Parenthood 101: Critical Orientation

We might not have it all together, but together we have it all! NBC’s hit series, Parenthood, follows the intersecting lives of the multigenerational Braverman family. Created by Jason Katims, Parenthood first aired in 2010 and has been ranked number 1 in every adult women demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. Set in Berkely, California, Parenthood presents triumph and heartache through relatable family obstacles adults come to face with through the stages of “parenthood”. Zeek and Camille Braverman, married for forty-six years, try to maintain a wholesome loving example for the sake of their four adult children, Adam, Sarah, Crosby, and Julia, who now have families of their own. I chose to analyze the first season of Parenthood because of the few non hegemonic character roles, the range of demographics in the main characters, and the significance of each characters’ personal storyline. 

One of the first intriguing realizations I made in the first few episodes, were the couple of main characters that displayed non hegemonic characteristics. To me, this was a direct indication of non traditional character roles that do not typically appear in family dramas. Julia, the youngest Braverman daughter, is a very loving wife to her husband Joel, and mother to only child, Sydney. Unlike all of the other “Mommies”, Julia is the breadwinner of her household. She wears a dress suit, carries a brief case, and works long dedicated hours as a respected lawyer. Desperately trying to balance work and home life, control-freak Julia feels her maternal role is being replaced by Joel. Julia represents a hard working determined Mother who just so happens to arrive home from work to a home cooked meal. Can she keep her job and her sanity too?

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Bachelor Crosby Braverman, music producer and youngest Braverman son, is faced with a three year baby timeline set by his on and off again girlfriend, Katie. Avoiding the thought of becoming a father in the years to come, he gets an unexpected surprise when an old flame comes back to Berkely. The pilot episode nears end when blonde haired blue eyed Crosby is introduced to his five year old half African American son, JaBar. Unlike most new found fathers portrayed in the media, Crosby takes immediate responsibility for his actions and develops an extreme liking to his new son. Instead of playing the stereotypical “dead beat dad” role, Crosby brings the rare perspective of a new single father to the show. I think this is a refreshing change that brings appreciation to real life single fathers who do stick around for their children. 

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 The main cast of Parenthood familiarizes with a various number of demographics. Zeek and Camille face the pressures of growing apart after forty six years of marriage. Adam, who seems to be living the American Dream due to the success of his shoe company, faces the reality of having a son with the possible diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome. Rebellious Amber, the 15 year old daughter of Sarah Braverman, continuously tries to live up to the expectations of her “goodie two shoe” cousin, Haddie. The people who watch this show can not only identify with the characters individually, but make personal connections to their similar personal hardships. Viewers can relate to the unsettling inconsistency that life throws at these main characters.

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The significant focus to each main characters’ personal life draws viewers engagement to the show. Commonly compared to NBC’s hit family sitcom, Modern Family, Parenthood sets itself apart  from the other network family show presenting more serious topics and how they continuously building on each characters’ storyline from the previous episode. There is never an episode that focuses on one specific character because they are all equally important. These separate stories intersect with each other and create the general plot of Parenthood. The writers of Parenthood were able to do this due to their one hour time slot, compared to Modern Familys’ half hour time slot. More time means more detail. Sorry Cam!

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Sitcoms like Friends and That 70’s show do not require full background knowledge or information in every series in order to follow along with which ever random episode just happens to be playing on TV. The various character story lines in Parenthood are abruptly broken up into different scenes. Cliff hangers at the end of one scene leave viewers engaged to find out what happens when the show returns to that characters life. This also makes the show go by quicker. You will realize that there are more close up camera shots to display emotion while dealing with a characters individual life story. This is how viewers are given the chance to distinguish a personal connection with specific characters. Long shots are typically shown when the entire family comes together for family dinner. This displays the many  different personalities within the family interacting with each other at the same time. It is interesting as a viewer to know the secret details behind the personal lives of each individual sitting at the family dinner table, and to then see how they act once they come together. It makes you wonder, what you really know about your own family. Or don’t know…  

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 As a first time viewer of this series, I am so far pleasantly overwhelmed by the amount of information and detail the first couple episodes have introduced. I believe the obstacles presented to the families thus far are diverse as well as relatable to the audience this show attracts. The cast selection is ideal and similar to characters they have all played in shows previous to Parenthood. This show has clearly made a name for itself after being cancelled just this past January 2015, after finishing the series with six seasons in five years. The family values that I take away from the show are similar to what I have been taught my whole life; family comes first and family is most important. Your family is your army that stands behind you, even when they are in a time of need.  I believe the first season of Parenthood is worthy of studying because of the non hegemonic character roles, the range in demographics of the main characters, and the significant focus the writers took on the individual story lines of the main actors.  

 

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