Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meet the Parents - Parenthood & Sons of Tucson - Pilot Reviews

Parenthood - Pilot, Man Vs. Possum - Eps. 101-102 (Tuesdays at 10pm on NBC)
Sons of Tucson - Pilot - Ep. 101 (Premieres Sunday Mar. 14th on FOX at 9:30pm)

Two new shows this spring take a very different approach to parenting.

NBC's Parenthood is basically a classier, more bland version of Brothers & Sisters. Even the family dinner table scenes look similar. But where Brothers & Sisters have a strong matriarch in Sally Field's Nora Walker, Parenthood's Bonnie Bedelia isn't given much to do yet, mainly because her husband Craig T. Nelson is so intense.

But what makes Brothers & Sisters so much fun is that it's a trashy soap acted by an A-list cast.

On Parenthood, it's a terrific cast doing mildly interesting stories in this intergenerational family drama that is light on the laughs and delves into potentially dramatic, but tedious storylines. I love Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) but do we really need to see him and Monica Potter (who already can be so easily aggravating) deal with their son's Asperger's syndrome? (Is Asperger's the new Autism for TV?) It's sets up some great dramatic and dark moments, but the reality is, it's going to be a tedious storyline in the long run and as truthful or realistic as that situation it might be, it's already becoming grating.

At this point, I'm willing to buy into Erika Christensen's overambitious Julia and her hot husband Sam Jaegar (Eli Stone). I'm a little fearful of Dax Shepard and his newfound discovery of an existing son, and Craig T. Nelson's intense patriarch comes off a bit strong.

However, while Lauren Graham wasn't originally part of the show, and I worried that her Lorelai Gilmore persona would seep through, Graham's Sarah and her disheveled family gives the heart and passion the show needs to uplift it from it's middlebrow middle class blandness. Graham's scenes with guest Mike O'Malley during a blind date sister Julia has set up is funny and heartbreaking. Graham's job interview that her father secretly sets up was heartbreaking and funny. Add in an amazing Mae Whitman (Arrested Development) as her troubled daughter Amber, and a wonderfully woeful Miles Heizer as son Drew, and this trio amongst the huge ensemble creates an intimate portrait of a struggling family transitioning into their grandparents household and is easily the most moving piece of the show.

The show could throw in a bit more fun, as it will never intensify the drama enough to reach the points of the better executed family drama Friday Night Lights (by the same production team).

Over on FOX, the half-hour sitcom Sons of Tucson debuts this weekend and it's a light and amusing show that seems unnecessary, but comforting.

When 3 brothers lose their father to prison, they scheme to hire a sad sap of a loser to act as their father. It's ripe for old traditional sitcom shenanigans, while filmed in a one-camera format. With Reaper's Tyler Labine (perfecting his schtick that hasn't changed since Breaker High) as lovable loser Ron, he makes a deal to become a pretend parent to the Gundersen kids, and the boys take Ron for quite the ride. To be honest, I was amused by the all the antics. Obvious? Yes, but still funny and likable. Labine is... well Labine and the three kids, Frank Dolce, Matthew Levy and Benjamin Stockman are kinda precious and precocious without being too irritating.

It's not a show I will need to watch all the time, but it makes for nice diversion entertainment and would have been a perfect summer show. My fear is that like it's predecessor Malcolm in the Middle (whose producing team is now working on this with Justin Berfield, one of the sons from Malcolm), the concept will tire easily and fast, and remain solely on the shoulders of its great cast.

At this point Parenthood gets *** (out of 5) from me and most of that goes to Lauren Graham and Peter Krause, while Sons of Tucson gets **1/2 (out of 5) for now. Both are generally entertaining but lack that extra punch for required viewing, although Parenthood has that built in potential with the cast and set up.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Megan said...

Haven't gotten around to watching Parenthood yet, but your review seems very insightful. Thanks!

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