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So... this 2010 show is based on a 1989 movie that I never saw, and there was a 1990 TV series also based on that movie, which I also never saw. But I wanted to check this show out because the cast includes some actors I like. There's Lauren Graham, and Mae Whitman, and Peter Krause, and Craig T. Nelson, and Sarah Ramos. And there are a bunch of other people, who were mostly unfamiliar to me before this. It's a sprawling ensemble cast. I must say, I really like the writing and acting. I find all the characters interesting, and I enjoy the way they relate to each other (even if it's sometimes painful). There's lots of good drama (and melodrama) as well as plenty of humor. And stuff.
Anyway. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia play Zeek and Camille Braverman, the grandparents in this large family. (Incidentally, I first saw them play a married couple in the unrelated 1993 miniseries The Fire Next Time.) Their grown children include Sarah (Graham), who has just moved back in with her parents (in Berkeley), as she's suffered some financial trouble. She's divorced, and she and her two kids, 16-year-old Amber Holt (Whitman) and 14-year-old Drew Holt, had been living in Fresno. Amber is rather rebellious and sarcastic. Drew seems a bit withdrawn, and would apparently rather be living with his dad, though his dad... hasn't got time for him. Amber and Drew's father, Seth Holt (John Corbett), is an alcoholic musician who's always on tour. But we do occasionally see him show up, throughout the series.) Then there's Adam (Krause), who is the most stable of the middle generation of Bravermans, whom the others often go to for guidance (he has especially good chemistry with Sarah). But he has problems of his own. He and his wife, Kristina, have two kids, 15-year-old Haddie (Ramos), who has always been a good kid, but apparently starts cracking under that pressure; and 8-year-old Max, who has just been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. (I have a personal interest in Asperger's, which I have myself, though I was much older than Max when I learned that. So that whole storyline is important to me.) This is something that's hard for Adam and Kristina to deal with, and Adam's hoping for support from his own father, though he has never been happy with how Zeek raised him and his siblings. Adam and Kristina get a behavioral aide named Gaby (Minka Kelly) to work with Max. Then there's Julia Braverman-Graham (Erika Christensen), who is a successful lawyer, but stressed out. And she's clearly not happy that her husband, Joel Graham (Sam Jaeger), a stay-at-home dad, seems to be better liked by their precocious 5-year-old daughter, Sydney, than she is. Finally, the youngest of Zeek and Camille's kids is Crosby (Dax Shepard), who isn't big into responsibility or commitment. At the start of the series, he's dating a woman named Katie, who wants to have kids, and he reluctantly agrees to do so (in three years). Then out of the blue, he finds out that a former girlfriend, Jasmine Trussell, has a young son named Jabbar, and he's the father.
Anyway... it's a show about family, and in particular, as you might have guessed from the title, about the nature of parenthood, and its various joys and challenges, I suppose. But, of course, it's about all types of family connections; being kids, being siblings, being cousins, whatever. And, of course, there are various ongoing plot threads throughout the first season. Amber has a crush on her English teacher, Mark Cyr (Jason Ritter), but her mom eventually starts a relationship with him, for awhile. Also, Amber has a boyfriend back in Fresno named Damien, whom Sarah doesn't want her seeing anymore. Drew starts looking to Adam as something of a father figure. Crosby starts getting more involved in Jabbar's life and really seems to take to being a father, which is rather unexpected. He also eventually gets involved with Jasmine again (though I don't even remember exactly when his relationship with Katie ended). Haddie had a boyfriend named Steve, but eventually she broke up with him (partly on Amber's advice), and that... led to some major drama between Haddie and Amber. Zeek made a bad investment, which could ruin him financially, he might end up losing his house. But there's also an incident from years ago that combines with various issues to threaten Zeek and Camille's marriage. At the end of the season, Jasmine gets a job in New York, and Crosby contemplates moving there to be with her and Jabbar. And throughout everything, there are ongoing issues for the various characters, like Sarah worrying she's making mistakes and not a good mother, Adam and Kristina worrying about Max, as I mentioned, and... well, lots of different things going on in everyone's lives. It's complicated.
Sarah gets a job as an intern at Adam's company, and eventually starts dating Adam's boss, Gordon (William Baldwin), for awhile. But the company is in financial trouble, and eventually Gordon sells it to a guy named Cory (whom Adam doesn't respect, because he's kind of a hippie or something). Jasmine returns and her relationship with Crosby continues to get more serious. But eventually he has a one-night-stand with Gaby, which derails his relationship with Jasmine, and causes Gaby to quit working with Max. Adam and Kristina continue to have trouble dealing with Max's Asperger's, as well as problems when Haddie starts seeing a 19-year-old recovering alcoholic named Alex (Michael B. Jordan). They like Alex, he's clearly got a lot of good qualities, but they're not comfortable with their 16-year-old daughter dating him because he's older, has his own place, and because of his history with alcohol. And that leads to a major rift between Haddie and them; she moves in with her grandparents, which causes tension between Kristina and Camille (who already knew Alex before Haddie met him; he worked at a soup kitchen where she volunteered). Sarah begins writing a play. Also, Zeek and Camille continue to have troubles with their marriage, though they keep trying to work on it. Adam loses his job, and Kristina becomes pregnant. And... as always, there are all kinds of other things going on throughout the season, with all the many characters.
Julia and Joel are trying to adopt a baby, which doesn't go well. But they eventually enter into an agreement with a pregnant girl named Zoe, who doesn't want her baby. Amber moves into a new apartment, after failing to get into college. Jasmine starts dating a doctor named Joe (D.B. Woodside). Crosby and Adam buy a recording studio called the Luncheonette, to run together. Crosby eventually starts a relationship (sort of) with a musician named Lily. Alex breaks up with Haddie. Sarah and Mark rekindle their old relationship. Drew starts dating a girl named Amy. Kristina has her baby, whom she and Adam name Nora. Kristina also gets a job working on the campaign for a politician named Bob Little, and later gets Amber a job on the campaign. Amber eventually starts a relationship with Bob, but that doesn't last long. Crosby and Jasmine finally realize they love each other, and get married. Zoe decides not to give up her baby, and Julia and Joel end up fostering a 10-year-old boy named Victor.
Haddie goes off to college, so we only occasionally see her, from now on. Victor has a hard time fitting in with his new family, and Julia struggles with her own feelings about her new son. She eventually quits her job when she realizes she can't give both it and her kids the full attention they deserve. Amber starts working at the Luncheonette. Sarah gets a job assisting a photographer named Hank Rizzoli (Ray Romano, from Everybody Loves Raymond). Amy breaks up with Drew, but there will later be complications between them. Kristina is diagnosed with breast cancer, and she befriends a fellow patient named Gwen Chambers (Rose Abdoo). Max starts middle school, and eventually decides to run for class president. Zeek begins some volunteer work, where he meets a young man named Ryan, a former soldier who's having trouble adjusting to life after war. Ryan eventually starts dating Amber, though his emotional difficulties hinder their relationship. Sarah grows closer to Hank, who is struggling with his ex-wife Sandy's decision to move away, which would make it impossible for him to see his daughter, Ruby, very often. After a jealous Mark breaks up with Sarah, she starts dating Hank. Jasmine's mother, Renee, moves in with Jasmine, Crosby, and Jabbar after losing her job. This leads to strain in Crosby and Jasmine's marriage. But things get better when they learn Jasmine is pregnant. Julia and Joel finally officially adopt Victor. Hank ends up moving away, to be closer to Ruby, thus ending his relationship with Sarah.
Kristina is now free of cancer, so she's eager to make bold choices in her life, though she's still occasionally worried that the cancer could relapse. She runs against Bob Little for Mayor of Berkeley, largely because she wants to help Max and other kids with similar problems who have trouble fitting in at school. Her campaign is run by a woman named Heather Hall. Meanwhile, Crosby and Jasmine have a baby daughter, Aida. Crosby, Jasmine, and their kids have to move in with Zeek and Camille while their house is undergoing treatment for dangerous mold. Also Crosby and Adam have trouble dealing with a singer named Oliver Rome, whose band, Ashes of Rome, are recording an album at the Luncheonette. Julia befriends a fellow parent at her kids' school, named Ed Brooks. He's recently separated from his wife, and is going through some issues similar to Julia's, so they bond. But this leads to gossip among the other parents. And Julia and Joel's marriage is already strained, for various reasons, including Joel's new boss, Meredith Peet (Sonya Walger), being a potential source of jealousy for Julia. And Julia begins to have confusing feelings about Ed, who obviously has feelings for her beyond friendship, and this eventually leads to Julia and Joel separating, which is really hard on Sydney and Victor. Sarah has a new job as superintendant of an apartment building, where she lives. She eventually begins dating one of her tenants, Carl Fletcher. She also eventually gets a photography job, for which she hires Hank as an assistant, which is awkward because she used to be his assistant. Their relationship is also a bit strained after his having moved back to Berkeley, after his sudden departure last season. And Hank, who has developed a sort of friendship with Max, begins to suspect he himself may have Asperger's, so he starts seeing Max's therapist, Dr. Pelikan, from whom he seeks advice about working on his relationship with Sarah. Amber and Ryan are now engaged, but their relationship becomes strained, and eventually Ryan re-enlists in the Army, and returns to Afghanistan. Camille goes on a trip to Italy with other artists, while Zeek stays home without her. She eventually decides she'd like to move into a smaller house and sell their old house, which Zeek doesn't want to do. And when their kids, especially Crosby, find out about it, they're also upset. Drew starts college, where he meets a girl named Natalie, with whom he starts a complicated relationship. She wants something that's not serious or committed, but while he tries to accept that, it's not what he wants. Things get more complicated when Amy shows up at school and stays with Drew for a couple of weeks. Kristina and Adam eventually decide to open a charter school (Chambers Academy) for kids like Max, with help from one of Max's teachers, Evan Knight. They also get some legal counsel from Julia. And... damn, a lot of stuff happened. I feel like I've said way too much and also like I'm leaving out a ton of stuff about the season.
This is the final season of the show, and before it premiered, I read that a major character would die this season, and it would be like a major theme of the season. Though we weren't told who would die, throughout most of the season it seemed like it would be Zeek, since he had ongoing health problems. I did have at least a couple of other guesses throughout the season as to who else it could be, if Zeek's problems were just misdirection. I won't reveal who did die, but I will say it didn't happen til near the end of the final episode, so for awhile there I was starting to wonder if either I'd misread the season previews, or if the writers had changed their minds (or just lied). But anyway... as always, there's lots of stuff going on this year. Amber is pregnant with Ryan's baby, though they're not together anymore. Chambers Academy finally opens, and Max befriends a fellow student, a girl named Dylan, on whom he has a crush. But though she likes him as a friend, she doesn't reciprocate his feelings, which Max has a really hard time dealing with. (I kind of felt bad for him, but also I thought he needed to learn to handle rejection a lot better than he did, and Adam and Kristina didn't do a very good job of making him understand that, since they were more worried about his feelings than Dylan's.) Julia has relationships with a couple of different guys, during her separation from Joel. But Joel decides he wants to try to fix their marriage. The Luncheonette undergoes serious financial trouble, which could lead to its closing. It also leads to strain between Adam and Crosby's relationship, on top of which it would be a really bad time for Amber to lose her job. She finally has her baby, whom she names Zeek. Sarah and Hank's relationship gets a lot more serious. And... as usual, I'm leaving out a few things so as not to spoil everything (and still feel like I've said too much). Anyway, there's a pretty good finale, with both sadness and happiness for everyone.
It was a good series, and I loved getting to know all the characters, even if I didn't always like all of them. (Most especially I'm disappointed that Max never really seemed to make any discernible progress in learning to deal with his Asperger's. I frequently wished I could talk to him and explain so many things about life, especially because his parents clearly had no idea how to make him understand anything, and coddled him too much- though I'm sure Max would disagree with that last part.) But it's not like anyone's perfect in real life, either, and most of the characters on the show did have some good moments, over the years. Anyway, I'm not sure what else to say....