Parenthood -- TV Review

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Rife with cast and schedule shifts, the road to NBC's "Parenthood" (originally set to debut in September) has not been easy. But much like TV's propensity for telling family stories, "Parenthood" never was going quietly into that good night, and NBC's sweet, extraordinarily well-cast dramedy is worth the wait.

Here's the story of a lovely family, the Bravermans, a clan carved from the Nancy Meyers book of design of pretty homogeneity: lots of lights, lots of whites. They undergo the trials and tribulations expected thanks to such fellow extended-family romps as "Brothers and Sisters" and "Modern Family": surly smoking teens, disastrous dates with former high school crushes, helicopter parenting, working-mom's guilt. The show revolves around the three grown Braverman children and their offspring; the grandparents are so lively and virile that Grandpa keeps a box of condoms in his desk drawer. This is a family so intertwined that they can -- and do -- drop everything at a moment's notice to race off to a little league ballgame.

Yes, there are the eye-rolling bits.

But "Parenthood's" secret weapon is its vibrant cast members, many of whom have at least one long-running TV series on their resumes. There's Craig T. Nelson as the overbearing paterfamilias, Peter Krause as the family lightning rod and black sheep Lauren Graham, who has moved into her parents' home with her kids. This trio alone is worth the price of admission, being among the most expressive, charming, wide-ranging TV stalwarts working today. Setting them up as show gatekeepers makes "Parenthood" instantly likable.

Nonetheless, the pilot is a jumble of interrelated half plots, with a tone that veers wildly from only-in-a-sitcom situation (one son reluctantly agrees to father a child with his girlfriend, then a moment later learns he's already got one with an ex -- d'oh!) to facile dramatic pauses (Krause's son's evident learning disability earns virtual instant acceptance by all generations). Clearly, "Parenthood" needs room to grow.

But there are genuinely funny and touching moments -- Graham tells her mother, "I've just got some financial trouble and two degenerate kids." Sounds about right. Even if much of the show is pretty fantasy -- like those lights strung up over the picnic table that perfectly fits the entire extended family -- the Bravermans' story is one everyone can get into. "Parenthood," like the experience itself, is an evolving tale, and one worth watching.

Airdate: 10-11 p.m. Tuesday, March 2 (NBC)
Production: Imagine Television and Universal Media Studios
Cast: Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Joy Bryant, Max Burkholder, Erika Christensen, Miles Heizer, Sam Jaeger, Monica Potter, Savannah Paige Rae, Sarah Ramos, Mae Whitman, Bonnie Bedelia, Craig T. Nelson
Executive producers: Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Jason Katims, David Nevins, Thomas Schlamme (pilot)
Developed by: Jason Katims for television; based on characters created by Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Ron Howard
Co-executive producers: Lawrence Trilling, Tyler Bensinger, Becky Hartman Edwards, Jeff Greenstein
Consulting producer: Jan Oxenberg
Supervising producer: Lauren Schmidt
Produced by: Nan Bernstein Freed (pilot), Dylan Massin (series)
Producer: Sarah Watson
Director: Thomas Schlamme (pilot)
Director of photography: David J. Miller (pilot), Mike Weaver (series)
Production designers: Tim Galvin (pilot), Steven Jordan (pilot/series)
Costume designers: Kathy Kiatta (pilot), Laura Goldsmith (pilot/series)
Casting: Laura Schiff, Carrie Audino (pilot); Cami Patton, Jennifer Lare (series)