25 April 2011 | ametz-37-695862
"I Want to be a Braverman"
Every Tuesday night, after the conclusion of Parenthood, my wife says to me sentimentally, "I want to be a Braverman!" NBC's mildly successful drama, Parenthood, utilizes its larger-than-normal cast (15 recurring characters) to create a realistic atmosphere that explores the deeper realities of being an American family. Each episode beckons the viewer to identify with one branch of the Braverman family tree. Do you see yourself as the successful oldest brother, Adam, who everyone in the family looks to for support and advice? Are you the single mother, Sarah, who is overcoming a failed marriage and the repercussions of the children's absent father? Or maybe you're Julia, the successful lawyer who's climbing her way up the corporate ladder, but all the while wrestling with the cost to her family? Then there's the black sheep Crosby, whose fear of commitment and settling down are challenged by the confident, aspiring mother of his child, Jazmin, whom he has fallen deeply in love with. Or, perhaps, your children are raised and now, as the patriarchs of your family you find yourself in Zeek and Camielle's position of watching your children parent and navigating the complexities of having an adult child (not to mention grandchildren) living with you in your home.
The story lines and issues dealt with in Parenthood bring the audience into the midst of some of today's most challenging issues. In its first two seasons, Parenthood has empathized with its audience's struggles in an incredible number of real life situations: job loss, Asperger's syndrome, raising a rebellious teenager, raising a teenage boy with his father absent, midlife crises, financial stresses after retirement, the reality of peer pressure, unexpected pregnancies, balancing your career aspirations with those of your spouse's, biracial dating, and infertility.
What has become a staple of Parenthood is the argument scene. Episodes of Parenthood regular contain two to three scenes of one of the families engaged in a loud, discussion/fight with multiple characters yelling at the same time. The argument scene seems so chaotic, confusing, loud . . . and realistic. Any family that has had their share of arguments will find a kindred spirit in the Bravermans of Parenthood.
In the end, Parenthood is about, well, just that . . . parenthood. The unique flavor that this particular show has brought to prime time is an honest look at the many dimensions of parenting - from the decision to attempt to conceive, to the toddler and primary school years, through the incredibly challenging teenage years, to the years of adulthood and being a grandparent. Parenthood has dealt with infertility to preschools to high school graduation and everything in between. Parenthood is about family. Through the all challenges mentioned above that come the Braverman's way, the one stabilizing force is their family.
One of the casualties of the postmodern quest for mobility and a borderless reality is the family. How very uncommon it has become to meet an extended family who all live within a short distance of one another! Parenthood offers the Braverman family to help calm that longing in us all. Zeek and Camille's house serves as the calming presence throughout the series. No matter what difficulty besets the family, when they are "home," everything seems right. It is difficult to imagine any of the Braverman's ever moving far from home.
While the verdict remains out on whether or not Parenthood has the legs of a lengthy run or not, it's first 35 offerings have proved to be a welcome addition to contemporary social commentary on the American family. While some of the specific challenges have certainly changed, at the heart of the Braverman family we see the same soothing presence that so many have seen in the past in the Huxtables, the Keatons, the Bradfords, and the original American family, the Cleavers, not to mention a host of other American television families.
Alongside my wife, we will strive to be Bravermans. Our family hopes to learn from the Braverman family as they seek to be the safe and reassuring base for everyone facing the challenges and shifting of life.