Friday, October 10, 2014

"Parenthood" grows up even while it remains Forever Young

May God bless and keep you always
and may your wishes all come true
may you always do for others
and let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
and climb on every rung
and may you stay-
Forever Young.
~Bob Dylan

In one of the most emotionally moving title sequences since Joss Whedon's "Firefly", each episode of NBC's "Parenthood" kicks off  with a rousing chorus of family and life that just keeps going.

Now in its sixth (and final) season, I first discovered this show shortly after season two began airing. I'd been browsing through Hulu, saw it starred Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) and had to give it a try. Quite surprisingly, Lauren's character was not the draw of the show for me. Instead I was trapped by the refreshingly honest, supportive, beautiful but so-not-perfect Braverman Family.

Led by parents/grandparents Zeek and Camille Braverman, their four adult children (Adam, Sarah, Crosby and Julia) plus spouses and children, navigate the maze of life - specifically in the realm of parenthood and family. While they bicker like any sibling groups, in the end they always come together. They may not agree, but they'll be there for each other, come what may.

In a TV landscape where shows about families are mostly regulated to sitcoms, "Parenthood" stands out as a stellar drama with storylines that ring true, writing that is real and raw, and acting that is so believable, you forget that they're actors and not an actual family. From Autism, Adoption and Abortion, to Infidelity, PTSD and a Political Campaign, "Parenthood" covers a myriad of situations relevant to American Family Life without ever becoming a soap opera. Controversial? Maybe. But never without sympathy and insight. While some work better than others, each story is nonetheless told with compassion, not a heavy hammer. Like wine, the show grows better with age, with each episode more and more consistently leaving the viewer with misty eyes.

My family has been especially touched by the show's portrayal of child/pre-teen Max Braverman as an Aspie. My own Aspergers remained undiagnosed until I was 19, and both me and my parents can relate to many of the issues Max and his parents face. Even though Max's case is extreme, it is nonetheless pretty accurate to what we'd consider a textbook case of Aspergers (I'm far from textbook, which is why most people rarely can't believe I have it). The show further branched out by it's introduction of adult character Hank portrayed by Ray Romano (Everyone Loves Raymond) who also seems to fall on the Autism spectrum. I won't say more, because I really recommend watching the show and seeing it all play out for yourself. And then I recommend researching Aspergers and learning about how it differs from person to person and between the genders, because it is such a complicated syndrome that it cannot possibly be fully portrayed even among two characters.

Other storylines that have been especially heartwrenching for me deal with (I'll stay vague, but this could be considered spoiler-ish) ---

--- cancer, a broken marriage, and two out-of-wedlock pregnancies dealt with from both sides of the equation. 

(end Spoilerish Stuff)

I fell in love with this show and got my sister and my parents into it, who - in turn - got my grandparents into it. Now I hear that my aunt and uncle have also gotten on the bandwagon. Its the only show besides "Downton Abbey" that has been enjoyed by so many of my family members, and I think that in and of itself says something pretty significant about the show. It's certainly meant that we always have something to talk about, as we discuss the decisions and choices of the characters on the show, in particular the different parenting choices they each make.

Every season is on Netflix, which makes this the perfect binge-watching show. You can even catch up in time to watch the final season as it airs - which is so far turning out to be possibly the best season yet.

And then you can find me on Facebook or Tumblr raving excitedly about it every Friday morning.

(While about family, there are enough adult topics that I would recommend the implementation of parental discretion for viewers under 16. It's a really good way to talk about these issues, though.)

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