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NBC's 'Parenthood' is a show still in gestation

THE SHOW "Parenthood"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday night at 10 on NBC/4

REASON TO WATCH It's produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, although mostly under the creative direction of highly regarded "Friday Night Lights" bosses Jason Katims and David Nevins.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Loosely based on Howard's 1989 movie (which also inspired a 1990 NBC series). Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter) of Berkeley, Calif., are parents to teen daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos) and 8-year-old Max (Max Burkholder).

Max has anger issues. He doesn't talk much and insists on wearing a pirate costume to school. Adam and Kristina are worried, and an initial diagnosis suggests Asperger's syndrome (high-functioning autism). But life's about to get more complicated when Adam's sister Sarah (Lauren Graham) moves in. She's 38 and has spent the past decade of her life tending bar and the needs of her druggie musician-wannabe ex. She's come home for a fresh start, her two resentful teens in tow.

The other Braverman sibs - career mom Julia (Erika Christensen) and aging hippie Crosby (Dax Shepard) - contribute parenting advice, of dubious value. Meanwhile, Braverman patriarch Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and mom Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) are happy to be helpful, too.

MY SAY "Parenthood" was almost scuttled when Maura Tierney - who was to be Sarah - pulled out for breast cancer treatment. Watching the first two episodes, it's easy to see why she was considered so vital. Perhaps depending on which Tierney turned up at this party (Lisa Miller of "NewsRadio" or Abby Lockhart of "ER"), she could have been a caustic presence - a dark counterweight to the New Age California Bravermans. But Graham - an equally fine actress - just doesn't do "smoldering" or "irony." She's bright, airy and almost sitcomish here.

BOTTOM LINE You'll think (and can't help it) "Gilmore Girls" meets "Brothers and Sisters" meets "Modern Family." But do three good shows add up to one particularly good or memorable one? At this point, no, but there's real promise in "Parenthood." In time, we may all genuinely care whether Crosby and Sarah find themselves, or at least grow up.

GRADE B

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