Warning: This is really long because I have a lot of feelings about this show and I can’t stop thinking or talking about it. Also, there are two minor spoilers in this post.
When Jasmine (Joy Bryant) and Crosby (Dax Shepard) announced their engagement to the rest of the Bravermans in the second season of Parenthood, Kristina (future Emmy nominee Monica Potter) quietly said, “Jasmine, welcome to Crazytown.” And that’s exactly what Parenthood is…Crazytown. Population: 17 (with one more on the way).
And Crazytown is perfect.
My mom has begged me to watch this show for the last four seasons. I would watch episodes sporadically with her when I was home from school, but I never watched it religiously. So, after attempting to watch House of Cards and being less enthusiastic about it than the rest of the world, I decided to grant my mother’s wish and give Parenthood a try during my spring break. (I know what you’re all thinking…I know how to party hard during spring break.) So, on Sunday, March 10, I sat down to watch the pilot on Netflix before bed. That night, I ended up watching Parenthood into the wee hours of Monday morning. I fell quickly down what I affectionately refer to as the Braverman trap. It’s a trap full of tears, laughter, heartbreak, and joy. It basically means you can’t watch just one episode or you will sit there restless and unable to think about anything else until you can watch it again. (My best friend fell down the trap a week after me. It’s a real thing, I swear.)
Until Parenthood, I had never watched a TV show before that made me laugh uncontrollably one minute and then sob in the fetal position the next minute. However, it’s not always the emotional or dramatic scenes that reduce me to a crying mess. It’s often the happy scenes: the moments between the four main siblings and those epic Braverman dance parties. As I watched the first season, I often wondered why that was the case, but then it hit me. Watching Parenthood is essentially the same as watching my family. The only difference is that the Bravermans have a really great soundtrack playing in the background. (I will note here that the music only makes the tears worse. Whoever chose to play Adele’s cover of “To Make You Feel My Love” in episode 18 of season 2 may actually be the devil.) Many of the conversations and arguments the Bravermans have on the show are ones I’ve heard in my grandparents’ house. Jason Katims and the rest of the writers just understand how big families operate. In the past, I’ve often been frustrated with family dramas that have huge dinner scenes or family parties where you can clearly hear what everyone has to say. I don’t know what civilized families these other people come from, but it’s not a family function for me until everyone is so loud I can’t understand the person sitting right next to me. And it doesn’t seem to be a Braverman get together either without the shouting, laughter, and the dancing. My family is the kind of family that stays up at the hospital late at night when something bad happens, the kind of family that will be there if you need to rant, cry, and scream. We take up entire sections of bleachers at a first grader’s baseball game. We have basketball and football games in our backyard during birthday parties, and we turn a New Year’s Eve party into a night of crazy dancing in our pajamas and competitive charades. We’re the Bravermans and the Bravermans are us, and I love that.
Now, let’s talk about Lauren Graham. She is, and I say this without any question or doubt in my mind, the best person on television. I’m currently watching Gilmore Girls with a friend and I don’t understand how she has never been nominated for an Emmy. She was Lorelai freaking Gilmore, queen of the sarcastic fast-talk and endless pop culture references, and she doesn’t have an Emmy nomination. And now she’s Sarah Braverman, and she still doesn’t have one. I thought it was bad that Steve Carell never won for Michael Scott, but at least he was nominated. She’s so happy and charismatic, you can’t help but root for her. When she laughs, I laugh. When she cries, I cry. She’s perfect. And if you need proof of the perfection that is Lauren Graham, watch the final scene in season 2’s “If This Boat is a Rockin’.” In this scene, Crosby is putting his house boat up for sale with the help of his siblings, Adam (Peter Krause), Julia (Erika Christensen), and Sarah. Until this moment, Graham’s time with Shepard had been limited. Because of the similar ages of their TV children, he mostly shared screentime with Christensen while she mostly shared screentime with Krause. Even in this scene, Crosby and Sarah barely speak. It’s the look in Graham’s eyes that tell you how proud Sarah is of her little brother for growing up and changing his life. It’s a hopeful moment for Sarah where she finally seems to believe that she and her children may still be able to do the same. It’s wonderful in every way, and it’s only one short example of how great she really is.
I also need to mention Miles Heizer, the actor behind my adorable, sweet, and sensitive Drew, son of the aforementioned Sarah. From the moment I saw the scene in the rain between Heizer and Graham in the pilot, I immediately questioned why I had not heard more about him. He is the most broken of the Bravermans, and for such a young actor, I find him to be amazing. The whole ensemble is the most underrated cast on television, but he’s the most underrated of them all. The relationship between Drew and Mae Whitman’s Amber constantly reminds me of my brother and me, but it’s his relationship with Sarah that causes me to cry the most on this show. Their scenes together are incredibly beautiful but also difficult to watch because they feel so real. My heart breaks for Drew because I understand why he’s so upset but it also breaks for Sarah because I know she is doing the best she can. He loves and appreciates his mother, even if he is reluctant to show it, but he needs his dad too. I just want to jump through my television (or iPad in this case), tell him everything will be okay, and give him a big hug.
But Heizer and Graham aren’t the only cast members that amaze me. As I watch each episode, I find myself hanging on to each and every performance, from the young children Tyree Brown (Jabbar Braverman), Savannah Paige Rae (Sydney Graham), and Max Burkholder (Max Braverman) to the veteran actors Bonnie Bedelia (Camille Braverman) and Craig T. Nelson (Zeek Braverman). I don’t know how they did it, but Jason Katims and the rest of the crew managed to create an ensemble that not only has perfect dramatic and comedic timing but also one that is completely believable as a family. The Parenthood writers recognize this magic and thrive on it. Each cast member fits perfectly together like a puzzle, and I’m not sure if that’s casting luck or skill but they are flawless.
I am so head-over-heels in love with this family. I highly recommend you fall down the Braverman trap as soon as possible. You won’t regret it. Just go buy an economy-sized box of tissues from Costco first.