Jason Katims is an interesting writer. One of his first credits are on the defining teenage-drama series My So-Called Life. A show that’s still cited today as being one of the most realistic portrayals of adolescence put to screen. Since those days have past, Katims has developed quite something of a cult following by “developing” (something of a running trend with him) Roswell for The WB back in 1999. Roswell was obviously a successful hit for them and although it was cancelled after three years the fact that teen-dramas have obsessives themselves, it was trapped in sci-fi trappings meaning that a whole other cult audience would see it. He eventually was tapped to showrun and develop NBC’s television adaption of Friday Night Lights: a show that went on to earn two Emmy nominations for the Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler in the central roles of Tami and Eric Taylor and infinite amount of love and adoration from critical reviewers of the shows portrayal of a football obsessed town in “Middle America” Texas. For the final couple of years of Friday Night Lights – Katims once again begun developing a show based of a little-known but very appreciated classic; this time, Parenthood.
Unlike Friday Night Lights, Parenthood doesn’t come out guns-a-blazing. Katims knows his characters and for long period at the beginning, it was all setup. We got awkward storylines about masturbation, temper tantrums and worklife. In theory, a lot of these (mostly episodic) arcs should function fine but there’s a certain unfulfilling quality to them all. They are almost all introductionary episodes, and not particularly amusing ones at that.
Parenthood has the difficult task of walking the line between messy, but not hard to watch; funny, but not a comedy; melodrama, but not so disproportionate there’s no realism in it anymore. There’s murmurs of this at the beginning, perhaps seen best in Dax Shepard’s portrayal of Crosby – the guy who finds out he has a son. This storyline, basically from the beginning, gives the series a reason to exist. Crosby is something of the ideal character here because he accentuates everything that is successful about the show itself (funny, but not too…, etc).
Over the course of the first season, both Crosby’s arc along with other members of the Braverman family dovetails into something far more representative of what this show is going to be (and seems to be, two episodes into second two) and it’s noticeably from the Friday Night Lights wheelhouse; and I’m not just saying that because Minka Kelly is around. All the members have a real earned a real pathos to their lives and their world is better for it.
The cast is huge, the stories have a slightly darker edge than most and there’s some outstanding performances caught, but most of all Parenthood evokes a early 2000s sense of family drama and community that has been lost in recent years with the snark of Gossip Girl and Desperate Housewives being at the watercooler. There’s a troubled beginning but the show ne of the strongest network ensembles on television, and I urge all Friday Night Lights addicts to give this little show another try because it’s really worth it.