How Berkeley can you be on TV?

Parenting prevented me from attending the Parenthood premiere bash held in — oops — Oakland not Berkeley.

So instead of viewing the pilot with local luminaries at the beautifully restored Fox Theater in downtown Oaktown, I watched the start of the series from the comfort of my couch in a modest west Berkeley cottage.

Berkeleyside readers will have read here that Oakland, not Berkeley, was the original setting for NBC’s new prime time series airing on network television on Tuesday nights.

An adaptation of the popular movie starring Steve Martin and directed by Ron Howard, this writer won’t pretend to critique the plot lines, character development, or narrative arc of this new family drama.

I just wanted to see if the fictional Braverman family — extended, close-knit and Berkeley-based — resemble real folks I’ve come across living in this town.

I had my doubts from the start. How many dads do you run into at school drop-off who look like actor Peter Krause, who plays the eldest Braverman sibling, Adam? And what’s with the corporate attire? He even shows up at a burger joint sporting a bright blue tie.

Likewise the moms are too made-up to feel like real Berkeley mamas; Kristina’s platinum ponytail would seem more at home in San Francisco’s Marina than, say, Solano Avenue.

As for authentic local color, as noted here earlier, the senior Braverman’s abode does look like it could belong in Berkeley, Children’s Fairyland in Oakland gets nice play, as does Oscar’s Hot Dogs on Shattuck.

And the line: “Berkeley is a living hell! I’m not moving there!” sounds like something a confirmed citysider might say, the kind who never crosses the Bay Bridge — not so much what you’d expect to hear out of the mouth of a surly teen from Fresno.

While I did get drawn in by the saga of the single mom, stay-at-home dad, and perfect parents discovering their little boy may be less than perfect, it was all too bright and shiny, and mostly white and wealthy, to feel like the real deal to me.

Besides, what was with all the references to “Berkeley Coffee?” Why couldn’t the scriptwriters just call the place Peet’s?

Word on the street is that local flavor will be scarce in future episodes: To cut costs, LaLaLand will serve as a stand-in for Berzerkeley.

How surreal is that?

Photo: Courtesy NBC Universal Inc.

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  • http://www.davosnewbies.com Lance Knobel

    Here are some grumpy responses to the episode’s setting in “Berkeley”.

    The Chinese restaurant that character Sarah (played by Lauren Graham) goes to for a date didn’t look like anything that would dare to be in the Bay Area, to say nothing of food-obsessed Berkeley. The baseball fields that Max played on were more manicured than anything I’ve seen in the Noll/Soll league. The gleaming downtown plaza where Adam (Peter Krause) works didn’t even remotely resemble reality. I agree with you, as well, about that tie. Who does that?

    And I’ve never heard of teenage kids in Berkeley being hauled to the police station in Berkeley for marijuana possession, one of the plot moments last night.

    But is that just me? Let us know what you thought of prime time television’s portrayal of “Berkeley”.

  • Peggy Scott

    The light! That is what bugged my 16 yo daughter and me – too much light! We love those sunny days but helloooo – they are RARE. It looks like LA because it is too darn sunny and too darn white. The whole look was missing that basic Berkeley grunge – fog, pavement, hair. Oh well, it looks like LA because it IS LA. Still…I kinda enjoyed it. So bust me. (I’m sure someone will. And that’s OK – because that is how it is here.)

  • laura menard

    LA white? hardly, but gotta love that bay area smugness….

    “As of the 2000 US Census, the racial distribution in Los Angeles was 46.9% White American, 11.2% African American, 10.5% Asian American, 0.8% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 25.7% from other races, and 5.2% from two or more races. 46.5% of the population was Hispanic or Latino (of any race).”

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Lance,

    I’ve seen teens hauled in by the cops for being jerkwads but with the official excuse of pot possession. It’s not at all easy to bring about – the kids really have to work hard at it, going far out of their way to be jerks. But it can happen. Probably nothing like whatever was depicted in the show but it can happen. I would guess, though I’ve never personally seen it, that sometimes it happens because some cop as a bad attitude or a bad day or a bad perception.

    (I watched about 30 seconds of the show and got bored and went back to work. :-)

  • http://lettuceeatkale.wordpress.com/ Sarah Henry

    Lance, I don’t know of a Golden Dragon Seafood Restaurant in either SF or Oakland’s Chinatown…but there is one by that name in L.A.

    As for the manicured kiddie baseball scenes, I’m with you on that one too. Nothing like the low-key Berkeley Bears, which my son played on for a few years.

    Peggy, you’re so right: The whole episode was missing any authentic basic Berkeley grunge — though some may see that as a nice escape from reality.

    I’m no authority on whether or not Berkeley teens get picked up for pot possession but I suspect local police have more serious stuff to deal with.

  • Max Denner

    The “gleaming downtown plaza” is City Hall Plaza in Oakland. Also, that was genuine Berkeley weather – they filmed late last April during a week of sun and 90 degree temperatures. But I agree that it didn’t really capture the Berkeley vibe.

  • Rachel A.

    Where’s the two-mom family?

  • Peggy Scott

    “LA white? hardly, but gotta love that bay area smugness….”
    LA white as in TV Laura, it’s a TV show, as in FICTION. What we watch on commercial TV is not census data (just in case you haven’t noticed.). They don’t call it LA LA Land for nothing.

  • Max Denner

    One other thing – I wouldn’t assume “Berkeley Coffee” is Peet’s. Much more likely to be an independent cafe. I’d guess Berkeley Espresso, especially since it’s across the street from Oscar’s where one scene was shot.

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