What Parenthood Taught us About Parenthood

atkins-bookshelf-cultureIn a thought-provoking and sentimental essay about NBC Parenthood’s series finale in The New Yorker, Sarah Larson lamented the loss of a show that portrayed family life with realism, tenderness, and depth, albeit with occasional — and perhaps forgivable — bouts of melodrama. At the helm of the show was Jason Katims who created another compelling family drama, Friday Night Lights. “Both shows,” Larson observes, “were groundbreaking in their emotional realism and power.” Certainly, Parenthood owes a great deal to an earlier show that paved the way — thirtysomething, created by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. (Interestingly, it was Ed Zwick who encouraged Katims to switch from writing plays to writing scripts for television.) thirtysomething, which ran from 1987 to 1991, not only broke the conventional stereotypes of television families and couples, but it raised the bar for acting, writing, directing, and cinematography on the small screen. The compelling show won thirteen Emmy Awards and is ranked at the 10th “Greatest Dramas of All Time” and 19th “Greatest TV Shows of All Time” by TV Guide. Zwick and Herskovitz went on to have very successful film careers, refining their skills as great storytellers.

Now that the series has ended, the Bravermans will join the pantheon of television’s greatest families, such as the Bradys, the Waltons, the Cunninghams, and the Huxtables. Larson goes on to reflect on the impact that the Bravermans had on our appreciation and understanding of parenthood: “[NBC’s Parenthood] showed parenthood, the institution, to be the crucible in which adults were transformed. Its challenges and rewards and the sanity it brought about made the yelling and misunderstanding stop. Other shows, and life, sometimes feature uninvolved parents, selfish parents, bad parents. ‘Parenthood,’ for the most part, did not… The Bravermans always put parenting first. The show’s presentation of the fantasy of near-universal good parenting, or the will to attempt it, felt like a justifiable choice because the challenges and struggles within that were so painful and real. Even when the show wobbled a bit… it always righted itself and kept your faith. Just when you thought you’d had it, there’d be a scene of unexpected reconciliation, or a connection between a parent and a child, or loving wisdom and advice, and you’d cry cry cry, and remember what it’s like to feel fully human. ‘Parenthood’ was so lovable that everything it did wrong felt like an exasperating yet predictable outrage — in other words, it felt like family.” Cue the final music. Fade to black.

Read related posts: The Wisdom of a Grandmother
Letters to a Young Poet
The Wisdom of Pi Patel
The Wisdom of Hindsight

For further reading: www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/parenthood-tvs-emotion-revolution

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