Ron Howard's 1989 smash comedy "Parenthood" didn't work as a TV series in 1990, and while it fares better in 2010, it still is a far cry from appointment viewing.
The Buckmans no more, the family of this "Parenthood" is known as the Bravermans, headed by old pros Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia. The series juggles amongst the storylines of their four children "? Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen "? all grown up (more or less), with spouses and/or children of their own.
Each sib fills a specific role: Krause, the well-tempered center; Graham, the wounded soul; Shepard, the slacker; Christensen, the workaholic. Thus, they respond to crises "? from drug use and Asperger's Syndrome to something as insignificant as swimming lessons "? in their own dysfunctional ways. Yet somehow, they come together when they Need Each Other Most.
It's in those moments "? well, all moments, actually "? that "Parenthood" proves quite grating. The Braverman clan assembles for the massive, happy meals that only happens on TV and the movies; you know the kind: in an outdoor area, usually strewn with Christmas lights.
Although the dramedy strives to tackle hot-button topics relevant to today's society "? hence the elements of divorced and racially blended families "? it all feels false, cloying and presented without subtlety. That's too bad, because the cast is full of talented, likable people all operating with good intentions.
The thing is, even though "Modern Family" is intentionally over-the-top, it captures the everyday foibles of the American fam with double the realism, and infinitely more laughs. "?Rod Lott