Parenthood, one of television’s ongoing essays on modern American families (along with ABC’s equally generically titles Modern Family) is supposed to be about, well, parenthood, which would imply meaningful stories about both mothers and fathers. But fatherhood takes a serious back seat to the Moms in this NBC series, makings its early return tonight, September 14, at 8 pm.
Maybe it’s just the undeniable star power and magnetism of Lauren (Gilmore Girls) Graham that has skewed the focus. No one else – including Peter (Sports Night, Six Feet Under) Krause – can quite stand up to her.
All the iconic “Dad” roles are there, from Craig (Coach) T. Nelson as the patriarch, to traditional working Dad Krause to stay-at-home (and totally ineffectual) father Sam (Eli Stone) Jaeger to Dax Shepherd as the absolutely clueless unmarried instant Dad of a mixed-race eight-year-old. But each of them – with the possible exception of Shepherd’s incredibly clueless character – seem to stand in the shadow of their wives or kids, or at least the plots presented to them.
So fathers won’t be seeing the Dads they want to be or even, really, the ones they are right now in Parenthood, except in brief glimpses. Krause tries hard, but he simply doesn’t exude the same easy, authentic parent-vibe that Graham has exhibited since Gilmore. He’s not alone; Monica Potter as his wife isn’t any more convincing, and Erika (Swimfan, Six Degrees) Christensen as the younger, lawyer-mom simply doesn’t’ look old enough (or weary enough) to have kids at all, much less obstinate four-year-olds.
Power producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer based this very loosely on their hit 1989 movie of the same name, and they’ve used their considerable clout to give it some time to grow. NBC – looking to build as many ‘cult’ hits as it can – has been convinced to give it that room as well, and to let the pace of the show and its story development move at leisurely pace. The goal seems to be cozy and casual, but as often as not it’s just annoying. The attempted semi-improv talk-over-each-other style is almost as irksome an affectation as the old shaky-cam fad begun by NYPD Blue – now, thankfully, out of vogue. And it’s getting back in the game early this season, with a premiere on Tuesday, September 14th at 8 pm. The last half a dozen episodes of the first season are still available for free on Hulu as well.
Check out past episodes on hulu.
Get the background on NBC.com’s Parenthood Page