Tube Talk: NBC’s Parenthood and ABC’s Modern Family

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

No sooner do the February Sweeps conclude than new and returning shows start vying for our attention.

NBC’s heavily-promoted new series, Parenthood, debuted March 2. This show from Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s production company, Imagine Entertainment, is the second network series to be based on their 1989 movie of the same name. (The first ran briefly in 1990.) It was originally supposed to premiere last fall, but an unforeseeable problem arose when former ER actress Maura Tierney, who was cast as prodigal daughter Sarah, was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to pull out of the show so she could focus on her health. The role was recast with ex-Gilmore Girl Lauren Graham. (Tierney has completed treatment and is already back at work doing live theater.)

While Tierney’s background in both comedy (NewsRadio) and drama made her a perfect choice for the dramedy, Graham has long demonstrated her own skill at blending humor and drama. The same is true of many of the cast members. Craig T. Nelson, who plays the family patriarch, starred in the long-running sitcom Coach, but has also played plenty of heavies in films and on TV. I remember Nelson as the 1960s test pilot Raynor Sarnac in the short-lived 1984 series Call to Glory. And there’s Peter Krause, as Adam. Krause, most recently in Dirty, Sexy Money, is probably best know for playing Nate on Six Feet Under, but many people still love him from Aaron Sorkin’s fast-paced 1998 comedy, Sports Night.

Lesser known is Mae Whitman, who is playing Sarah’s daughter, Amber. She’s been acting since she was a child, but the first time I recall seeing her was on the wonderfully odd comedy Arrested Development, where she played the girlfriend of George Michael Bluth (Michael Cera). That series was also produced by Imagine Entertainment (and narrated by Howard). Curiously enough, while Parenthood is a series inspired by a film, it was recently announced that Imagine Entertainment is resurrecting Arrested Development as a movie. The uber-dysfunctional Bluth family lives!

While NBC has been busy hawking Parenthood, ABC has been touting the return of their breakout show of the season, Modern Family.

Sure, it’s only been a few weeks since a new episode of Modern Family aired, and repeats have been running regularly, but the show’s latest ads have celebrated the return of all new episodes of this great comedy. In fact, Modern Family if the first comedy I’ve seen in years that comes close to approaching the creativity and unpredictability of Arrested Development. Best of all, Modern Family’s killer ratings indicate this show may be around a bit longer than my beloved-but-ratings-challenged Arrested Development.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

From the Mar. 3-9, 2010 issue

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