Warning: contains Parenthood spoilers.
For those of us whose real-life parents and siblings are too geographically distant, troublesome or simply few to play a big part in our day-to-day lives, for the last five years, NBC has offered a solution. Meet surrogate TV family, the Bravermans
Residents of Berkeley, CA, the Parenthood gang enjoy the kind of close-knit family life that TV often promises, but reality – with its inconvenient travel and time demands – rarely delivers. Few of us live in houses large enough to accommodate errant daughters and teenage grandchildren, and fewer of us are located so close to our grown-up siblings that we can bring coffee and problems to their workplaces on an almost daily basis.
Who has the time to gather the entire family for regular stand-up arguments, marshmallow-roasting, road trips, impromptu basketball games and crisis summits? I’ll tell you who: the Bravermans.
Comprising Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), Camille (Bonnie Bedelia), Sarah (Lauren Graham), Adam (Peter Krause), Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Julia (Erika Christensen) plus roughly a dozen partners and dependents, the Bravermans are better than your real family. They’re prettier, for a start, and their houses are almost certainly nicer (can you fit twenty guests around your beautifully set garden table strung with fairy lights for an evening meal in the warm Californian sun? Not me). They argue better than your real family, they make up better than your real family, and not a day goes by when one or other of them doesn’t tell another one or other of them that they’re amazing.
Inspired by the superb Ron Howard-directed 1989 film of the same name, and brought to life by Friday Night Lights’ Jason Katims, the Bravermans have been adoptive kin to Parenthood fans since 2010. So as the curtain closes on the show’s final season, we bid them a fond goodbye and look back over the many lessons they’ve taught us over the years…
There’s no problem in life that can’t be solved by a team sports montage
Basketball. Baseball. Table tennis. American football. More basketball. Whatever an episode of Parenthood has put the Bravermans through, it’s usually all forgotten by the time they get on the court and shoot a few hoops together. Often in a montage, often to an indie-rock soundtrack that fades into the end credits. We’ve seen these guys fight autism, heartbreak, unemployment, workplace rivalries, adultery, and even cancer using the medium of ball-based sports. Look and learn, people.
…or a family dance party
See above. Before Drew’s first high school dance, at Sarah’s fortieth birthday party, when baby boomer Zeek was feeling behind the times after The Luncheonette’s hip launch party, during Julia’s first post-separation weekend without her kids… there’s no pain that can’t be soothed by cranking up the Jefferson Airplane or watching Adam ‘The Fever’ Braverman break out the running man.
A glass of wine is the ultimate conversational accessory
Of all the health and addiction problems the Parenthood clan has faced over the years, nobody’s raised concerns about the number of bottles of wine casually sunk during an average evening of empathising and communicating feelings. Whenever the Braverman women gather for a confab, it’s over an oaky Chardonnay, and I’m not sure that Sarah has once sat on those guest house steps without a glass of red in hand. Empty calories be damned, say the Bravermans. When you live in wine country, make the most of it.
Whether you argue about big things like infidelity or little things like whose turn it is to feed lizard Guacamole, it’s important that you argue, and loudly. Angry arm gestures, raised voices and sarcastic under-your-breath insults to family members are the bread and butter of Parenthood.
And remember, it doesn’t count as an argument if everybody doesn’t all talk all at once like the cast of Made In Chelsea OD-ing on caffeine.
Then make up and tell everyone they’re amazing
All the arguments the Bravermans have are just another way of them all expressing their love for one another. After all, if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t expend all that energy shouting.
Another method the clan has of expressing their love for each other is by saying it. A lot. If you were given a penny for every time one of the Bravermans fondly touches another on the cheek and tells them how amazing they are for (delete as appropriate) selling a boat/losing their job/going trick or treating/not getting into college/writing a play/making a pie, you could afford to buy your choice of fairy lights with which decorate your back garden or even your very own piece of official Braverman uniform….
Plaid shirts are the only shirts
The volume of plaid shirts worn on Parenthood is so high you’d think it was set in the nineties grunge scene, not noughties San Francisco. At any one time, at least forty percent of the Braverman family is wearing a plaid shirt, and that includes the babies. Don’t agree to a round of the ‘drink any time someone’s wearing plaid’ Parenthood game unless you’ve got a hollow leg.
Financial troubles have a habit of just sorting themselves out
Towards the end of season one, patriarch Zeek had made some bad investments that led to an multi-episode about America’s financial crisis. Ever a proud man, he refused the help offered by financial whiz Timm and then… it all just seemed to work out on its own? A couple of seasons later he was buying an Airstream at least.
The same goes for Adam and Kristina, who somehow managed to pay for private school, pricy autism specialists, investing in a new business, Ivy League college tuition and childcare for wee Nora on fluctuating salaries. Who knows, perhaps the Bravermans have found a lucrative way to monetise talking over one another?
Cadge jobs off your family
The Bravermans aren’t shy about nepotism when it comes to dishing out jobs. Not only did Adam employ Sarah as a design intern and Kristina employ Amber as her campaign assistant, but Julia arranged work for both Haddie and Amber at her law firm (not to mention the sweet paralegal job she lined up for her baby mama in season three). Even Adam and Crosby are business partners now.
The lesson? When unemployment strikes, just hit up a sibling.
Have an affair with your boss
Unless they’re a relative (see above). This isn’t Game Of Thrones.
Sarah, Amber and Haddie have all got it on with their bosses within days of being employed and it’s mostly worked out fine. Lauren Graham’s character flirted her way to a hook-up with Billy Baldwin’s shoe company exec before he upped and left her. Haddie started dating Alex, the manager of the homeless shelter at which she was volunteering, more or less from the moment their eyes first met over a stack of dented canned goods. And Amber did her boss, politician Bob Little, on the day she was promoted to his assistant. Add Joel’s flirtations with architect boss Meredith and receptionist Rachel’s infatuation with Adam at The Luncheonette and it’s clear to see where Parenthood stands on workplace relations.
Beautiful artsy women grow on trees in the Bay Area
Ballerina Jasmine, cellist Lily, hippy mum Racquel, receptionist Rachel, behavioural therapist Gaby, coffee girl Zoe, politician Heather… Not to mention the Braverman gals themselves. According to Parenthood, stunningly beautiful women are almost in as rich supply as stoner baby millionaires in the San Francisco area.
Babies take precisely one summer to gestate
The gestational period of a Braverman baby is exactly one summer hiatus. Jasmine and Crosby’s Aida and Kristina and Adam’s Nora went from barely there to born in the space of a break between seasons, allowing the show to bypass all that tiresome pregnancy stuff.
(Only Amber’s season six pregnancy wasn’t done and dusted by the opening episodes of a new run, presumably because there was more drama to be had by showing that one on screen.)
Your family won’t hate you if you plunder their lives for the play you’re writing
When Sarah writes and stages a play about her life in season two, she doesn’t take too much trouble to disguise the autobiographical content, filling the stage with lookalike parodies of the Braverman family members. Oddly, none of them are offended and everyone joins in giving her a hardy round of applause. Zeek even plays himself.
A good serenade can mend a broken heart
Rick Moranis’ character channelled the power of The Carpenters to do it in the original film, but Zeek Braverman opted for Herman’s Hermits “I’m Into Something Good” when he needed to make a big gesture to win back wife Camille in Parenthood’s first season finale. Bonus marks for the ukulele accompaniment. NB: Does not work if you are a deadbeat alcoholic, drug addict in a tacky rock band.
Bravermans, we salute you.