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Archive for Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Impressive cast can’t save ‘Parenthood’

March 2, 2010

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Beware of a Hollywood producer trying to tell you about “real” life. Fifty years ago, Ron Howard played Opie on a famous sitcom filmed on a Hollywood set and set in a small town. He then played a famous teen from the 1950s and became a notable director and producer. Does that make him an expert on “real” life, or on the fakery of trying to turn life into melodrama?

Ron Howard and co-producer Brian Grazer return to television with “Parenthood” (9 p.m., NBC), adapted from their 1989 film. It’s not a terribly good show. Not that it doesn’t try. In fact, it tries too hard, all the time.

In the space of one hour, we not only meet every member of an extended if claustrophobically tightknit brood, but we discover that one grown-up sibling (Lauren Graham, “Gilmore Girls”) is broke and must move with her kids (Mae Whitman and Miles Heizer) back home with her older parents (Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia).

This awkward adjustment would be enough to fill a smart series with enough juice for a good pilot. Instead, we’re also subjected to (in no particular order): a painful diagnosis; a drug bust; a hint of adultery; a chilly relationship between a workaholic mom and her child; and a bad date between adults leading to sex and an embarrassing discovery. The pilot packs every plot twist short of amnesia. And yes, by the end of the hour, a slacker discovers that he’s the unlikely father of a young boy born to an old flame.

Look for Peter Krause as the eldest son and the Mr. Responsible of the family, a role not unlike his character on “Six Feet Under.” Not only does Graham play an immature 30-something mom; she spits out clever dialogue just like she did on “Gilmore Girls.”

And there’s the intrusive, heart-tugging soundtrack. You see, a Little League game isn’t just a chance to hit the ball, but an opportunity for dad and granddad to relive past glories. But in case you missed that, we hear “Forever Young” not once but several times.

As a rule, shows that don’t give their audiences much credit don’t stick around very long.

Tonight’s other highlights

• The top-10 female finalists perform on “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Nova” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) looks at the recent controversial decision to demote Pluto from the ranks of the planets.

• Sayid faces a major dilemma on “Lost” (8 p.m., ABC).

• “The Suicide Tourist” on “Frontline” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) examines the lengths people go to commit physician-assisted suicide.

• Peter’s return brings many changes on “The Good Wife” (9 p.m., CBS).

• “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC) looks at Oscar winners before they were famous.

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