TV Howl exclusive: Twilight of the Buckmans

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Posted: July 2009

By ADAM BUCKMAN

Somehow, the Buckmans of “Parenthood” (the movie) have become the Bravermans of “Parenthood,” the TV show.

And now, Buckmans the world over want to know why.

Jason Katims

Jason Katims

So I called Jason Katims, the executive producer of NBC’s new “Parenthood” series, to ask him.

So what’s the deal, Jason?  Why’d you change the family name from Buckman to Braverman?

“You know, ‘Parenthood’ was to me one of those great movies and one of those movies that sort of stays with you,” said Katims (pronounced Kay-tims) on the phone from L.A.  “And for me, like many others, really my only issue with the movie was always the name Buckman.  I knew there was that one thing that needed to be changed to reach perfection.”

Upon hearing that, I paused.  And then he paused.  And then he blurted out, “No – I’m joking!”

He went on to explain that the adoption of the new name was simply part of his effort to distinguish the new TV series – starring Peter Krause, Craig T. Nelson, Lauren Graham (who replaced Maura Tierney), Bonnie Bedelia and others as a bunch of Bravermans (Oy!) – from the revered 1989 movie starring Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Wiest, Jason Robards and others (including Joaquin Phoenix, credited as “Leaf” Phoenix) as a beloved family of Buckmans.

“The characters are definitely inspired by those in the original movie,” Katims said.  “But I like to think they are now taking on a life of their own and that we’re free to create our own characters and tell our own stories.  That was kind of why I chose not to stay with the original name.”

Peter Krause: Adam 'Braverman'?

Peter Krause: Adam 'Braverman'?

I couldn’t help noticing that one character in the new series is named “Adam,” the character played by Peter Krause.  Since this character’s name would have been “Adam Buckman” if Katims had stayed with the Buckman name, I just had to ask: Hey, Jason, did this name-change have anything at all to do with me?

“You know, on some level it might have – not a conscious level, not something that I was aware of, but maybe somewhere deep in my subconscious it was there,” he answered.

After another uncomfortable pause (caused by me), he again felt compelled to state he was joking.

Still pressing the issue, I asked if Ron Howard or Brian Grazer – the producers who made the original movie and are spearheading its conversion into a TV series – had anything to do with the Buckman-to-Braverman switch.

If that was the case, I wanted to know why.  I had always been supportive of Ron Howard’s shows, particularly “Arrested Development,” which I championed until the end.

I had even met Ron Howard one day in February 1993 at the offices of the New York Post, where I then worked as TV editor.  He and a crew were spending a day or two in the office observing the paper’s operations in preparation for producing their own movie about a New York tabloid, “The Paper.”  I must have made no impression whatsoever on Ron Howard because the movie contained no TV editor character.

Katims said neither Howard nor Grazer called for a name change for the “Parenthood” TV show, although Katims noted “they were excited by the idea that [the concept] was going to be reinvented and wasn’t going to try to be the movie.”

Hmmm.

When the conversation was nearing its end, I informed the producer that the world’s Buckmans will still be disappointed, despite his insistence that he has nothing in particular against the name Buckman even though he decided to drop it in favor of a name – Braverman – that is, let’s face it, much less elegant.

I pointed out that the name “Buckman” has a hallowed history in Hollywood.  In fact, the late ’80s and 1990s were a Golden Age for Buckmans – from the “Parenthood” movie to “Mad About You,” in which Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt played Paul and Jamie Buchman (spelled unfortunately with a “ch”).  And who can forget John Wayne playing “Chance Buckman” in the 1968 action flick “Hellfighters”?  Well, I can’t forget it, even if Jason Katims can.

Finally, a concession from Katims on “Parenthood”: “At some point, I will put an honorary Buckman in the show.  I will Buckmanize it,” Katims vowed.  This time, he didn’t say he was joking.

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