parenthood

“May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.”

The lyrics to Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’, the theme song of the show, run dreamily in the background to what is considered of the best family dramas churned out by NBC. ‘Parenthood’ is a show about the Braverman clan and its many offshoots. Zeek and Camille, the old couple, their four children and their respective families are the primary characters. Created by Jason Katims, running from 2010 to 2015 and going six seasons strong, this show has garnered both critical acclaim and a cult following.

But what makes this show so very compelling, real and relevant? American television dishes out more than its fair share of shows related to family dynamics and adolescent issues. There is nothing unique about the premise of the show. It closely follow the lives of people ranging from the ages of six to sixty. And why should we care about that? Isn’t soapy and simpering content of this kind meant as some sort of escape for the distressed forty-something woman of today?

Well the answer to that is a resounding no. Yes there is nothing new about marital problems, mid-life crises, substance abuse,cancer and old age. But that’s not all there is to this show. It delves into darker dimensions such as the responsible rearing of a child with a mental disorder, the confusion about gender and sexuality and more moralistic matters such as challenging self imposed labels or searching for life’s meaning.

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Most ‘progressive’ shows nowadays seem to possess a checklist of topics that they must include in order to seem credible. LGBTQ? Check. Inter racial romance? Check. Disability? Check. Broken marriage? Check. Existential crisis? Check. And so on. Usually writers use such tropes to take full advantage of the audience’s easily manipulable emotions. ‘Parenthood’ definitely focuses on the aforementioned themes but is not afraid to show the non glamorous and grimy parts of the world in which we live.

This is not to say that the show is not well stylized or that the star cast is not proficient at acting. However the dialogues and incidents portrayed make it look like an extension of reality rather than a bubble which is safely protected from it. This show broaches the archaic subject of family, togetherness and tenderness to a generation for which these are foreign values. The writers of the show do not hesitate to go into the gory details of the chaotic and disturbed real world. There is no exaggeration. Only a reflection of the million different truths possessed by a million different people.

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This is the kind of show that you can watch while noisily binge eating at the end of a hard long week. It is an inexplicably hopeful and comforting show. Although bold and serious, it allows itself to deal with life’s absurdities in a slow and complex way. You can fall in love with this show simply for the fact that it strives for authenticity and originality and achieves them to a great degree. The ‘Forever Young’ spirit of the show just adds another layer to this beautifully crafted and firmly grounded program.