March 1, 2010 / 2:36 PM / in 8 years

TV's "Parenthood" revisits family life, 20 years on

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than two decades after Oscar-winning director Ron Howard’s family inspired his hit movie “Parenthood”, a new generation of writers is bringing the joys, trials and humor of family life to television.

The TV series “Parenthood”, featuring four grown siblings in the colorful Braverman family, their children and their parents, makes its much-anticipated debut on March 2 on NBC. It is a centerpiece of struggling NBC’s efforts to revive scripted dramas and lure prime-time viewers after the embarrassing failure of its talk program “The Jay Leno Show” at 10pm.

For the producers and writers, however, “Parenthood” goes far beyond being merely a show to improve a time slot, and is a heartfelt, character-driven story that re-imagines a timeless tale of family life across three generations.

Lauren Graham of “Gilmore Girls” fame plays a cash-strapped single mom who returns with her two teenage kids to live with her parents in their sprawling California house.

“I thought it would be a great time to revisit (the movie) and look at what parenting is like now from what it used to be,” said writer and executive producer Jason Katims.

“I wanted this version of the show to honor the movie, but to live on its own,” Katims said.

Howard, an executive producer on the new TV series, said the idea for his 1989 movie “Parenthood”, which starred Steve Martin and told of the Buckman family, was born after one of his four children tried sushi for the first time and vomited all over him at the beginning of a 17-hour plane flight.

“‘Parenthood’ is a project I really cherish. It is probably the most personal film I have ever been involved with,” Howard told reporters.

“We felt we could take this idea and bring it forward to today in a way that was compelling,” he said.

Working moms, middle-aged sex, surly teens, male commitment and Asperger’s syndrome are just some of the challenges that the extended Braverman family cope with in the new TV series, which also stars Erika Christensen, Dax Shephard of “Baby Mama” and Peter Krause from “Six Feet Under.”

Katims has a teenage son with Asperger’s -- an autism spectrum disorder in which people find social interaction difficult but have intense interests in narrow subjects.

Graham’s role originally was to be played by former “ER” star Maura Tierney, but she dropped out during the first tapings last year after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Katims told reporters in January that the actress is “doing really good.”

Meanwhile, NBC is coming off its coverage of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and strong viewership during prime-time hours in which it has been heavily promoting “Parenthood.”

But whether those viewers trade winter athletics for a telling look at the sport of parenting remains to be seen. NBC, which has struggled in last place among the four major U.S. television networks, certainly hopes they will.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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