Marc reviews: "Parenthood" 

Contrary to what you've heard, NBC doesn't destroy everything it touches. Prime time and late night, sure, but not everything. For example, despite ample opportunities, it didn't screw up Parenthood.

A little background: Last summer, after sending a nicely done series pilot to critics, the network temporarily shelved the show when Maura Tierney got sick. That left half a year or so for NBC to mess with the project - recast actors, change sets and settings, rewrite the pilot or scrap the show altogether.

Instead, all the suits did was recast Lauren Graham in Tierney's role, tighten a couple of scenes and add one to help viewers better understand the show's family dynamic. The result: What was a solid show in July is equally as likeable today. Not perfect, mind you, but certainly enjoyable.

Parenthood, based on the pleasant 1990 movie of the same name, tells the story of three generations of a family living in Berkeley, Calif. There's Grandma and Grandpa Braverman (Bonnie Bedelia and Craig T. Nelson), their four kids and their spouses/girlfriends/boyfriends/children.

It's a tightly knit family - in fact, they're so into each other that the entire troupe goes to the kids' pre-school plays and Little League games - dealing with an array of middle-class problems large and small. Adam (Peter Krause) and his wife, Kristina (Monica Potter), have a child who may have Asperger's syndrome. Julia (Erika Christensen) is a workaholic lawyer who doesn't spend enough time with her husband and daughter. Sarah (Graham) and her two rebellious kids have to move in with her parents because she's out of work and money. And Crosby (Dax Shepard) is a man-child whose girlfriend's biological clock is ticking.

That's a lot to work into an hour, and Tuesday's premiere does seem awfully cluttered. At the same time, before you know it, you're in the middle of their lives and interested in what happens next.

It helps that the Braverman family contains a number of familiar faces and exceptionally enjoyable actors. Krause, who seemed like the younger brother in Six Feet Under (but was, in fact, older), plays a somewhat controlling big bro in Parenthood and manages to pull it off through a combination of well-expressed exasperation and a disarming smile. Graham is no Gilmore Girl anymore; she's a bit of a mess, but one you root for. Nelson is a well-meaning if sometimes rough-around-the-edges patriarch.

Together, they and the rest of a cast make up one of those TV families we want to be part of - at least for an hour a week.

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Marc D. Allan

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