My wife and I do not watch television as a rule. But occasionally we will go on Netflix and slowly watch a series from start to finish. Recently, we have been watching the NBC show “Parenthood” from its beginning.
As a writer, I have had the chance to learn how a show is developed by its team of writers. For the most part, they follow the show’s “book”, which is a collation of the plot basics plus principles they want to maintain consistently.
Having watched Parenthood (and only Parenthood) for several months now, I think I have a pretty good idea of what principles guide the show. See if you resonate with these.
1. All main characters in the show will have conflict occasionally with all the other characters. These conflicts will always follow the same four steps:
- Lots and lots of yelling
- A cooling off period
- Someone has a personal epiphany (see principle #3)
- Apologies and forgiveness is exchanged.
2. If things are going too smoothly for a character, they will start an inappropriate sexual relationship with a non-Braverman. (E.g. Camille with her art instructor, Amber with Haddies boyfriend, Sarah and her boss, Crosby and Max’s Aide, Sarah and her daughter’s teacher, Amber with her boss etc.).
3. All personal epiphanies will have tears and acoustic guitar music in the background. Then they go on to fulfill principle #1.
4. All financial crises will be temporarily solved by “dipping into savings”. Financial crises will be permanently solved by the writing staff, who will never mention the crisis again in future seasons. (E.g. Zeke’s Real Estate fiasco, paying for Seth’s expensive rehab, Haddies’ Ivy League school, Amber’s rent, Crosby’s outrageous house renovation, startup costs for the Luncheonette, Max’s ultra-expensive doctor).
5. All children must go to the most expensive private/charter schools and must have private doctors – even though only one of the families has any money.
6. All family gatherings will feature the following:
- Someone will claim they are not coming, but will show up late
- Women will drink wine, men will drink beer…unless the women are sitting beside the men, and then they will sip their man’s beer.
- Someone will let slip a deep secret followed by some kind of conflict (see principle #1)
- Seth seems to be the only one everyone is concerned about regarding a drinking problem.
7. Zeke’s whims are law. But every character at some point must challenge one of Zeke’s whims and refuse to go along with it. When they do, Zeke will eventually back down.
8. Camille and Joel have perfect advice for everyone.
9. Any new person introduced on the show will either be:
- Someone a main character is about to make out with
- A complete mental case
- Someone about to offer a main character a job
- All of the above