Family Values

TV: Parenthood — The new NBC-TV comedy/drama series is the second attempt to bring the spirit and milieu of the 1989 hit film of the same name starring Steve Martin to the small screen. Credit Ron Howard who directed the movie and executive produced the first 1990 series and does the same on the new one for not giving up on the idea. While the initial attempt at a series followed the template of the film more closely (and lasted but one season), the new one reinvents the extended family that is featured. Its two biggest stars are veterans of two of the best family series on recent TV: Peter Krause from Six Feet Under and Lauren Graham from The Gimore Girls (this time playing a divorced mother rather than a single one), and they certainly enhance this show’s appeal. But what has made Parenthood one of my slate of television favorites is how it offers a nice alternative to the loaded notion of “family values” that has been so capitalized by the right wing and offers a very true-to-life slice of how people and families live today. Yeah, sometimes it verges into being a wee bit soapy and maybe a tad overly honeyed. But for the most part it’s a sharp, incisive and telling look at the way we live today, and how the family unit, even with its tensions and troubles, provides a locus of support and love that is an essential social building block. Ratings for the series at press time indicate that Parenthood is still struggling to find a significant audience, and its unclear if it will make it to a second season. Let’s hope so, as it’s a darn good show in the making, and I’d urge readers to tune it to its final episodes and maybe catch up on it if it returns in summer reruns. (The show gets bonus points for using Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” as its theme.)

CD: The Open Road by John Hiatt — Speaking of family, John Hiatt’s Bring The Family was one of the signal singer-songwriter albums of the 1980s, and truthfully of all time. His output has wildly varied since that masterful high point. But his latest release, recorded largely live in the studio with his touring band, has some of the same musical charms. And as a rumination on the sometimes dichotomous notions travel and home, it’s a warm and solid collection of songs that is an enjoyable listening experience for older and wiser rockers.

CD: The Sojourners by The Sojourners — You don’t have to be a person of Christian faith to be a fan of black gospel music, which happens to be one of my favorite styles, and the more so the longer I live. This debut album by a trio of African-American singers who live in Canada is a wonderful recent treat that introduces an exciting new act in the genre. In addition to having their own distinctive vocal blend, The Sojourners boast snappy and smart contemporary musical backing that hits a groove with modern listeners. A spin of their unique take on the Los Lobos song “The Neighborhood” shows how the divine doesn’t have to be invoked to feel the spirit.

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2010


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