Review - Parenthood, Episode 1.

Friday, 8 April 2011

About six months ago, I was doing a bit of online research for my dissertation and stumbled across a link to a new American TV drama (my favourite kind of tv of course) called 'Parenthood'. Based on the Steve Martin film from 1989, created by the wonderful Ron Howard, who was responsible for Arrested Development, one of my all time favourite comedy programmes, and starring Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls fame, it was something I was definitely interested in. But alas, the dvd box set was region 1 only, and it seemed unlikely that I'd be getting to see it any time soon.

Imagine my delight then, when flicking through the Radio Times last week, I noticed by sheer accident that the very first episode was going to be showing on Fiver tonight at 10! I set up my tv to record it, but since I was doing nothing else tonight, I decided to watch it while it was on, and I was sufficiently impressed :)

As I said, one of the reasons I was keen to tune in was my love for Lauren Graham. She's one of these actresses you're going to love or you're going to hate, the character of Lorelai Gilmore was definitely a bit like marmite. I, fortunately, love her, and love the show, so I wanted to see what she would be like playing a different character - albeit another single mum. She plays Sarah, the mother of two teenage kids, fathered by her ex-husband (an ageing rockstar with a drug addiction), and big financial worries. In this Pilot episode, we see her moving back in with her parents for financial support, going out on a date with her highschool boyfriend (who's receeding hair line and coffee barrista career come as a shock to the system) and desperately trying to deal with her difficult teenage daughter Amber. While the character is not entirely dissimilar to Lorelai, the pace and style of the show is so completely different to Gilmore Girls that it shows of a slightly softer, less self-assured side to her. Lorelai was completely confident in herself, even when she was going through difficult times in her life - Sarah is different. She's vulnerable, and seeking reassurance from her siblings, from Jim (her date) and from her parents. I'm already interested to see where her character's going to go.

The Braverman family consists of patriarch Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), an authoritative figure who wants his boys to boys and his daughters to be princesses, his wife Camille (Bonnie Bedelia), a more peaceful character, and their four adult children. Sarah, her sister Julia (Erika Christensen), who's career as a lawyer is coming between her and her preschool daughter Sydney, and her two brothers Adam (played by Peter Krause - the eldest Braverman child, who's young son Max is diagnosed with Asbergers Syndrome) and Crosby, who discovers after finally agreeing to have a baby in three years with his on/off girlfriend, that he already has a young son he knew nothing about. Played by Dax Shepard, another actor I'm already fond of, his character is another I'm interested to see develop over the series.

Mae Whitman (anyone remember Anne from Arrested Development?!) plays Sarah's 16 year old daughter Amber, and she's already being presented as rebellious (she manages to get herself and her cousin, Adam's daughter Haddie, arrested in this episode), and her younger brother Drew (played by Miles Heizer) is suffering as a result of his father's absence. What with my fascination with family relationships, this is another storyline I'm already being drawn in by. I also enjoyed watching Lauren Graham interact as a parental figure with a teenage boy - GGs is such a mother-daughter centric show, it's nice to see her parental position shift in terms of parenting a son. The relationship between Adam and his wife Kristina (Monica Potter) is going to be interesting - especially with the revelation that 8 year old Max has Asperger Syndrome. If it's done well, I think this could be a brilliant storyline... only time will tell! As a sidenote, I think the little boy who plays Max (his name is Max Burkholder in real life) is excellent! It's only been one episode, but I think he's a brilliant wee actor.

Anyway, there's a ramble and a half. I'll aim to do a wee quick review each week, just to see if I have the will power! All in all, a very promising start to the show :) x

Why, within two weeks, I've become obsessed with Misfits...

Thursday, 24 March 2011


As my last post might suggest, I am a self-confessed American television addict. Ask my friends, to get through a day without me referencing 24, Veronica Mars or Lost, at some point, is a triumph. From drama (Lost etc), to comedy (Arrested Development) and everything in between, despite being frustrated at the lack of high quality Scottish programming, my rapidly growing dvd box set collection has, for the past few years, consisted of far more US than UK tv. Particularly, I must say, when it comes to teen tv. I do love my Veronica Mars and Gossip Girl, and the number of times I go to pick out a dvd to watch and think 'I'll just stick on an episode of Gilmore Girls' is unbelievable.

Enter, Misfits, the E4, Bafta winning teen show which burst onto our screens in November 2009 and had critics and fans alike raving from the word go. Sadly, my aversion to Skins couldnt help but influence me and seeing the trailers, my initial thought was 'here we go again'. Another British teen drama promoting sex, drugs and drinking, and filling the heads of sixteen year olds with the idea that this sort of lifestyle is glamorous. Only this time they have supernatural powers. Go figure. So, stupidly, I didn't even bother to tune in and see what all the fuss was about - remember that thing they say about assuming?!

Anyway, eighteen months on with two series under its belt, Misfits is still going strong. And with both my brother and my best friend rushing out to buy the series 1+2 dvd set, I realised that at some point I was probably going to end up watching at least a couple of episodes. I now must thank my aforementioned best friend Emma, because about a month ago this came true, when she (who had already gotten completely addicted after buying the dvds) suggested watching the first episode one thursday night when nothing else was on. And from the first episode I was hooked.

Yes, Misfits has some of the Skins type elements that I suspected it would have - sex, drugs and some seriously crude language at times. But unlike Skins, there doesn't seem to be an element of glamour about Misfits. The focus and the intrigue lies with the characters themselves, and the changes they go through after the storm. The writing is smart, and unbelievably funny, with some of Nathan's one liners in particular leaving you laughing several scenes down later. But in addition to the comic moments, there are some really well written poignant storylines, and genuinely tear jerking moments - see 'future Simon's' death in season 2, or Nathan's brother Jamie's death in the episode before. The characters are not only well written, but portrayed brilliantly by the five young actors who take centre stage - they each bring something totally different to the table. The character progression and the build up of trust and friendship between them over the two series is remarkable. The revelation that Super-hoodie is in fact 'future Simon' is probably one of my favourite scenes in anything I've watched for a long time, and the way Alisha and present Simon's relationship begins to grow and develop once she falls in love with future Simon is amazing to watch - kudos to Iwan Rheon (Simon) and Antonia Thomas (Alisha), you could never have imagined those two as a couple in series one, but they pull it off beautifully.

I've successfully managed to get through both series two and the christmas special in the space of five days, and had I not had an essay to write, trust me, it would have been quicker. You can't help but think, while you're watching it, how amazing would it be to be the person who came up with the idea for this. The possibilities are endless - with so many people affected by the storm, anything could happen in series three, especially with the end of series two signalling a change in direction with our five heros each choosing a new power! Can you tell I'm excited already?

So, there we have it, several reasons why Misfits completely trashed any preconceptions I had of it, and proved to be one of my favourite things on tv this year. The writing, the chemistry between the characters, the darkly comic tone...

And yes. I'll admit it. The fact that I've developed a bit of a thing for Simon/Iwan Rheon (I think more the character than the actor) is another tiny reason why I've been enjoying it so much :P but hey, that's just an added bonus!

So congratualtions Misfits, you are completely addictive and like nothing else we've seen in terms of British 'teen' tv in a long time. Bring on series three :)

Lynsey x