“Berkeley is a living hell. I’m not moving there!”

Such biting words, uttered by a malcontented teenager. But they are not real. They occur on TV. In a new drama.

The city of Berkeley will get prime time exposure starting Tuesday night when NBC airs its new drama, Parenthood. It tells the story about the extended Braverman family who live in Berkeley. One daughter, Lauren Graham, (who played the much beloved mother in Gilmore Girls) moves from Fresno to Berkeley with her teenage children. Imagine the culture clash.

The family moves into a ramshackle Craftsman style house which looks very Berkeley-esque. (The pilot was filmed in a home in the Claremont neighborhood). There is an scene shot inside Oscar’s on Shattuck, as well as one at Cragmont Elementary School and at Children’s Fairyland.  But many of the other scenes were clearly not shot in Berkeley. When Graham takes her children to high school, they enter an old-fashioned brown structure which is nothing like the gleaming white Berkeley High.

Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the series a glowing review, while Chuck Barney of the Mercury News was more lukewarm. (He even predicts “Get ready to hear gasps of horror emanating from the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.”) But it should be fun to see the fun the producers have with Berkeley.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. As a Fresno native who arrived in Berkeley some eight years ago, I’m going to risk sounding like a traveling chamber of commerce when I say that when I lived in Fresno it was a very cosmopolitan city. The cost of living was affordable, beautiful verdant neighborhoods were abundant, ethnically diverse restaurants and businesses were plentiful, neighbors seemed like family, and classes at CSUF and FCC were available to anyone who wished to attend. So yes, I must agree, in comparison Berkeley could be considered a cultural clash.