More than 20 years after it first proved a hit with cinema audiences, classic ’80s film Parenthood, starring Steve Martin, Joaquin Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, has spawned an offspring of its own. Following the same concept (and taking the same title) as the movie, it relays a portrait of an American family in a full-length series with a whole new cast.
This time, though, the plot features more members of the dysfunctional family – now named the Bravermans – and each generation, as you would expect, is riddled with problems. ‘There’s nothing funnier than watching someone go through the pain you are feeling,’ says director Ron Howard, who also oversaw the original movie.
The series follows four different siblings, their relationships with their own kids and how they approach dilemmas along the way: money worries, affairs, parent-and-child bickering, eccentric personalities and the teenage insanity stage (which seems to take precedent over most things). ‘Teenagers lapse into periods of insanity,’ explains Howard. ‘You have to declare them insane – it’s an absurd journey. [You just have to say] we’re in the white water now: we just got to keep paddling.’
The sharp dialogue is realistic, well observed and delivered by an impressive roster of names, including Erika Christensen (Six Degrees, Traffic), Dan Shepard (The Goode Family, Baby Mama) and Sam Jaeger (Drop Dead Diva, Eli Stone), not to mention highly strung Adam Braverman, played by Peter Krause from Six Feet Under. ‘I think it’s a multi-generational piece. It’s about everybody,’ says Krause. ‘The younger members of the cast are really terrific. It’s about all of the relationships between the siblings, between parents, grandparents and grandchildren.’
Krause’s character, Adam, is loosely based on Steve Martin’s character in the movie, but brings further dimensions to the role. Krause himself is used to tackling more sinister storylines (think Spin City and Dirty Sexy Money); how does he feel about the transition? ‘Getting to do a show like this at this point in my life makes great sense, and after having done so much darker material, I’m happy to be moving into a point where I’m doing more PG work,’ he explains. ‘It has also made me more sensitive to what Hollywood is doing, and I’m more aware now of how much violence there is portrayed. So I’m glad I get to be a part of sensitising people to their relationships.’
Family dramas have historically garnered high ratings; many believe this is because they are easy to relate to. ‘It’s an entire web of relationships,’ Krause points out. ‘I think that’s what makes family comedies and family dramas work, whether it’s going back to The Waltons or a cartoon such as The Simpsons. The things that happen between people or between characters are fascinating to an audience.’
Parenthood debuts on December 14 at 9pm on America Plus, with subsequent episodes aired from December 20 at 8pm.