Saturday, April 19, 2014

Parenthood - My Thoughts on the Bravermans, Part 1

I love this show. Mark and I marathon watched it on Netflix and got caught up and just finished the most recent season with the rest of America. I have so many thoughts and often want to write reviews of the episodes like I used to with American Idol. I would love to have a pop culture/opinion column as a job - can you imagine getting paid to write this? I know. I'm a nerd. Also, I have a ton to do. Hence, this distraction post.

Photo Image from Huffington Post
It should come as no surprise that this show ranks so highly for me. I love ensemble casts. I'm a big Lauren Graham fan. I am fascinated by family dynamics. I really enjoy good character development. I appreciate a show that can make me laugh, cry, feel happy, get angry, and (almost) always make me care and hold my interest. This show delivers on all fronts.

I have so many opinions on the characters in this show that I decided to write this post. If you haven't watched the show, this probably isn't spoiler free. Also, it is a show that must be watched in order. Watch it from the beginning. Don't ruin it.

Let's start with the patriarch and matriarch of the clan - Zeek and Camille Braverman.

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I had a hard time finding a decent picture of them together. Often, one of them looked angry. Though I suppose that's appropriate. I have a love-hate thing with these two. I often find them annoying, enmeshed, and controlling (especially Zeek), but when all is said and done, they are amazingly loving and supportive of their kids and grandkids.

I love how Zeek calls everyone "grandson" and "granddaughter." I like how riled up he gets in defense of his family. You just know he's got his family's back. He can be a bit much at times and he is annoyingly stubborn and proud, but he comes through time and time again. The writing on this show, I'm telling you, is brilliant. They do an excellent job of writing flawed characters.

Camille kind of gets on my nerves sometimes, because I find her too mousy and I wish she'd speak up more. I get why she doesn't - she's been dismissed for years, but even when she stands up for herself, it doesn't come across well. I think she could be a stronger character. I know, I know - she went off and studied art and took charge of her life, but overall, meh. She's a little dull as a parent. That being said, I think she's beautiful.

One of my favorite, hilarious exchanges with Zeek is the one with Crosby at the diner:

Zeek: "What kind of name is Jabbar?"
Crosby: "What the hell kind of name is Zeek?"

On a more critical note, I think they sort of left some story lines blowing in the wind - what happened to his health worries? What about all the cheating and marital issues? What happened when he got himself underwater with that investment property gone bad? I think they sometimes distract us with other story lines (and they do a good job at that), but it bugs me a bit to have those loose ends just . . . there.

I also love the (also left-hanging - no pun intended) story line about his stint doing an erectile dysfunction commercial. Hysterical!  

And I'm often surprised how few issues they have with their in-laws. They're so good at treating the in-laws as their own, but surely there would be more blow-ups with how enmeshed they are. Where are the other families and the tensions that often result from both families wanting time with their kids/grandkids? You see it every so slightly with Jasmine's family, but conveniently we know very little about Kristina's side of the family (other than a self-involved, distant mother) or Joel's (his mother died). Where are their fathers? Their siblings? Their cousins? How is it that the Bravermans control all?

Another thing I like about this show (though at times it annoys me to no end) is all the talking they all do at once. That's a new technique we're seeing more and more in modern television. Shows like New Girl and Modern Family also employ this method. In general, it's realistic and often funny. But with some (ahem, Adam and Kristina), it's irritating.

Also, I love, love, love their backyard and I totally want it. Their big family dinners outside; the overhead, outdoor lighting; the fire pit . . . gorgeous, warm, and inviting. Almost makes me want to move to Berkeley. Almost.

From someone on Pinterest
I'm obviously not alone in coveting their backyard - I found this picture through Google Images. Someone pinned it on one of their boards, because they love it, too.

The Bravermans

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So, Zeek and Camille have 4 kids - Adam, Sarah, Julia, and Crosby. Let's discuss.

Adam Braverman

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I hate this guy. I just do not like him. I don't know why everyone is enamored of him. He is uptight, high strung, angry, controlling, negative, initially unsupportive, annoying, and he has a temper, as well as a stick up his butt. 

But he has his redeeming qualities, too. Like here:

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  And here:

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And when he goes to bat for Haddie's first boyfriend when he is in trouble (you know, after initially being against it and generally being a jerk). 

It is wild to think that the guy who plays Adam is dating Lauren Graham (who plays one of his sisters on the show), because I often look for real life, on-screen chemistry (there shouldn't be any as they're siblings on the show) and I must say they hide it well. I believe them as siblings. But man, I hope he's different in real life, because on the show? What a tool.

Every time his wife has an idea or thought or frustration, his initial reaction is negative and contrary and angry. He almost always eventually comes around, but he doesn't ever start out supportive (and he should, because she's a determined lady who goes after what she wants and is happy doing it). I don't know how she stands him.

He has also left her high and dry countless times while he runs off to solve some problem for one of his siblings (they always run to him as he is the "responsible," eldest one). It drove me crazy in the early seasons how often his siblings would interrupt him at work to whine about something. Users. But seriously, Adam, set some boundaries!

Their communication skills are absolutely abysmal. They don't listen to each other. They all talk at once, constantly interrupt each other, and go on and on at the same time. No wonder they have issues!

As a father, he has great difficulty relating to any of his children (admittedly, that has to be extra challenging with their son Max, who has Asperger's Syndrome) and comes across as militant and controlling instead of loving and nurturing. Yelling at your kids all the time and then giving them an occasional, slightly relenting hug does not a good father make. Blech.

I think over time, the writers are helping him unclench (oh, how often I want to yell at the TV, "UNCLENCH!"), and that's been nice to see. But yeah, overall, he really bugs me. He's an annoying goody-two-shoes and know it all who goes around preaching to everyone, whether or not they are related to him. Not a fan. He's a character I love to hate.

Sarah Braverman

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Ah, Sarah. The character drives me crazy, but it's hard to get past how much I love the actress playing her. Sarah is a mess and goes through guys like I go through germ killer. She is the second oldest and one of the two "rebel" children. She is a single mom, in part due to her horrible choices in her roller coaster (more like spinning tea cups really) of a love life, who has returned along with her two teenage children, to live with her parents and get her life and her kids' lives back on track.  

She is aimless, though I don't criticize her for that. To be quite honest, it is a mystery to me how anyone chooses one job for life and doesn't go crazy. I have varied interests, so I get bored after a while. I think it would be fun to do about 10 different careers over time, though I know that's not necessarily practical or terribly realistic. But it is more interesting.

That being said, she has been a bartender, an intern, a playwright, a photographer, and . . . a super? Weird. I read an interview with her and even she thought it was odd. You see, Parenthood does this bizarre (but unique) thing where each season starts out months after the previous one left off and you're supposed to divine what happened in the interim. Drives Mark nuts.

I have much to say about her love life, but that will have to wait for another installment of my thoughts on the Bravermans. Bravermen? Anyway, her story lines are rather driven by the men in her life, so they need their own segment. Though I will say this, if you're going to have sex, for heaven's sake, lock your door. Unless you're okay with people walking in on you. And that is a message for ALL the Bravermans.

Julia Braverman

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So Julia is the female equivalent of Adam, but less annoying (though only slightly at first). It was horribly uncomfortable to watch any scene with her in the first season, as she was sooooo competitive and insecure. The writers did a terrific job showing the guilt and insecurities that some working moms deal with. 

I think Julia is beautiful. Apparently, she is known as an embrace-your-curves model and actress. She has a gorgeous body. I wish that were put forth as the norm instead of twiggy Rachels and Monicas. She has an annoying deadpan delivery, whether she is ecstatic or upset, that makes her sound monotone and whiny. 

The writers do a good job manipulating our feelings about these characters. I've gone from totally cringing in the early seasons when she seemed so awkward with her own family-work balance and being out of touch in her kids' lives (one particular cringe-worthy moment was when she showed up at her kids' swim practice in her swimsuit to show up the other moms and their teaching methods, employing a more "Braverman" approach of pushing rather than nurturing) to feeling annoyed with her (man, those Bravermans are persistent - her interactions with pregnant Zoe were so often uncomfortable) to feeling more at ease with her as her character has developed to feeling sorry for her in this most recent season. I love how her siblings support her - when they all showed up for her is one of my very favorite scenes. Plus, they got "the fever" and I love that. It was such a sweet episode ending.

I have always loved her marriage to Joel - I like how they play to their strengths with him as the at-home dad and her as the working mom (they are both so much happier and fulfilled that way) and I like how they tackled how it affected their relationship to try on new dynamics (with disastrous consequences). I do feel like the writing was pretty weak with regard to Joel this past season. I've seen so many people online lamenting that they don't ever give Joel a story line, relegating him to a constant, steady, likeable supporting side character. Well, the writers sort of listened but I think it was choppy and abrupt - where was the lead up to all the marital strife?!? It seemed very out of left field.

That said, this show tackles some big stuff - infertility, adoption, work-life balance, marital dissatisfaction, personal satisfaction, parenting, guilt, work screw-ups, being torn, bratty kids, spoiled kids, etc. And that's just Julia and Joel. The other three kids all handle other tough stuff (affairs, illness, spectrum disorders, alcoholism, codependency, single parenting, financial struggles, etc.). Impressive to see what they tackle, in my opinion. I think that in some cases they are pretty cutting edge - I don't know of many other shows that address (or so well) the kinds of issues Parenthood does (particularly with regard to Max's Asperger's).

Crosby Braverman

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He is my FAVORITE Braverman, hands down. I love this guy! He is another deliciously-flawed character, but he is, in my opinion, the easiest to love. Zeek and Camille really saved the best for last. (I've seen conflicting things online as to whether he or Julia is the youngest - I thought it was Julia, but I may be wrong).

When the show starts, he is a rogue - unreliable, lives on a houseboat, doesn't want to be tied down. But all that changes when a very unexpected person shows up in his life. He and Sarah comprise the two more rebellious and seemingly-aimless Braverman children (whereas Adam and Julia are more boring responsible).

Crosby likes his life. He enjoys himself. He is easy going and affable. I would totally want to hang out with him more than any of his siblings. When the show first starts, they really want to portray Adam as the "good guy" and Crosby as the charming rascal, but from the get go, I've liked Crosby more than Adam by a mile.

He rides a motorcycle, lives on a houseboat, enjoys a good beer, laughs, jokes, and is great with everybody. He is kind of a bad boy. So not my type of guy. Except that he is a GOOD guy. He is not perfect and he makes a lot of really dumb and hurtful choices, but at his core and through and through, he is the one who is consistently himself and, though flawed, cares and loves more naturally and easily than any other Braverman. He is the most consoling, comforting, supportive, willing, kind sibling of them all. Naturally.

He interacts with his siblings' spouses and significant others with more ease than anyone in his family. He always knows what to say. He is genuine. He is THE best at diffusing tense situations with humor, all while stating his case and maintaining his boundaries. He has an incredible knack for being able to argue with someone without it escalating out of control. How does he do that?!? He jokes whilst debating with others in a way that's so easy and comfortable that it makes arguing practically look fun and not horribly uncomfortable, as it is for most people. I'd go the rounds with him and end up laughing on the floor. He diffuses tension like no other and I love that about him.

He thinks outside the box more than any of them - allowing himself to dream and pursue ideas that the others wouldn't dare consider, ultimately making him the most successful of them all. I'm sure there's a lesson in that.

When the show started, I have to admit that I did not find him attractive at all. I knew he was married in real life to the lovely Kristen Bell and I had a hard time seeing the two of them together, wondering what attracted her to him. Well, the more you see him, the more obvious the answer. You can't help but love him. He has a wonderful personality and sense of humor and manner that makes him easily the best-looking guy on the show (though Joel is no slouch - hubba hubba). I love, love, love Crosby and any scene with him is a joy, even if he has to learn things the hard way sometimes. I think the world could use more Crosbys.


I have to stop there. I have soooooo much more to say. All of the above characters have significant others (several, for some). There are kids, friends, neighbors, coworkers, bosses, lovers . . . so many more characters about whom to have opinions! Stay tuned. I'd love to write more about them . . . :)

Do you watch Parenthood? Who are your favorite Bravermans of those I've discussed so far? What are your thoughts on the overall family dynamics? Are there characters that drive you nuts? Are you an Adam fan (like most, endlessly surprisingly to me, seem to be)? I want to hear your thoughts!


Dr. Mark said...

Great post! When does Part 2 come out? I've gotta read it! I need your thoughts on Haddie and her delivery and Amber's affect and your feelings about Drew and his love life. We all need more!

First of all, we could move to Berkeley, but we would probably not be able to afford that backyard. We'd be living in Amber's loft.

I think you have the same thoughts as I do about every character on the show.

Zeek and Camille. More than any character he's the one that makes me really think about the merits of enmeshed versus detached families. Watching him and his interactions with his family, I think I end up feeling like an enmeshed family, even with all the problems, is best in the end. But I could totally change my mind during the next episode. And Camille is a very uneven character in my mind. When she finally stands up for herself she ends up coming off as cold and kind of whiny, and I don't think that really fits with how she really is. But maybe after playing second fiddle for that many years the resentment is just too much. I don't know. She is also "meh" for me.

Adam. Can't stand the guy, even if he does have admirable qualities. If he'd just stop and listen and, like you said, unclench he'd be so great.

Sarah. She's great, but a total mess. She drives me crazy more often than not, and it's no mystery why her kids have so many issues. She seems to have the craziest times between seasons by far.

Julia. I'm not sure what else I can add to what you've said. Deadpan? Yep.

Crosby. He's my favorite, too. He is not perfect at all, but he is one of those guys you really want to have as a buddy. He's great in so many situations and is someone that will be there in the end.

So, even though we have so much to do, please write part 2. I can't stand the wait.

Lindsay said...

That is so funny that you guys don't like Adam cause Scott and I really like him! Parenthood is by far our most favorite show. We actually missed the first two seasons, so we need to start over on Netflix. I don't have a huge amount to add, just wanted to jump in and say that we watch it too. Ha

Emily Foley said...

I love Adam! Well, take that with a grain of salt. I love and hate everybody on this show in their turn, and he's definitely had his moments. But he is responsible and kind and I really like that.

My biggest issue with Parenthood: THE HAIR. WHY IS IT SOOO AWFUL? Particularly Sarah's son right now, I cant' remember his name but it's just embarrassingly disgustingly gross. I can't even look at him. Seriously.

This show makes me mad a lot of the time but that's one thing I like about it--it makes me and
Dave talk about what we would do differently. The talking over each other kills me and is so disrespectful. Sometimes it's funny, mostly it makes me mad.

I don't love Julia and have always loved Joel but this season just blasted me. I needed therapy after every episode. I can't figure out how all of a sudden he's moving out! Obviously Julia made a mistake but it was not in Joel's character to not even be willing to talk to her about it.

Max. I have serious issues with Max and his parents on the issue of Asperger's. I have an autistic niece and nephew with Asperger's and I know life with these kids can be extremely difficult. I feel like they do lots of things right--but occasionally something happens that just makes me MAD. Take for instance a few episodes ago when Max storms into the studio wanting to use the printer. Sarah was rightly upset--work trumps a teenager's whims no matter the disability--and when she tried to talk to him about it he freaked out. Then Christina and Adam were made at HER...for driving him home during her busy work day. I'm sorry, what? Max was absolutely in the wrong and I was beyond frustrated that she apologized to them when they (and Max) should have apologized to her.

I love love love Ray Romano's character. I just love him. He is such a breath of fresh air in the Braverman craziness, and I love how sweet he is about Max.

Boquinha said...

Mark, LOL @ living in Amber's gross loft.

I found this article a while back ( because I was desperate to find out if anyone out there feels completely shocked that people love Adam - it's hilarious. Here is one line from it:

"As icing on the irritation cake that is this festering boil of a character, Adam treats the women in his family in a way that makes me seethe with rage: equal parts petty and condescending all covered in a veneer of saccharine kindness."

I can't remember if I found it by Googling "I hate Adam Braverman" or the same search phrase that the woman in the comments used, but yeah, I agree with the person who wrote about Adam!!

He reminds me of all the holier-than-thou, kiss-butt APs in the mission field. Most zone leaders were cool and laid back and acted as equals. But the APs so often acted like they were above everyone else. Just like Adam Braverman does. YUCK.

On paper, Adam seems great. But he is just such a jerk in his interactions with everyone. What a contrarian!

Lindsay! I keep think you've left the blogging world! You HAVE to go back and watch the early seasons - there's so much build up there!

Emily, YES! What the heck?!? Joel is NOT behaving like himself - there's no good lead up or back story or writing to explain ANY of it. And one of my BIGGEST pet peeves in their situation (oh, I'm on a tear now!) is one that no one seems to be bringing up anywhere on the show - Um, HELLO? Remember season 1 when he kissed a mom from the school AND, in a move far worse than Julia's admitting her mess up, didn't tell her?!? How can he be so terminally dismissive of her. That is SO hypocritical and not the Joel we've all grown to love these past many seasons. I can't believe he's not trying harder AT LEAST for the kids, if not the marriage. OUT OF LEFT FIELD.

And the hair! You're not kidding! Especially Amber's! YUCK! I actually like Haddie as a blond (if you saw the season finale), but Drew and Amber - ????????????

I *totally* agree with you about that scene with Sarah - TOTALLY not her fault! And Adam and Kristina, in their typical self-righteousness, had a lot of gall to be mad at her instead of having Max apologize to her!

Also agree about Hank. LOVE that guy. And I love how he is with Max. I especially love his "emergency" calls to Dr. Pelican (does ANYONE know ANYONE with that last name?!?).

Did you like Jason Ritter's character? Mr. Cyr? I like him, too. Very sweet guy. It's hard to feel torn between two GREAT guys like that. Great writing there.

Dr. Mark said...

I won't pile on (again), but that quote about Adam says it all for me. He basically wanders around feeling superior in every way and he is so condescending. I have a hard time seeing past this to the good he does. But maybe that's also because the good he ends up doing often comes at the expense of people in his immediate family who need help. /rant

Emily, I love Hank, too. Stacy was telling me that a lot of people online are bored by him, but I've always really liked what they've done with his character, especially how he interacts with Max.

That scene with the printer in the photography shop bugged me, too. Max should have apologized. I'll leave it at that.

So, seriously. When is Part 2 coming out? ;)

Emily Foley said...

I don't even remember Joel kissing a mom. Seriously. I'll have to rewatch.

LMW said...

I am a season behind on this show, so everything I say is not taking the current season into account.

This really is a great show. It has all of the elements that I need in a show. it's not a show that my husband has gotten into though, but he respects that it's quality. He couldn't stand Julia's character and would agree with you regarding Adam and Kristina as parents. I definitely see what you're saying about Adam, but I don't hate him. I feel like he's certainly flawed and, yes, condescending, but also somebody who tries.

Having worked with children with Asperger Syndrome in my career, Max's character is played quite brilliantly!

Jabbar is probably one of my very favorite TV kids. I want him to be my kid!

As far as Sarah goes, she's quite frustrating. Like you, I love Lauren Graham, but it can be stressful to watch her character in action sometimes.

I agree with you about Crosby. I feel like he's the most approachable character in the show. I'm not always a fan of his wife though.

Julia can also make me cringe and I feel like Joel has to be a very patient man to put up with her.

Again, all of this is based on not being caught up on the current season and certainly forgetting elements of previous seasons, which is my explanation for my comment lacking specific details.

Boquinha said...

Emily, it was that hippie Racquel who was always hanging around with Joel during his stay-at-home dad days. She kissed Joel and he "shut it down," (we don't see it; he talks about it), but the thing is, he didn't tell Julia about it until much later when Julia ASKED if anything has ever happened between them. I think that's WAY worse than what Julia did. At least she told him!

LMW! Yay! I was so hoping you'd chime in. I'll give you that - Adam does try.

Yes! I can't wait to write about Max - he's SO SO SO good! And I love Jabbar.

Agree about Julia.

I'm so excited for you to watch this season!! When will you watch it?

LMW said...

I likely won't get to it until the summer, after school is out, but I will definitely do it. I think I need to watch the previous season as well, since it's been so long and I seem to have forgotten a lot from it. I remember that I enjoyed the show a lot when I was watching it, but being away from it for so long has honestly made me lose the momentum of being all into it like I used to be.:)

Boquinha said...

When does school get out? I'm almost sort of jealous that you have a whole season to watch at once! Now that we're caught up, I don't think I could wait (even though marathon watching is really fun)!

LMW said...

My last day is June 17, I believe. I love binge watching, so I'm looking forward to this.:)

The Magic Violinist said...

All right, I'm going to post my comments in installments as I read each post.

I hadn't even noticed the loose storylines until you said something! They must be really good at distracting us. I completely forgot about Zeek's health issues.

Camille and Drew both bore me. There's nothing bad about either of them, I just don't find that they have much to offer.

"Sarah goes through guys like I go through germ killer." Ba ha ha!

I agree. Sarah being a super is bizarre. And Carl? The little fling she had with him seemed a little random to me. It was almost like the writers added it for the sole purpose of making Hank jealous.

I'm still confused on why Joel was upset with Julia pre-Ed. And moving out just because he kissed her? Super abrupt and not at all in his character. Julia didn't move out when Raquel kissed him. Heck, even Kristina didn't move out when Rachel kissed Adam.

I didn't think Adam was that bad in the later seasons. 1 and 2, yes. He was way more uptight then. Honestly, I think working at the Luncheonette with Crosby and learning to think outside the box a little is what did it for him. Thank God for Oliver Rome (who, by the way, I find totally hilarious).

I'm not sure who to root for in the Mr. Cyr/Hank/Sarah love triangle! At first, I was Mr. Cyr all the way. Sarah should not have blown Mark off like that when they were engaged and she hopped on a plane to Minnesota. She'd made a committment to go to that wedding with him, and then she just changes the plan on him AND lies about it? Not cool.

But now I'm not sure who I like better. I think Hank is hilarious and really great with Max, and it's sweet how hard he's working at his aspbergers for Sarah.

(By the way, my favorite main characters are Crobsy, Max, Joel, Hank, Mr. Cyr, and Jabbar.)