Whenever I watch Parenthood, I almost unconsciously compare Sarah Braverman to Lorelai Gilmore, and since tonight is the fifth season premiere of Parenthood, I thought it was the perfect time to share my findings. This is years of intense research, seven whole years of Gilmore Girls (though mostly consumed via ABC Family reruns when I was a more appropriate age) and four years of Parenthood (the first three years consumed over the course of one weekend about a year ago).
As you'll see in my illustrated report, the two mothers actually have a lot in common, but because of how vastly different their kids are, Sarah and Lorelei diverge in other areas. The most common thread, however, is Graham's amazing performances. She can be funny, talk faster than anyone else on TV, make you cry and break your heart, usually in the span of a single episode of one of her shows.
So I dedicate this to Graham, one of the best onscreen moms TV has ever known. May Parenthood last as long as Gilmore Girls did, and inspire just as many young women.
In Gilmore Girls, Lorelai and Rory were best friends. They were always there for each other, and for most of Rory's life, it was just the two of them. It's a little different for the Braverman/Holts. Not only was their troubled father in and out of their lives for a long time, but they have the whole extended Braverman family around. While Sarah is close with both of her kids, especially Amber, it's not on the Rory and Lorelai level —but is anything else?
You also need to keep in mind that Rory was basically the best kid a parent, especially a teen parent, could ask for. She was brilliant, funny, hardworking, pretty obedient, and arguably didn't make any big mistakes until college. Not too hard of a kid to raise.
Amber, on the other hand, has had her issues. She's struggled with drinking, drugs, bad choices in men, and had her issues with school. Even Drew has a little rebellious streak, especially when it comes to his dad. We've had to see Sarah put her foot down and take control more than Lorelai ever had to.
The big plot that motivates the pilots of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, in both cases, revolves around Graham's character and her parents. With Gilmore Girls, it's Rory getting into Chilton and Lorelai making the deal with her estranged parents to have the infamous Friday night dinners in exchange for her tuition. On Parenthood, it was Sarah moving in with her parents, to try and make a better life for Amber and Drew.
While both have plenty of conflict, the relationship on Gilmore Girls was much more strained. Plenty of storylines involved an Emily vs. Lorelai feud and even though Rory was very close to her grandparents, it was always a struggle for Lorelai. With Sarah and the Bravermans it's a much more relaxed, neutral atmosphere. She needs her parents help and appreciates most of their contributions to her and her kids life. Their dinner conversations may not be as entertaining to watch as a Gilmore verbal war, but it's a sweet relationship.
The Importance of Education
Lorelai and Sarah had opposite issues to face when it came to their kids and school. Rory loved school. More than anything she wanted to go to Harvard and almost drove herself crazy studying a few times. Lorelai had to lighten her daughter up, remind her to have fun.
Sarah, however, had to consistently push and motivate Amber to get her through high school. Even though she didn't get to college like she had hoped, Sarah was proud of her for turning her grades around after moving. Sarah was also adorably proud of Drew when he got into Berkley, and became the first person in their family to go to college, but she never had to worry about legtening him up the way Lorelai did (and the way she did was awesome).
This is another situation where Sarah just had it harder than Lorelai. Sure, Lorelai was concerned when Rory considered not going to Chilton after she met Dean, or when she started dating town bad boy/her soulmate Jess, but that was nothing compared to Amber.
Poor Sarah had to deal with Amber not wanting to move to Berkley because of some guy named Damien, her cousin's very recent ex, a guy who crashed his car when driving high with her in it and an almost-affair with her boss. Both moms handled their situations well. Lorelai gave Rory enough freedom to date who she wanted, but also made sure she stayed on track for her own future. Sarah kept Amber the hell away from her bad influences, but never judged her or made her feel worse about anything — even if others did.
Dating Lessons — The Moms Edition
The biggest similarity between Lorelai and Sarah has to be their dating lives. Sarah attempted to give up on dating pretty early into Parenthood (it didn't stick), and Lorelai once had cats show up at her door after a big breakup. Both women have had failed engagements, an on-and-off relationship with the father of their children, an on-and-off relationship with another recurring character and plenty of one-episode boyfriends. Lorelai was lucky to have found the one before Gilmore Girls ended and Sarah may have found hers (Ray Romano is returning this season), but if that's the case, Lorelai definitely was the luckier one.
Sorry Ray — I mean Hank, but Luke wins every time.
Sarah and Lorelai are both such superstar moms that they can't help but share their wisdom with others. For Lorelai that means encouraging Mrs. Kim to give Lane a little breathing room and trust her more. And while the whole Braverman family tends to trade advice, Sarah was able to give her brother Adam some firsthand advice about how to handle a rebellious teenager.
Lorelai and Sarah were both always there for their kids when they needed them. After a breakup on either show, when Rory finally comes to her senses after the awful Yale fight, when Amber gets into an accident, when Drew's girlfriend gets an abortion — Graham was there to give her onscreen kids a hug and whatever else they may need.
Random Life Tips
This is the only category where Lorelai completely blows Sarah out of the water. Gilmore Girls is beloved for its insanely fast, reference-filled, Luke's coffee-fueled dialogue, which lead to a series worth of quotable wisdom. Sarah's had her moments, but not nearly as many.
You can't really compare the parenting of Lorelai and Sarah, just like you couldn't compare that of two real-life mothers. What's important is that they are both amazing characters, and Graham plays each of them perfectly.
They're the TV moms to a generation, and we're lucky to have them in our lives.