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Loved the 1989 Ron Howard film, but the television series fails to stand out

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Unless there’s a funeral home, “sister wives” or a multiple personality disorder at the center, it’s tough to stand out as a “family drama.” And as much as I love Ron Howard as a person and a director, his new TV show Parenthood fails to stand out.

If basing a television show on a successful movie could work — see Crash, The Sarah Conner Chronicles, and My Big Fat Greek Life as evidence that it doesn’t — you would think two entertainment powerhouses like Howard and his career-long business partner Brian Grazer (24, Arrested Development) could pull it off.

Howard and Grazer based much of the very funny 1989 Parenthood movie on their own experiences: At that time, Howard, Grazer and the film’s two screenwriters had 14 young children between them. Howard recently said, “[Parenthood] remains the most personal movie I’ve ever made.”

After 21 years, with all their children grown, maybe Howard and Grazer are too far removed.

The new Parenthood follows the Braverman family, a crowd of strong actors with uninventive characters. Craig T. Nelson (Coach, The Incredibles) portrays Zeek, a loud, overzealous grandpa prone to sideline coaching and tough love, but with a heart of gold (yawn). There’s Julia, an attorney who suffers for her success when her daughter prefers dad at story time (zzzz). Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls, the sharpest, hippest TV mom ever) plays divorced mom Susan, whose flashes of sarcastic wit are wrought with insecurity and sadness. (Depressed single mom? Fresh.)

The most consistent, funny character is the noncommittal music producer, Crosby (Dax Shepard, Baby Mama), who finds out he has an illegitimate son. Peter Krause (Six Feet Under, Dirty Sexy Money) has the talent to be the Braverman patriarch-in training, but the script’s not taking him there so far.

The first attempt turn the movie Parenthood into a TV series was on NBC in 1990. It helped Leonardo DiCaprio and David Arquette’s careers, but failed after one season.

Maybe families can only be hilarious and poignant in one two-hour dose — no spreading it out over an hour a week for 15 weeks. Perhaps Parenthood as a TV series is a “Disneyland Dad’s” attempt to be a primary caregiver.


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You thought former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich couldn’t get any sleazier. But he’s fled to the one place even sleazier than politics: reality TV. He joins celebrities like Sinbad and Darryl Strawberry in a bid to not-get-fired. Again. (Sundays, 9 pm, NBC)

Who Do Think You Are?
I know a lot about Brooke Shields: Nothing used to come between her and her “Calvins”; she had a crazy stage mom; and she suffered post-partum depression. Now, thanks to Who Do You Think You Are?, I’ve learned she has ties to French royalty. The family-roots-investigating docu-drama works by profiling intriguing celebrities. Spoiler alert: Spike Lee is related to slave owners! (Fridays, 8 pm, NBC)

Life After People
Once a super-flu wipes out humanity, animals will regain control of Earth, although many will drown from burst levees. History Channel’s Life After People uses age-advancement technology and scientific theory to guess how Earth would be affected by a lack of human interaction. (Tuesdays, 10 pm, History Channel)


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