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TV Review: Parenthood Completes Fall Run

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     Now that most series’ have finished, or are about to finish, their fall runs, I can finally find the time to catch up on those shows that I let leg and build up on my TiVo. Although it is great to review an outstanding episode, it’s also nice to look at a bunch of episodes all together, as many of my near future articles, including this one, will do. In the coming weeks, look more for reviews that focus on the entire fall run, or most of it, rather than a single weekly offering.

     At the top of my list of shows I had to catch up on was Parenthood, and almost as soon as I began the nine episodes I had saved (I had watched only the season premiere so far), I could have kicked myself for the delay. I loved the show, based loosely on the old Steve Martin movie, in its first season, and the second one has only gotten better.

     The highlights of this fall were the holiday episodes: “Orange Alert” for Halloween and “Happy Thanksgiving” last week. Both were heavy on the family togetherness, addressed some powerful plot points, and built on stories that had been growing. In “Orange Alert”, I was most thrilled for Kristina’s (Monica Potter) protectiveness of her son, and Crosby’s (Dax Shepard) proposal. I have loved watched Crosby grow as a character, and asking Jasmine (Joy Bryant) to marry him was great pay off. And Crosby’s growing acceptance by his mother-in-law, Renee (Tina Lifford), has also been excellent. It was also the episode where Sarah (Lauren Graham) and Gordon (William Baldwin) really started their relationship.

     It appears that Baldwin’s run has now come to an end. It’s a shame, really, as I still hadn’t figured out the character. To Sarah, he was mostly a kind and caring boyfriend, though he sometimes shirked responsibility to be with her. To Adam (Peter Krause), his loyal right hand for fifteen years, he was often a jerk. Which Gordon was the more authentic one? Were his dealings with Adam mostly just business? Was he a good guy? Questions that may never be answered. Plus, it was nice to see him reunited with Krause, his Dirty, Sexy, Money co-star.

     Adam has had a very rough year, between still coming to terms with Max’s (Max Burkholder) special needs, a burden he shares with Kristina, as well as the pressure at work, which he must handle alone. Krause often feels like the primary star of the show, although Graham, Potter, and Shepard are also often given great story. This fall, Adam had to fire seven employees, friends he’d known for years. When the show returns early next year, with the company under new ownership, it is likely that Adam’s professional issues are far from over. Adjusting to a new boss is rarely smooth, and since it’s television, I certainly don’t expect a seamless transition. I genuinely hope Adam will not be out of work, as I don’t think his family could take that added hardship. Well, they could, but it would not be pretty.

     Julia (Erika Christensen) is the sibling, of the four adult Bravermans, who seems to get the least screen time. In fact, I’m pretty sure that her husband, Joel (Sam Jaeger) had more meaty parts than her this fall. I don’t dislike Christensen, but I’m not exactly feeling bad for her lack of screen time, either. I feel like the actress is better in small doses, and too much of her verges on annoying. Part of it is her character, an overachieving career woman. But having seen her in other roles, part of it is her way of talking and mannerisms. She’s a bit high strung. She adds an interesting element to the mix, but I am fully satisfied with not getting too much of that element most weeks. Jaeger, on the other hand, I loved on Eli Stone, and he and I went to the same college, Otterbein in Westerville, Ohio (though we were not there at the same time), so I’m probably a bit biased. But I can’t get enough of Joel.

     This show is really about those four siblings and their loves interests, so sometimes the other actors, especially the children, don’t have a lot to do. And that’s fine for the younger kids, of course, though less so for the teenagers. Sure, Haddie (Sarah Ramos) and Amber (Mae Whitman) have been fleshed out. That could stem from the fact that wonderful actresses with resumes were cast in those parts. However, Drew (Miles Heizer) feels underused. He actually had some emotional moments in “Happy Thanksgiving”, and it makes me hope they will do more with him. I feel like Heizer, though perhaps not as experienced as the girls, can handle the part, as evidenced by his bonding with his grandfather last week.

     Speaking of Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), I am growing weary of his marital troubles with Camille (Bonnie Bedelia). I feel like their affairs were written in because the writers weren’t sure what else to give the two parents of the clan. But that was last season. Normally, I would applaud them for keeping the trust issues and uneasiness going into this fall, but it’s time for it to end. In fact, after “Happy Thanksgiving”, they didn’t seem any better off than they were months ago. I think if they split up, the show will repeat what Brothers & Sisters has been getting wrong lately. Parenthood does not need divorce to make it interesting. Instead, let’s let the couple reconnect and move forward.

This show is among the best currently on television. The ensemble could not be better. Like most series with wonderful, layered characters, the best moments are when many, or all, of the family get together. As the show moves into the second half of its season, I hope the writers will keep that in kind. It might not be realistic for an extended family to all go to someone’s house every week, but it makes for a heartwarming, welcome series. For the most part, Parenthood seems to be on the right track, and I hope it can sustain the ratings to continue for at least several more years.

When it returns, you can catch Parenthood Tuesday nights at 10pm on NBC.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
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