TV: Where are the laughs in 'Parenthood'?
Strange. I remember Ron Howard's 1989 ode to suburban child-rearing, "Parenthood," being a lot funnier than the new NBC television series with the same name.
The new version, which premieres March 2 at 9 p.m. on KSL Ch. 5, takes the same parenting-is-hell playbook from the movie, but it's stripped of much of the laughter that helped offset the tears.
The new series changes the names of the characters but retains the archetypal personalities from the movie. Peter Krause ("Six Feet Under") is Adam Braverman (Steve Martin's role), an anxious but caring father who only wants the best for his son, who he later learns has a mild form of autism called Asperger's syndrome. He also has two sisters and a brother. Ericka Christensen ("Traffic") is Julia, a lawyer caught up in her career instead of her daughter. Lauren Graham ("Gilmore Girls") is Sarah, a recently divorced mother of two who moves back in with their parents (Graham replaced "ER's" Maura Tierney after Tierney was diagnosed with cancer). And "Punk'd" co-star Dax Shepard is Crosby, the younger free-floating brother who craves his independence.
The patriarch of the Braverman family is Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), a rough father figure who believes parenting is like preparing his kids for war.
In the pilot episode, much of the same ground is covered as in the film. Adam coaches his son's baseball team but doesn't know why the boy acts differently. Sarah has a rough post-divorce time juggling her kids' problems with her fear of dating (her character is based on the one played in the movie by Dianne Wiest).
"Parenthood's" strongest suit is an able, well-cast ensemble of actors who so far show off a fair amount of chemistry.
For anyone who has kids -- or just remembers being one -- raising children is full of quirky, sometimes knee-slapping moments that are permanently burned in our memories. ABC's offbeat comedy, "Modern Family," shows off those moments well. "Parenthood" -- at least in the episode available for review -- exhibited more drama than comedy, seemingly more interested in conveying the more noble gestures of parenting than what we saw in Howard's blockbuster movie.
But this is early, and the seeds of a good comedy -drama are there. Perhaps, like a good parent, the network can nurture this series into something it can be proud of.
Vince Horiuchi 's column appears Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org" Target="_BLANK">email@example.com or 801-257-8607. For more television insights, visit Horiuchi's blog, "The Village Vidiot," at blogs.sltrib.com/tv/. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org" Target="_BLANK">email@example.com.