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TV’s most unflinching portrayal of Asperger’s goes even deeper

This season, fresh on the heels of a rough bout with cancer, "Parenthood's" Kristina Braverman decided to run for mayor of Braverman base camp, Berkeley, California. On last week's episode, Kristina (Monica Potter) found herself buried in the polls with single digit voter support and facing off against a younger, more polished politician in a debate she couldn't hope to win. While she is running on an education platform, the private mother of three had already informed her dedicated, if icy, campaign manager Heather (Jurnee Smollett) that she would not use her children -- particularly her son Max -- to garner sympathy or further her cause with voters. Max Braverman, played with relentless agitative energy by Max Burkholder, has Asperger's Syndrome.

One of the things that I have always loved about the NBC series is how unflinching it has been since Max's diagnosis about the effect his condition has had on his long-suffering parents and, by extension, the entire Braverman family. "Parenthood" is television and, therefore, by its nature divided into A, B, and C story lines of varying significance. But no matter what joys and mishaps, triumphs and tragedies we have experienced with middle class suburbanites Adam and Kristina Braverman, we have never been allowed even for a second to forget -- whether it be through Max's trivial but uncomfortable bursts of inappropriateness or deeper struggles connecting with his uninformed and often intolerant peer group -- that the couple's middle child struggles daily to fit into so-called "normal" society.

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