'Parenthood': Five reasons you should be watching

parenthood-320.jpgDon't worry, "Parenthood" fans. Your show hasn't been replaced by "America's Next Great Restaurant" reruns. We know many of you panicked when you tuned in on Tuesday to find a show about "Saucy Balls," but patience is a virtue. "Parenthood" will return Tuesday, March 29 with brand new episodes.

If you're not a "Parenthood" fan, you really, really should be. 

While the show's ratings aren't awful -- the experts say it's got a good chance of being renewed for a third season -- we can't help but feel that it remains one of the most underrated shows on television.

Executive producer Jason Katims is familiar with being dubbed underrated by TV critics. He also headed up " Friday Night Lights," which in its five seasons garnered almost undisputed critical acclaim while consistently tanking in the ratings and going unrecognized when it came to awards.

"Parenthood" shares a lot of the best qualities of "Friday Night Lights," and it has yet to achieve the water-cooler status we think it deserves. So, without further ado, here are the five reasons you should tune in.

1. An honest portrayal of family life. You may not be a parent, but you certainly had parents, and chances are they weren't perfect. Everyone in the Braverman family is deeply flawed while still fueled with good intentions, keeping the characters likable without making them condescending. 

2. No gimmicks. This show is about the Braverman family -- three generations of parents and children struggling to relate to one another in an increasingly crowded environment. When you tune in on Tuesday nights, you're going to see Bravermans. There are no musical episodes, no distractingly famous guest stars, no episodes based on the plot of "The Hangover." As stunt casting and outlandish tropes infest our televisions, it's refreshing to see a show remain steadfastly true to its original promise.

3. Watch it with the whole fam! "Seventh Heaven" is over (Thank God) and there's a new kind of family programming taking its place. Without being preachy, "Parenthood" has tackled subjects like addiction and teen sexuality gracefully, while unapologetically highlighting the awkwardness that comes with growing up (no matter how grown-up you already are).

4. Educate yourself. Arguably the best storyline on "Parenthood" involves Max, a 9-year-old diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, and his parents Adam ( Peter Krause) and Christina ( Monica Potter). Asperger's and Autism are only recently entering the mainstream consciousness, and "Parenthood's" depiction of the trials and triumphs involved is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming.

5. Near-perfect performances. "Parenthood's" writing is extraordinary, but the actors' work takes it to a whole different level. Max Burkholder's work as Max Braverman blows us away every week. "Every couple of episodes I get together with an Asperger's doctor, the director and the executive producer and we talk about what Max might do in the given situations in the script," Burkholder says. "I get new ideas about what to do during the scenes -- how he would act, what he would say -- because a lot of ad libbing happens on the show." It's also wonderful to see Lauren Graham in a role that's considerably more subdued than her iconic "Gilmore Girls" character. Dax Shepard, who we thought of as little more than a slap-happy prankster, shows off considerable dramatic chops every week.

If you're not watching yet, tune in. The current mini-hiatus gives you plenty of time to catch up on old episodes via NBC.com before the show returns on March 29. You'll be doing yourself a favor. Trust us.

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