The Obligatory Post on the Asperger's Storyline in "Parenthood"
I've never met a family drama I didn't like.
It started with the Bradys, followed by the family on Family (I had to Google their name - the Lawrences!) and then the Eight is Enough Bradford clan (I swear, every Christmas I still think of that episode where the Bradfords' Christmas presents are stolen).
And then came the Reeds on Sisters, the Fishers of Six Feet Under, the Walkers on Brothers and Sisters ... and probably a half a dozen others that I am forgetting.
They're all similarly formulaic. A white, upper-middle class family where everyone is more good-looking and put together than the next person. A matriarch and old-fashioned patriarch intact (even from the other side, in the case of Six Feet). A long-brewing kettle of DNA dysfunction. A family where you need a family tree cheat sheet to figure who is married or divorced to who and who has slept with who and who wants to sleep with who. A home (usually in California) ripped from the pages of Architectural Digest where everyone eat gourmet meals together, on gorgeous plates, and secrets are spilled while cleaning up the mess.
Tonight, the Bravermans joined the mix, and they fit the bill perfectly. They are, according to the script above, right out of Central Casting.
Like everyone else, I've been seeing the commercials since the beginning of the year. It caught my attention because of Ron Howard's involvement (the Cunninghams!), but I was hooked just seeing the previews with Peter Krause, who I would watch in anything. (Love. Him.) It's also accompanied by a very well done interactive social media campaign.
Then yesterday, I heard about the Asperger's storyline in Parenthood and thought - CUT! No freakin' way. No freakin' way I am spending an hour watching this. If I want to see a drama involving Asperger's, I'll watch the drama right here in my family room. (My son has Asperger's.) Besides, I was convinced there's no freakin' way they will even come close to getting it. Not to mention, there's another unmentionable aspect of this show that slams pretty close to home, so ... yeah. No thank you.
Of course I watched anyway. All in the name of the blog, mind you. If I hated it, if I loved it - either way I would probably get a post out of it.
Well, nearly two hours after turning off the television and thinking about this show, I think they more than got it. In my opinion, they nailed it.
Max Burkholder is brilliant as Max Braverman, who in this first episode, is considered by school officials to have Asperger's Syndrome. The frustrations over what is for others a simple fine-motor task in the classroom leading to a meltdown and biting incident (been there, done that), the brilliantly portrayed breakdown by Peter Krause and Monica Potter of the parents when the fear and uncertainty of the diagnosis sinks in while life goes on around them (that scene was particularly tough for me to watch - did that bring home the moment of diagnosis for anyone else?), the wearing the pirate costume to school each day, the missed social cues.
The whole family racing to the baseball game at the end might have been a little made-for-Hollywood, but I'll give them that one.
It's too early, I think, to say if Parenthood will become a groundbreaking show in this area - much as St. Elsewhere was progressive in its day by having a child with autism as a central character - but I think Parenthood is off to a very good start. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
Because make no mistake, I will most definitely be watching.