Monday, March 26, 2012

TV Review: Parenthood

I really, really liked Parenthood this last season. I loved, loved, loved the longterm storytelling technique. Few shows would have the patience or grace to pull off such a tactic, but Parenthood pulled it off beautifully. Not all the story lines worked all the time--cough, Julia's near stalking of the coffee cart girl, cough--but they all worked well enough, enough of the time to satisfy me.

My favourite surprise story of this season was Drew's. For the first few seasons, the show was barely aware Drew even existed. This season, though, he got to shine, through his first romance. I have always loved Drew. He is one of the only legitimately shy characters on tv, and, of course, I can relate to that. What I loved about this season is that they didn't change Drew's character. They allowed him to be in a relationship, but still be his quiet, shy, reserved, anxious self. This produced many sweet moments between him and his girlfriend Amy. There were also some very real moments between Drew and Sarah, Drew and Amber, Drew and Seth, and even Drew and Mark. I loved every one.

I also quite enjoyed the romance between Sarah and Mark. I mean, I've loved Jason Ritter ever since I saw Raise Your Voice, but I thought he did a particularly good job here. At times, Mark seemed unrealistic--too perfect, too patient, too understanding. But, for the most part, the show did a good job of keeping such problems at bay. Towards the end of the season especially, they spotlighted Mark's naiveté, and the basic problems of the age difference and generational difference between him and Sarah. Maybe, sometimes, Mark was a little too perfect. But I loved him so much I didn't care. I died during the "I want to have a baby with you" moment. It was amazing.

I found the Crosby-Adam storyline more uneven. I didn't hate the secretary/cheating story. Didn't love it though. Also didn't love some of the awkward Cee Lo Green stuff and the Adam being cool stuff. Sometimes, I wanted to kill Kristina for all her butting in. But, on the whole, I was happy. I mean, I hated that Adam always got to be the good guy, and, no matter what, Crosby was always viewed as the screw up. But that's frustration with life, not the show. I find Crosby and Adam's relationship pretty fascinating, so it was a pleasure to simply watch it in action.

In this respect, the finale frustrated me. The show did such a great job all season portraying the money struggles of Adam's family. Then, in the finale, when he's given an opportunity to solve them all, he doesn't take it. He tells Haddie she can have it all, all she's worked so hard for all these years, but then he takes that back. In the finale at least, there were no repercussions. I really hope there are next season.

Generally, though, I liked the finale. Drew and Amy had sweet small moments. Jasmine and Crosby finally got their happily ever after. Now, I may have thought the whole separated parents storyline might have been a little bit more interesting to see longterm, but I don't really care. I just liked seeing them so happy. I also liked that Mark might stick around--he's just so sweet, I don't want to see him go.

Then, of course, there's the whole Julia/Joel ending. Personally, I liked it. Unlike many critics, I didn't feel tricked by the whole "sky baby" thing. I love that they got an older kid. I think that offers many, many fascinating stories for next year. On the whole, the adoption story line was messy and a little clunky. But, in my opinion, they nailed the ending, and I'm optimistic they can continue they story well next season.

I also loved that the finale functioned so well as both a season and series finale. To me, that is a real achievement. Throughout this post I’ve been talking about next season, next season, next season. Given the relatively low ratings of the show, there may not be a next season. If so, I really think the final episode is a good end to the series. Everyone is left in a happy, satisfied place. Crosby has Jasmine, Jabbar, and a successful business. Adam has Kristina and the kids and Crosby and everything. He may not have all the money he needs, but he has people who love him. Sarah has Mark. Drew has Amy. Amber is actually pursuing something resembling a career path. Haddie is going to Cornell. Julia and Joel have their new little boy. Everyone has at least some degree of a happy ending.

At the same time, though, there are now a ton of new stories to tell. What is going to happen with Sarah and Mark? Are they actually going to get married? What will be the fall out of Adam’s decision? Will Crosby and Jasmine really be able to make it work? And, of course, how are Joel and Julia going to deal with their new son, who is older than their daughter? There is a ton of exciting material for next season. To me, the Joel and Julia adoption is the perfect type of cliffhanger—one which generates tons of new stories, but isn’t too ridiculous or out of step with the universe of the show.

This year both my mother and my best friend fell in love with Parenthood. Given the amazing season they had, I’d dare to suggest you’d have to be insane not to.

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