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October 7, 2015

NBC's Relentless 'Parenthood' Promos: So Many, So Not Good

by Gary Susman, posted Feb 23rd 2010 3:00PM
I really want to like 'Parenthood.' Especially since it seems I can't avoid it. NBC is promoting the new series, which premieres March 2, constantly during the Olympics. And unfortunately, those oft-repeated promos make the show look like grim death.

Watching these clips, you wouldn't even necessarily be able to tell what 'Parenthood's' premise is, unless you already knew that the show is an update of the 1989 Ron Howard movie. As it is, the promos just make the show look like it's about a parent who has trouble communicating with her kids, which makes it like, oh, every other family show in the history of television.

'Parenthood' Promo: Say Goodbye to Booty Calls

It seems like this show is supposed to be funny -- in a laughter-through-sniffles kind of way, like the movie was -- but there's precious little laughter to be found in these clips, which are dominated by dark lighting and tinkly piano arpeggios (the musical way of saying, "This show is light and peppy, yet classy, wistful and serious"). The jokey catchphrases emblazoned on each clip ("Say goodbye to booty calls," "Parenthood is why some animals eat their young") just make us cringe.

'Parenthood' Promo: Why Some Animals Eat Their Young

What's especially disappointing is that the show threatens to waste Lauren Graham's return to series television, three years after 'Gilmore Girls' went off the air. Initially, the lead role belonged to Maura Tierney, who can be darkly funny (remember her on 'NewsRadio'?) but is better remembered for the somber intensity she brought to 'ER.' Tierney had to drop out for health reasons, and the pilot was reshot with Graham, but it doesn't seem like the scripts have been lightened at all to accommodate Graham's own cheerier persona.

Graham seemed to acknowledge this in a New York Times article about the show last week, describing her character as "kind of a mess" and saying, "I was interested in having the possibility of going to a darker place." Who really wants to see Lorelai Gilmore go to a darker place?

'Parenthood' Promo: 'Too Short'

NBC has tried to make a series out of Howard's movie before; there was the short-lived 1990 sitcom version. Apparently, half an hour is too short to tell the broad story 'Parenthood' wants to tell. Like the movie, the new show is about four adult siblings, each dealing with his or her own particular joys and heartbreaks of parenthood.

Angela Bromstad, NBC's president of primetime entertainment, told the Times she had reservations about resurrecting a title that had failed before, but that the fourth-place network needed to broaden its appeal with "a big, messy family show." Series creator Jason Katims told the Times the show "comes at family from all different directions," describing 'Parenthood' as "relatable and grounded with a lot of different entry points." Ooh, relatable and lots of entry points! Are you sold yet?

'Parenthood' Promo: The Greatest Show Ever

Actually, there already is a series on TV that's a big, messy family show, relatable and grounded, with adult siblings coping with the pleasures and challenges of parenthood. It's called 'Modern Family,' it's on ABC, it's just half an hour, and it's hilarious and touching (without hitting you over the head about how poignant it is). Who knows, 'Parenthood' may turn out to be as good as 'Modern Family,' but these incessant, bleak promos make it look like 'Modern Family' as remade by J.K. Rowling's Dementors -- with all the joy and laughter and affirmation of the will to live sucked out of them.

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