February 25
Weather beaten, divorced father of 4 through a lot of changes and far happier than I have been in my entire life... in spite of the day to day crap coming my way. The ability to find the humor in it all and maintain a sense of openness and respect with those with whom I choose to share my free time, makes it all worthwhile. Expect intermittent rants of whimsy as time permits. And maybe the occasional political rant to get my left leaning friends all in a dither.


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NOVEMBER 17, 2010 3:24AM

Parenthood's Zeek Braverman, White Male of the 21st Century?

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 Zeek Braverman,  If He Didn't Have Bad Luck, He'd Have No Luck At All

Zeek Braverman, played by Craig T. Nelson on the Dramedy Parenthood seems to get it from all sides.  He’s a 20th century male taking it in the shorts in the 21st century.  Zeek's trying like hell, and he just flat out doesn’t get it.   Same goes for Modern Family patriarch, Jay Pritchett, played by Ed O'Neill.  Difference is that Jay plays it for comedy only and with tons of money, a hot Colombian trophy wife, a fancy house, and a whacky stepson.

Not Zeek. 

Not by a long shot.

Where once he was king of his castle stoically issuing orders in his Vietnam-War-acquired-bark, Zeek's now looked at by his family with a variation of pity, wonderment and exasperation as he struggles to change.  Core members with whom he had the most difficulty, wife Camille and oldest son Adam, played by Bonnie Bedalia and Peter Krause, lash back at him in brutally realistic ways, showing the pain and difficulty of gaining self awareness, no matter how late in life.  It wounds him terribly.

Camille Braverman photo

Camille Braverman, Zeek's Long Suffering Wife, Earthy, Arty, and Misunderstood by Zeek  

And this guy has taken his wounds, self inflicted 0r otherwise.

  • Somewhere prior to the start of the series he had an affair.
  • He made some real estate investments that almost forced selling the family home.
  • He had to go to his oldest son, Adam, and ask for favors in hopes of getting himself extricated from his real estate mess. 
  • His wife Camille asked him to move out over the affair and had one of her own in the process.

That was all in season one as his life seemingly spiraled out of control.  The big, closed, barking dad muted, if not neutered.  Exiled from his castle, proving all men have shattered dreams.

At the start of season two Zeek's living at home again without explanation.  Early on, however, there would be times when the outbursts would be about to start, and Zeek would catch himself.  Out would spew pyschobabble that had him choking as he uttered them.  “I see you and I hear you,” would be his refrain to his wife as he backed away from a shouting match.

For, you see, Zeek had agreed to go to marriage counseling with Camille.

Zeek.  The tough guy.  Getting in touch with his feminine side.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

It was played for comedy early in the season, then for a few touching connections that could have been plots for Nescafe International Coffee commercials from decades ago.

Zeek would become enamored with specific terms and try them out on his kids who would roll their eyes and walk away.  This was not the dad they knew, and they did not know how to handle it.

His daughter, Sarah, played by Lauren Graham has boomeranged home with her two teen children.  Kind hearted, beautiful, and smart, she lacks confidence, and cannot find meaningful work after leaving a relationship started in high school that derailed her life.  In this first episode, Sarah looks at her dad after another pyschobabble speech and says she cannot believe what is coming out of his mouth.  He rolls his eyes and says, “I can’t believe I am paying $150 an hour for something I just don’t  understand.”


Sarah Braverman, "Not Too Shabby" as Adam Sandler Might Sing But Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places ... Like With Her Brother's Boss

Zeek plied it on his son-in-law, Joel Graham, played by Sam Jaeger, to great effect.  Joel has his own role shifts.  A hard working and seemingly gifted carpenter, he has been relegated to stay-at-home dad status by his wife, Julie Braverman, played by Erika Christensen, who is a successful corporate attorney struggling to juggle career and motherhood. She wants to spit out another kid, while Joel wants to go back to work "outside the home."

 Zeek and Joel bond as they are on a roof Zeek Mickey Moused years ago as a do-it-yourselfer after Joel gets dispatched by the family to protect Zeek from himself.   You know?  Dad the screw up?  The typical TV role?  Robert Young must be spinning in his grave.  (Is he in his grave?)


Joel Graham, Swings Quite the Hammer, but is Housebound and Down and Married to ...


Julia Braverman, Someone Pull the Lemon Out of Her Mouth, Grab Her Blackberry and Hand Her an Hitachi Wand  ... Or Joel's Hammer

Recent interactions have been painful as Zeek migrates up the family hierarchical chain.  Last week was Adam, his oldest son.  Adam holds his immediate family together that has an asperger’s son and the stresses and strains unique to that situation.  Although there's a "behavior coach" who can alter patterns in 48 minutes that take real families 48 months to resolve.  

Adam holds together his various siblings by being their sounding board for their problems.  Adam holds together his company as the salaried COO (or something to that effect) run by boozing, womanizing ne’er do well boss, played by William Baldwin, who promises Adam equity and never delivers.  William Baldwin also happens to be tagging his kind hearted, single mom sister, Sarah, after Adam got her an internship there.  (Insert your favorite Lewinsky joke here.)



Adam Braverman, Holding The Family Together Before Decking a Dick With Too Many Items in The Express Line at the Grocery Store

Adam punched out a 17 item interloper in the 10 item express lane after his asperger’s son, Max, called the man on it.  Zeek has a quiet one-on-one moment with Adam to ask what is up after talking it over with Camille.  Zeek leads with compliments about how Adam always held it together and that he and Camille are worried.

Adam comes back at him with a vengeance, stating he found it odd Zeek admired him for holding it together, as he felt he had to in order to protect his younger siblings from Zeek’s anger and rage.

As Adam tees off, Zeke smiles sadly and merely slumps against the kitchen counter in a cramped houseboat they’re packing up.

It’s all there in the expression.  Zeek seemingly knows he deserves it, regrets it, and listens.  Rather than lash back, he simply tells Adam, with finger pointing, that he has Adam’s back.  Adam tacitly acknowledges it, and goes back to the business at hand.

Zeke stays slumped against the kitchen counter with a tear coming down the corner of his eye not visible to Adam. 

Later Adam mocks his father’s old ways as part of foreplay with his wife Kristina, played by Monica Potter showing in some ways lack of respect for Zeek, and what he is doing.

All these vignettes so far in season two were tune ups for the big show this week that had Camille and Zeek at each other over Camille taking an art class where the fill-in instructor happens to be the man with whom she had her affair.  Camille offers it up openly and honestly.  Zeek does not take it so well.  The old hurts come back.  He asks Camille to drop the course.  She does not want to as the course is important and it goes to trust.  Zeek says he trusts her and walks away coiled and frustrated still.

Next they are in the shrink’s office, Camille with arms folded and Zeek agitated.  Finally he blurts out the issue.  They each had affairs.  She’s taking a class from the guy;  Zeek wants her to drop it.

In a scene that had me laughing out loud, the shrink asks Zeek to tell Camille how that makes him feel in a smarmy voice that likely would have had old Zeek reaching over to choke her.  Instead, in a great acting display, Zeek simply looks skyward, puts his hand to his face, sighs, and speaks from his heart about it.  You can see the fear he has in being so open and vulnerable about feelings he was undoubtedly taught to suppress during the Eisenhower administration that served him well dodging bullets in Vietnamese rice patties.

It reaches Camille, and she says she will think about it.

She does, but decides to do it anyway for the value of the course.  Zeek accepts it…temporarily.  Later he confronts the teacher in the parking lot and tells him to stay away from his wife.

Next up is Camille happily asking for help on the art and being informed by the teacher he will not talk to her, given Zeek’s interference.  This leads to a shouting match in the shop where Camille finds Zeek fiddling with an engine.  A typical image of the macho man out in “the shop” to avoid his dreary reality given he is powerless over it.  He has shared his heart, his wife has her own wants and needs; they conflict;  and she's putting herself ahead of him, likely after years of having to do otherwise.  Zeek doesn't like it because it hurts and because he is not getting his own way.

The dialog goes back and forth, ever escalating and ever lapsing back into old behavior patterns.  Zeek ultimately blurts out that he told the guy to “stay away from what is mine.”  He immediately slumps again as Camille questions the utterance.  Zeek mumbles dejectedly and somewhat apologetically, “You know what I mean.”

Camille throws back the worst remark one can utter to someone making huge efforts to modify their behavior by hissing that he hasn’t changed one bit and walks off while he picks up the engine part and throws it against the work bench.

And therein lies the universal frustration for anyone working on that stuff.  First the teasing as those uncomfortable with the language seek to push it away by mocking it.  Then the ability to connect in reciprocal fashion with those less familiar with the old ways such as in-laws, and then the difficulties in maintaining the new persona when dealing with those with whom you had the most difficult interactions in the past.

So Zeek and Camille could hold it together in the controlled environment refereed by the shrink.  But the underlying tension was still there, and outside the regulated environment the two blow.

In real life, as the data shows, most couples get to therapy too late or only one does the work. Either way the relationships tank. The partner who stays focused on the process for themselves comes out for the better absent anger and can establish far richer, deeper and more rewarding intimate relationships with others.  Those who “don’t do the work” wind up falling back into what is comfortable to them and  often perpetuate misery for themselves and for others.

Zeek has quite clearly made transformations and softened considerably.  He is in a system far greater than himself seeking to work on changing his interactions with people made uncomfortable by the differences in him.

 In real life he would walk or just keep blowing up in frustration and hurt manifested as anger.  In the show expect Zeek and Camille to work it out as each come around.   

 It is Hollywood after all.


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Craig T. Nelson always plays these roles so well.
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Great post. Zeek is a perfect example of somebody struggling through a life that has largely evolved past him. Camille still sounds a little insufferable, though.
Glad you have a show that you can appreciate the complexity of the characters so well, and also relate. I occasionally see a little bit of Brothers and Sisters after Housewives, and realized as I read this, there are so few shows with good male role models, in the traditional sense. They are seen as archaic throwbacks, or struggling with some other demon. Which is too bad, I think everyone- men, women, boys, girls, straight, gay- could have some better older male role models in their lives. Not perfect, just solid people who actually work the struggle instead of run from it.
I've never seen the show, but this is such a detailed write-up that I feel like I have. If it's not quite my family - my kids are much younger - it sounds similar to a lot of families I know. Sure is complicated out there, isn't it?
OE: Yeah, I like the guy. Enjoyed "Coach" as a sort of mindless diversion. This role is far more complex and his acting is really good in it.

Knight: Yeah. I don't know about Camille. Maybe she'll shift a little bit. She spent a lot of the episode looking around with tears in her eyes at different things, so maybe she'll figure it out, or maybe she'll tell the guy to walk. I'm better on the former for plot line simplicity.

Oryoki: Brothers and Sisters come to you from the same folks who gave you the wheezie whinefest 30Something and Once and Again that should have been titled NeverAgain. That one simply takes the adult male out of the picture by having him die off and then have all his actions be the root cause for all the troubles for the mostly female cast. White Male as Straw Man.

Cranky: It was actually discussing a number of shows to give context to Zeek's plot development. Left out the youngest son with an out of wedlock kid with his black girlfriend whom he is now going to marry as well as the grandkids. The bit between Adam and Zeek was in that kid's houseboat he is selling to move in with his fiancee. There's also a fun plot between Adam's oldest daughter working in a food pantry hooked into it by Camille. She's now falling in love with a reformed alcholic, black organizer in a sweet way that will allow her parents to flip out, yadda yadda.
Gwool, you've done a great job of recapping this favorite of mine. I have never seen Craig T. Nelson do anything I didn't find brilliant. In this show, though, the depth of good characters is exceptional. You might remember a show called "Family" from decades ago, with Sada Thompson, Kristie McNichol, etc. Parenthood is just as good as that one, which means it will get canceled before too long.

Stellaa: Well Berkeley would be an outlier, so it makes sense they toned it down somewhat. Dharma and Greg played that comically. This thing does the dramedy dance between a few laughs followed by the teary pieces. Kind of like date movies with car crashes and explosions and some softer spots. You know, like Titanic, the teen date movie extraordinaire? You have to move it to the middle to gain appeal. That said, there's a few places like that in MA. I have had great fun visiting one such location of late and like it very much. Who knew?

Lezlie: I recall that show. Like Stellaa about Parenthood, I remember it as kind of soft and bland. Then again, it was a while ago, so maybe I just couldn't relate to it.
I've never seen the show but I feel as if I have a better understanding of its dynamics after reading your very thorough review. Moreover, you seem to have identified with the patriarch. Then again, who can't relate to Craig T. Nelson?
Weird to see you rave about a show that doesn't star your contemporaries Bea Arthur and Andy Griffith. R
The movie "Parenthood" on which the series is based has been a long time favorite of mine... it's mixture of reality hits, humor, sentiment, and wit hits quite a nerve. I am delighted the series is following directly in its footsteps. The characters are full fleshed out and continue to evolve, and while there are some interesting plot turns, clearly it is a character driven program. I suspect that Ron Howard has his hands in the production quite a bit. Also, with such an amazing cast... Peter Krause is a win-win in any situation. The program is touching and delightful and I"m very glad it's still around.
roger the ole sheepdog on C Nelson: Coach!
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Never saw the show but interesting observations Gwool, congrats on EP and when is the calendar coming out?
I know this much, there is no whiter guy than Craig T. Nelson. It's about time that he had a full and complex role.
This was a really great analysis. rated
I like Parenthood, yes it's Hollywood, but it's fairly close to reality, and I think we all wanted to punch the 17 item guy in the 10 item lane!! :D



Yes, you get EP and on the cover or in the top rated 4 hour feed, The Spammers will more than likely show up!! PFFFFT on spammers!! :D
I have not seen this show but I am interested after your fine write up on it. I have always liked that guy-Coach was an entertaining show and he was brilliant in it. Sarah is a great comedic actress also.
I loved the movie, it offered a realistic glimpse into the problems we all face as parents. I looked forward to the show only to be disappointed with endless cliches and slogan-ism. The overall theme of the show is how the me generation make lousy parents.

You have the workaholic Julie who wants to be assured she is a "good" mother although she is never around and feels left out because her child is attached to the father who is around. At least someone is around.

Of course you need the younger man boy brother who is learning to be a father and an adult thanks to one of his past hookups decides its time her son meets his father. Of course the mother is more interested in her dance carrier to consider the good of her son and the needs of anyone else. Sorry kid mommy needs to dance.

The worst is single mother Sarah who is always whining about wanting to be creative and upset that after decades of living out her bad girl fantasy now want to move to the front of the line. Her daughter has a crush on a teacher so mom has to hook up with her daughter's teacher because he liked her stories. She jeopardizes her brother's job and career because she wants to be appreciated for one undeveloped idea. Then to make matters worse starts messing around with her brother's boss who happens to be another bad boy. Sorry brother sis needs to be loved... hope you don't get fired.

If anything the show has nothing to do with actually parenting but more to do with what happens when self absorbed narcissists reproduce.
Nikki: Middle aged white guys gotta stick together. We're under siege. :)

Stellaa; I told you, it's all part of the kinder gentler campaign to show that Berkleyites are people, too.

Wonder: Have you seen Andy lately. He does some add that looks as though he has a hard time moving his mouth as the embalming fluid sets. Really scary. He and Kirk Douglas ....

Renee: I loved the movie, but am less enamored of this thing. The movie was more about Steve Martin's character, in this case Adam. I think they are doing more with Nelson's than they did with Jason Robard's. His role was more to be taken to the cleaners by the young misfit son.

Rita: The calendar will come out once there are Ad sponsors. In short, never.
Great write up, I haven't seen the show but this made me feel sad. It seems life has gotten busier and more complicated but no one is happier. I think everyone is very confused and frustrated. Or maybe it's only me.