NBC’s Parenthood is one of my favorite shows on TV right now. Beautiful, heartwarming, and funny, it often makes me wish I was one of the Bravermans — the series’ close-knit network of extended family members living in Berkeley, CA.
Last week’s episode, which featured one character’s surprise hospital visit, another’s drunk-driving Iraq vet boyfriend, and the emotional baggage resulting from a third’s broken-off engagement (all set ironically to Christmas pop songs and carols) made me glad that I am not actually part of this family. Some of the things that happen in Parenthood reach near-soap opera levels, but what makes it so heartbreaking is that these terrible things are happening to good, grounded people. This Christmas I’ll be going home to my own boring, grumpy family.
And though it’s tough to spend a whole month at home for Christmas (like Thanksgiving x 10), and your family maybe fights much more often when you don’t have several hundred miles separating you from every other member, television as usual can be your savior as it shows you all the damaged families that your family is not.
+100 points if you can watch these shows with your loved ones and squeeze each other close as you celebrate that you are not a TV family (and cuz it’s the holidays, geez!) Here are some families that’ll do the trick:
“The wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together,” Arrested Development promises at the start of every episode. Yet even Jason Bateman’s Michael, the most normal one of the bunch, can’t remember his son’s girlfriend’s name. Or most of his interests. At home, our parents love us. And there are no hop ons.
Breaking Bad‘s Walter White got into the meth business in order to support his family, but now he’s pretty busy starting a meth empire as his family falls apart. Walt’s wife Skyler is going insane, probably at least partially because her husband is starting a meth empire. Right now Skyler has the kids staying with their DEA agent uncle and their aunt who only wears purple, leaving her and Walt alone in the dark house. Can you imagine the holiday dinners? I would only want to be in their family if it meant I got to eat all that breakfast — wait, no, on second though, I might still pass.
If having a dad who cheats on your Mom and drinks at the office and does other Don Drapery things isn’t bad enough, try having Betty Draper/Francis for a mom. As Sally becomes more and more troubled — and Bobby keeps changing actors because all the little boys are scared of real-life January Jones — be glad that you do not have to live as part of Mad Men‘s central family, you can just watch them. Also we have better technology and human rights now.
Families where Edie Falco is your mom
The Sopranos were part of the mob which is kinda twisted. But Falco’s current role as the title character on Nurse Jackie – cheating on her husband, taking a lot of pills, and also trying to maintain custody of her children — is kinda twisted, too. Although we as an audience are cheering for Jackie, I am glad my mom is my mom and not her.
It’s Always Sunny kickstarted the genre of “comedy where you don’t want to be friends with any of the main characters,” which later became a staple through other non-bro bro shows like The League and Workaholics. And although I don’t want to be part of this friend group, I especially do not want to be part of their families. The only thing worse than finding out that Danny DeVito as the gross and exploitative Frank Reynolds is your dad is finding out he’s not actually your dad but he’s good enough to keep around. For that matter, I don’t think I want to be part of Mac’s family or Charlie’s, either. Will I watch the show though? Yeah, and my dad loves it, too.