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Family Redefines Fall TV

Shutterstock (4), FOX, ABC, NBC (2)

The show: “Parenthood” (NBC)

 “Parenthood” was developed from Ron Howard’s 1989 film by Jason Katims, who cut his teeth with another television show adapted from a movie, “Friday Night Lights.” The shows share the same idea: getting older can be brutal. It’s a much different execution in “Parenthood,” which enters its fourth season, with multiple generations of the Braverman family finding out how each stage of life brings its own set of unique challenges. It also features a story about raising a child with special needs, the type of story that hasn’t been a focal point of a television show since “Life Goes On” ended in 1993. In “Parenthood,” it’s Adam and Kristina (Peter Krause and Monica Potter) raising their autistic son Max (Max Burkholder.) In a well-observed scene last season, Max overhears that his parents are giving his older sister Haddie (Sarah Ramos) $1,000 for college fees, and asks if he can have $1,000 too, not understanding how much time, money and energy has been invested in his development at Haddie’s expense.

The takeaway: Growing up is hard to do. 

Parents can learn a lot from this crop of shows.

Raising Hope (Fox)Jimmy Chance, the clueless dad to baby Hope; Jimmy's loving but lowbrow parents, Virginia and Burt; Virginia's kooky grandmother, Barbara June “Maw Maw” Thompson.A 23-year-old gets custody of a baby he fathered out of wedlock and raises her with his not-slightly-crazy family. (Hope's mom was a serial killer—lovely premise.)Even when money is tight and circumstances are gruesome (serial-killer mom, anyone?), a family can thrive on lots of laughter, love, and good intentions.
Modern Family (ABC)Patriarch Jay Pritchett and his extended family, including his wife, young stepson, and his adult son and daughter, their spouses and children.A mockumentary-style sitcom that blends hilarity and heart; we dare you not to relate.Families come in all shapes and sizes, dysfunction is normal and funny, and enjoy those baby years while they last because tweens and teens are drama central.
Up All Night (NBC)Reagan Brinkley is a producer for her best friend Ava's TV talk show; hubby Chris is an ex-lawyer turned stay-at-home dad to baby Amy. Their neighbors? Super annoying.When traditional mom-and-pop roles are reversed, hilarity ensues. (Watching Chris commandeer Amy's playgroup is priceless.)Working moms can have it all (thriving career, happy baby, active social life, sexy marriage)—but maybe not all at the same time.
Parenthood (NBC)Zeek, wife Camille, and their adult kids Adam (the solid oldest child), Sarah (the lost soul), Crosby (the screw-up trying to get it right), and Julia (ambitious attorney). Plus: grands of all ages.Thirty- and 40-somethings cope with undeniably modern issues (open adoption, interracial marriage, mainstreaming an autistic child) while their loving parents try to make sense of it all.The generation gap is bigger than ever. (Your parents didn't have to worry about cyber bullying.) The divide may be frustrating, but you can learn from each other.