55 Thoughts After Watching (Nearly) 4 Seasons of Parenthood

55 Thoughts After Watching (Nearly) 4 Seasons of Parenthood

Welcome to another episode of Sarah's Netflix Binges! Up next: Jason Katim's post-Friday Night Lights vehicle, Parenthood. 

I fought watching this show for, well, the entire time it's been on. Then, I got really bored in December because I wasn't teaching and didn't have any work projects lined up, so I did what any red-blooded America would do and watched a ton of television. Finally, I'd run out of options, realizing that I really had a problem if I was thinking watching season three of Friday NIght Lights for the tenth time was a viable option, and queued up Parenthood on the Roku.

(Unpaid endorsement: I ♥ our Roku so much--it's up their with our SodaStream on my Official List of Things More Awesome Than They Seem Like They Should Be.)

Naturally, I have some thoughts...

NBC's Parenthood - Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

#1-3 - I kind of hate Kristina. I feel badly for her, because she’s gotten a tough shake, but she infuriates me. She’s judgemental an inflexible. And it makes sense for her character, but still… And I know her storyline this season is supposed to make me more sympathetic to her, but she really frustrates me. 

#4 - I absolutely love Julia. Is this an unpopular position? I think she's really sympathetic and I find her struggles the most relatable on the show.

#5-9 - I have extremely mixed feelings about Peter Krause. I loved him in Sports Night. But his character in Six Feet Under infuriated me in the end. However, while I unsure about him in the first season of Parenthood, I loved where his character went in the second season. Especially when he punched that guy. More punching, less whining, Peter.

Parenthood - Adam Braverman/Peter Krause, on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

#10 - What happened with that bad property deal? Did I miss an episode or what it just dropped?

#11 - Which brings me to my biggest complaint with Parenthood... the money stuff. The financial issues--or rather, the lack of authentic handling of financial issues--in this series really bothers me.

Zeek’s home is threatened by a bad real estate deal, then it’s all okay. Adam loses his job and the family magically has enough savings to keep him going and invest in a new business while paying for Max’s incredibly expensive Asberger’s treatments AND invest in a new business AND send their daughter to Cornell (even after declining a lucrative buyout of their business). Then we have Julia impulsively quitting her job when she’s the only breadwinner and it looks like it’s all going to be okay. None of these characters ever have to make lifestyle compromises despite financial struggles that are always resolved seamlessly—in an expensive city like Berkley.

It’s hard not to compare the way Parenthood handles these issues to Katim’s other show, Friday Night Lights, where characters are rejected for mortgages, live in trailers without plumbing, can’t buy their dream home with his and hers closets and can’t afford tuition at a public university—all in the low-rent down of Dillon, Texas.

#12 How adorable is Jabbar? That kid is probably the most adorable child actor on television at the moment. And he's actually quite good in his role.

Parenthood - Jabbar, on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

#13 What is Haddie short for? That has to be a nickname.

#14-16 It’s so interesting how Kristina really doesn’t want her daughter to ever grow up. I think this is a pretty realistic portrayal. Despite that both Kristina and Haddie frustrate the hell out of me, I think the portrayal of their relationship is one of the most realistic on the show. The father-child relationships tend to be a bit idealized, and sappy, but these two nail it. 

#17 It was kind of a mind#$%@ to see Vince Howard’s mom playing a marriage counselor, right?

VInce Howard aka Michael B Jordan aka Alex from Parenthood, on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

#18-22 I have many feelings about Alex aka Vince aka Michael B. Jordan:

  • It is mind-blowing how Michael B. Jordan steals every scene he’s in.
  • How is he not wildly famous at this point? 
  • As much as I love the Alex character, Haddie ultimately wasn’t mature enough for him. 
  • Michael B. Jordan has to have a fantastic agent--he just gets great television roles.
  • That last scene of his on the show, you can see in his eyes that he knows he was never part of the Braverman clan, even though none of them realize it. Brilliant.

#23 I love Amber. 

Amber Braverman and Luke Cafferty - Parenthood, on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

#24 Seriously, she's great. Amber's the only character who's consistently flawed and it's not glossed over. 

#25 Am I the only one who finds it disconcerting that Dax from Punked (Crosby) is not a terrible actor? So weird.

#26 I am an only child, so I find the sibling dynamics in this show confusing and fascinating.

#27 Related: Parenthood kind of increases my terror of large extended families.

#28-29 Except when they have a dance party. We need to have more dance parties at my house. 

#30 Though, as much as I like the dance parties, I really, really think this may have been the dumbest thing I've seen on a generally good television show.

#31-33 It's interesting to me that Crosby is portrayed the family screw-up because, really, besides Julia, he's the most career-minded of any of the Braverman clan. He's a freaking sound engineer, which is, like, an actual skill. It's not like Adam, who just kind of fell into working for a shoe company.

#34-35 The Julia-Joel trying to get pregnant storyline was way TMI. And I know people actually are like that, but it made me super skeeved out. And then when Kristina walks in on them and offers to let them use the bed… good grief. See, these large, extended family scenarios freak me out.

#36 Related: I am really bothered how the adoption storyline has been handled on all fronts. It seems like an un-nuanced manifestation of every adoptive family's worst fears. And while I'm not an expert on the subject, it seems like there were a ton of liberties taken with the way adoption is handled, which is strange, because they get Max's autism so right (from what I understand). 

#37 WIth that said, the actress who played Zoe did a wonderful job with that role--she really came across as sympathetic, which is saying something, considering that I think we were supposed to dislike her.

#38-46 FNL cast members spotted in Parenthood:

  • Vince Howard
  • Lyla Garrity
  • Mama Howard (Mama and Papa Braverman's marriage counselor)
  • Buddy Jr. (Drew punches him in the face)
  • Luke Cafferty (he was great)
  • Joel (Julia's hot-ish husband) was the Under Armour salesman who Coach writes a personal check to for East Dillon uniforms in season four
  • Billy Riggins (random best man at Crosby's wedding, playing a guy named Billy)
  • I am convinced the woman Billy danced with at Crosby's wedding was Tyra's mom

#47 I’m pretty sure Lyla/Gaby just pulled out her wardrobe from FNL for her Parenthood guest appearances. So many dress and boots combinations. 

Gaby/Lyla Garrity on Parenthood - on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

#48-50 Jason Katims may be writing FNL fan fiction in some of these episodes.

Exhibit A: Adam & Kristina discovering Haddie and Alex having sex is pretty much the same scenario as Coach and Mrs. Coach finding out that Matt and Julie are having sex. The reaction is pretty much the same, except not as well acted. Don’t get me wrong, the acting is good, but Peter Krause just doesn’t pull off the horrified dad like Kyle Chandler. 

Exhibit B: The thing that happens with Drew and Amy. (That was one of the few newer episodes I've really liked, incidentally.)

Exhibit C: Victor’s baseball team is name the Panthers. 

#51 I wish I liked Lauren Graham more as Sarah Braverman. I find her very wish-washy and it seems strange, because she's got great chemistry with all the other actors. I can't figure out why I don't love her in Parenthood.

Sarah Braverman - Parenthood, on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

#52 What the hell is Ray Romano doing on this show?!

#53-55 Honestly, I enjoyed the first two and a half or so seasons of Parenthood far more than the latter episodes. Max's autism isn't as much of an issue as it was in earlier episodes, and I think that its reduced role has impacted the dynamics in the Adam-Kristina household in a was that makes the show less compelling. Amber's story with Luke Cafferty this season was great television, but she hasn't been in the show as much, either, and it definitely suffers for it. And I am really weary of Sarah's trouble with men. 

So do you watch Parenthood?

I agree that it's a good show, but I am a bit puzzled by the number of people who rank it up there with FNL in terms of quality dramas. For me, it's missing  authentic conflict, or it seems like the stakes aren't as high as they could be--whenever something bad happens to one of the characters, I'm not too worried, because I'm pretty confident that everything will work out, because in the world of Parenthood, it always does.


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