WEB EXCLUSIVE: ‘Parenthood’ tackles syndromes and disobedient teenagers

Before NBC’s “Parenthood” had even aired, the usual teasers and promos gave viewers a good idea of what to expect.

In one of these teasers, daughter Amber, brilliantly played by Mae Whitman, says about her mother Sarah – right to her face, nonetheless – “Her bark is worse than her bite.” Next thing we know, Sarah is lunging at her teen-aged daughter, and then dragging her off to Berkeley.

Lauren Graham, well known from her previous turn as a single mother on “Gilmore Girls,” replaced Maura Tierney, who had to drop out due to health issues. Even though this involuntary casting change delayed the show’s airdate from fall 2009 to spring, it seems to have worked out to the show’s advantage. Having seen Tierney on “ER” as Nurse Abby and Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, Graham seems more suited for the likable role of mother of two who is forced to move back in with her parents.

At age 38, Sarah Braverman is divorced, unemployed and out of money, so she moves her family back home to Berkeley and, therefore, back into her family’s daily lives. Being the oldest sister certainly doesn’t help with her feelings of failure, but she does the best she can to provide a stable home for her two children, Amber and Drew.

Viewers can easily relate to Sarah and her struggles, having to take care of two typical teenagers without any support from her drug addict ex-husband. Living with her parents makes her life even harder, as she has little space and uncovers her parents’ problems without even trying to.

The most unique storyline features 8-year-old Max, son of oldest Braverman sibling Adam and wife Kristina. Adam was the perfect son, as he played sports and let his father turn him into “a tough guy.” Max is very different, a sweet, but quiet and withdrawn child. Not only does he refuse to go to his baseball game – until his father bribes him with ice cream – he also frequently has problems at school. Even his classmates notice how different he is, and tease him, as kids do. Regular trips to the principal’s office make his parents’ lives hard, but his certainly harder. His reclusive behavior leads his parents to the conclusion that Max might suffer from Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. Because this disorder is hard to diagnose and very rare, Adam tries to tell himself that his son is just different.

So far this storyline has been the most intriguing and has been handled surprisingly well thought-out by the creators of the show. Max Burkholder, who portrays his character with the same first name, does a fantastic job at playing this difficult part. At 12 years old, he doesn’t look any older than his role, but he brings the experience and certainly the talent to show Max as the three-dimensional fictional person he is.

“Parenthood” started off strong, with a very well-made pilot, which is rare in TV. The show revolves around the Braverman clan and their lives, specifically the trials and tribulations of parenthood, both for the grandparents – Zeek and Camille – as well as the parents – Adam, Sarah, Julia and Crosby. The characters are relatable three-dimensional people who make watchers care, almost as if it were their own family. The show trumps with great acting and has many household names attached to it, such as Peter Krause (“Six Feet Under” and “Dirty Sexy Money”), Monica Potter (“Boston Legal”), Dax Shepard (“Baby Mama” and “Old Dogs”) and Mae Whitman (“Hope Floats” and “Arrested Development”). Even though the show has its laugh-out-loud moments, it does offer a reflection of life in its seriousness. “Parenthood,” early into its run, has found the perfect mixture between drama and comedy.

“Parenthood” airs on NBC, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. If you missed the first episodes, you still have time to catch up. Watch “Parenthood” online at www.nbc.com or www.hulu.com and become part of the Braverman family.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: ‘Parenthood’ tackles syndromes and disobedient teenagers