Keep Your Eye on … NBC’s ‘Parenthood’
By Rachel Bennett
Television Editor & Columnist
Every Monday, Rachel will pick a TV show, actor/actress or storyline you need to watch out for that week.
It’s hard to believe it’s already here, but it is: Tomorrow night, we say goodbye to the Bravermans in Parenthood’s season four finale.
Parenthood has been one of the best, but most unappreciated, series on TV since its 2010 debut, and this season continues to show why.
The drama never takes the easy way out, recently tackling an abortion plot that drew criticism and praise, but it’s honest, touching and realistic. This batch of 15 episodes has also largely dealt with Kristina Braverman’s (Monica Potter) cancer diagnoses, showing the unimaginable trials and small victories the family’s faced while trying to overcome it.
If you can stick through it, Parenthood is immensely rewarding, and the season finale should be a wonderful showcase to cap off one of Parenthood’s best seasons to date.
• It’s the season, and possibly series, finale: As with any season finale, season-long arcs will be coming to a close while new stories will begin — and you can’t miss it. The biggest storyline will be if Kristina’s cancer is under control and/or in remission. Showrunner Jason Katims hints there is an ending in sight for this storyline, saying, “My goal in trying to tell that story was to really reflect what that journey is like, what are the things that you go through when you go through something like that. But I also feel like basically that often winds up after about a year, so it is something that we definitely want to move toward a resolution for.” We’ll also see if Sarah (Lauren Graham) chooses to be with Mark (Jason Ritter) or Hank (Ray Romano), who’s leaving for Minnesota, and whether or not Amber (Mae Whitman) and Ryan (Matt Lauria) will get back together. There’s a lot more story where that came from, including Victor’s (Xolo Mariduena) adoption and “exciting news” for Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant).
Even if you don’t watch Parenthood, I recommend you check it out tonight. Considering it’s a finale, it should be a strong concluding chapter to a great season — meaning it’ll be a wonderful opportunity to witness the series’ strengths and see if it’s for you. Even though there’s yet to be a season five renewal, the future’s looking good for the family drama. “We’re feeling really great about [its performance],” says NBC President of Entertainment Jennifer Salke. “We haven’t determined its future, but I’d be crazy to tell you that we didn’t feel incredibly excited about where the show is creatively and the way the current storylines are kind of capturing a bigger audience. So we feel really good about it.” It’s true: Parenthood has grown in the ratings, consistently coming out on top in its timeslot. In other words, don’t expect Tuesday to be the last time you see the Bravermans.
• Monica Potter: I’ve already praised Potter’s performance this season, but once is not enough. Potter’s never been my favorite on Parenthood, both as a character and as an actress, but she’s been amazing this season. Week after week, there’s at least one scene that makes me go, “If she doesn’t get some type of award, there’s no justice in this world.” Part of this should be credited to the fantastic scripts she’s given, but most of her prowess comes from her performance. She’s let her, as well as Kristina’s, guard down, showing vulnerability for the first time in the show’s run. It’s been touching, yet tough to watch, and she’s really come through as the heart of this season, never letting Kristina become a victim or an overly defensive character. I’m almost sad this storyline is apparently wrapping up because she’s been so good.
• The rest of the cast, including the guest stars: Potter has definitely been the standout this season, but it helps that she’s supported by one of the best dramatic casts on TV. Krause has always been good, but he’s never been better as the anchor in a marriage challenged by cancer. Shepard, once of MTV’s Punk’d fame, has long overcome that former title and more than shown he’s capable of growth as a character and an actor. Simply put, he’s one of my favorites on Parenthood. Erika Christensen has also risen to the occasion this year, depicting a frustrating facet of parenthood and adoption better than most ever have. Aside from the main cast, guest stars Romano and Lauria have been great additions and brought out the best in their onscreen partners (Graham and Whitman, respectively).
• It’s the best family drama on TV: Have I not stressed this enough? Parenthood may not be as flashy as a lot of dramas, and even though that’s hurt it when it comes to ratings, it’s really all the better for it. It’s a quiet show that doesn’t congratulate itself for tackling difficult issues head-on, be it racism, Asperger’s or post-traumatic stress disorder. Parenthood simply discusses them in a straightforward manner because they’re a part of everyday life — not an after-school special. Whereas doing this could make the drama sappy, the show never talks down to its audience or characters, and delicately weighs multiple sides of issues in a thoughtful way. It’s not just a wonderful process to behold, but it also sets a precedent for how we should be respectful of others. If that’s not what a family drama should be, I don’t know what is. All I can say is every family should give this drama a chance.
• NBC’s promo for the season four finale
When to Watch
• Tune in to the season finale of Parenthood (titled “Because You’re My Sister”) this Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST.
Tags: Dax Shepard, Erika Christensen, Jason Katims, Jason Ritter, Jennifer Salke, Joy Bryant, Lauren Graham, Mae Whitman, Matt Lauria, Monica Potter, MTV, NBC, Parenthood, Punk'd, Ray Romano, Xolo Mariduena