Every now and then a show comes along that just makes your life better. A show that makes family life actually look appealing. For me, these shows have been My So Called Life, Party of Five, the (unfairly) short lived Life, Unexpected and for the last few years, Parenthood.
Parenthood doesn't get talked about a lot in the UK, which is a tragedy of the highest order because it's Just. So. Good! Every one that I have recommended this show to has consequently fallen in love with it almost immediately. And now even the critics are getting on board. I'm going to try and explain why, without gushing too much.
The show is essentially about the lives of the Braverman family (it's loosely based on the 1989 movie it shares a name with, but please don't allow this to put you off) but it's so much more than that. It was developed by Jason Katims of My So Called Life/Friday Night Lights fame, and lets face it, the man can write.
Alongside perfectly written scripts are perfectly cast characters, Craig T Nelson stars as the patriarch of the Braverman clan, his eldest daughter Sarah is the wonderful Gilmore Girls Lauren Graham, and all-round-crush Peter Krause plays the eldest Braverman son, Adam. This truly is an ensemble series, with a sprawling cast and no one character serving as the protagonist.
The Bravermans live in the Bay Area, California. The elder Bravermans family home with its beautifully fairy-lit yard is often the setting for any variety of family celebrations/dramas.
The beauty of the series, and one of the things that I feel is missing from pretty much everything ever aired on The CW, is that the kids/teens lives and stories are given just as much weight as the adults. Sarah's daughter Amber (brilliantly played by Mae Whitman) features just as much as Sarah herself, and her mother Camille. Thus combining my need to live vicariously through Teen TV and the growing realisation that entirely different things matter to you when you get older, all in one show.
A really important thing about Parenthood is how great, strong and vulnerable all the female characters are, and there are a lot of them. I change my favourite on a weekly basis and some characters that I initially took an intense dislike to have become the ones that I feel the most affinity toward. When Parenthood skips a week I find myself genuinely missing the Bravermans and wondering how they're getting along/what's going to happen. I watch way too much TV and I haven't felt this involved with a show and it's characters since Buffy.
Yes, Parenthood is definitely more appealing to women. What sets this aside from traditional "girl" shows is that the male characters aren't just there to provide reasons to move the narrative along/the female characters to have relationships with. They are fully functioning and rounded characters. They do stupid stuff but they're just as strong as the women. This show is full of feminism, from almost every angle.
Oh, and this show will take an emotional moment, and play just the right Death Cab for Cutie song to make you cry - in a good way.
I honestly can't recommend Parenthood enough. It's currently on in the UK on Channel 5 but take my advice and pick up the boxsets.