’d be forgiven for immediately dismissing Parenthood as sentimental rubbish. The picture currently advertising the series on the Channel 5 website look as if it’s been removed from newly-purchased photo frame or a medical advice pamphlet concerning the wonders of “Incontimaxâ€?.

It looks awful, which is a shame, because the series is actually pretty great, featuring a fantastic cast that includes Peter Krauss from Six Feet Under, Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls and even “Eggâ€? (Mae Whitman) from Arrested Development.

Created by Ron Howard, Parenthood is based on his 1989 film of the same name, which starred Steve Martin, Keanu Reeves as a slacker and a young Joaquin Phoenix. The film revolved around a family that spans three generations and dealt with some of the difficulties that come with raising children. The film was actually adapted into a series in the early ‘90s as well, and was one of many failed movie-to-TV adaptations at the time (others included Uncle Buck and Ferris Bueller).

Despite the original TV series’ lack of success, Parenthood’s premise lends itself well to an episodical format. In fact, it probably works better as a TV series than it does as a film. There are a lot of characters, and therefore a lot of possibilities for multiple storylines. At the top of the family tree are Zeek and Camille Braverman, who have four children: Adam, their successful and hardworking eldest son, who has a wife, a teenage daughter and an autistic son; Sarah, who lives with them, along with her difficult teenage daughter and sensitive teenage son; Crosby, who has a young son; and finally Julia, a lawyer, who has a devoted husband and a spoiled young daughter.

The characters are well-developed and likeable, despite their very obvious flaws. Sarah, for example, has had a difficult past with her former husband, an alcoholic touring musician who’s rarely around for his kids. She begins the series by moving in with her parents, and struggles to get her feet on the ground and the show does a great job of shifting seamlessly between drama and comedy. At times, it can be very funny, but mostly the programme is a light-hearted drama.

It’s still far less saccharine than you might presume, however. Don’t be put off by first impressions; Parenthood is well worth your time, and it only takes a few episodes before you’re completely sucked in. Unfortunately, Channel 5 has been pushing them out sporadically, and recently stopped airing it altogether, halfway through the season. But be sure to look out for it in the schedule.

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