February 29, 2012


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


PARENTHOOD is sort of the Bizarro version of a broadcast network drama:  it shines when addressing the kind of tiny moments of human interaction that just about every other show on TV can’t be bothered to notice, but it sometimes falters when attempting the Big Event Episode that’s bread and butter for most series.
Last night’s season finale, unfortunately, was an example of the latter.  The episode, written by showrunner Jason Katims and directed by Executive Producer Lawrence Trilling, centered around the long-postponed and now very sudden wedding of Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant), but also tried to wind up, or at least advance/twist, almost all the other storylines of the season.  It was a lot to do in an hour (or what’s left of an hour after commercials and promos), and much of it felt rushed and undeveloped.

The problem was evident from the episode’s start, when Crosby’s and Jasmine’s respective current romantic interests (Courtney Ford and D.B. Woodside), both made into real human beings over several previous episodes, were dismissed in an opening montage where almost all the dialogue was drowned out by a background song.  No time!  
What followed, though, was Parenthood at its best , a messy, believable all-hands-on-deck fight between brothers Crosby and Adam (Peter Krause) because Adam had gone behind Crosby’s back to negotiate the sale of their jointly-owned recording studio.  The differing priorities of the brothers and their resulting tensions had been so well built-up over the course of the season that the explosion felt very real, and the fact that it was happening in front of the entire family managed not to seem at all gimmicky.
After that, the show had to settle down to the grim business of dealing quickly with all the season’s accumulated storylines, which led to some unusually clumsy dramaturgy.  Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger), who had just suffered the heartbreaking failure of a failed adoption when the birth mother (Rosa Salazar) changed her mind after the birth, were informed, out of the blue, that children are sometimes available on a moment’s notice when mother’s give up their rights in emergency situations, so we knew that would happen before the episode was over–which it did.  (Although the show tried to throw a bit of a curveball by making the adoptee much older than the baby we were expecting.)  Kristina (Monica Potter) had a heart-to-heart with niece Amber (Mae Whitman) to tell her she couldn’t be both employee and girlfriend of the city council candidate they both work for–and within minutes, Amber was delivering the same message and being assured that all was well, she could keep her job.  No sooner had Sarah (Lauren Graham) broken up with Mark (Jason Ritter) than he showed up at the wedding and proposed to her.  (Although if both Parenthood and the new Ritter/Katims pilot are picked up for fall, that marriage won’t be happening.)  Most awkwardly of all, Adam suddenly changed his mind about selling the studio in a contrived (non) best man toast at his brother’s wedding.   (As to which, by the way–if the studio is worth $2M+, as it clearly is, the brothers’ financial issues should ease whether they sell the place right now or not.)
Even below-par Parenthood is far better than most network 1-hours.  The show juggles an enormous number of characters with–well, usually with remarkable grace.  The cast, which also includes Craig T. Nelson (whose character amazingly survived the episode without any heart palpitations), Bonnie Bedelia, Sarah Ramos and Max Burkholder, is as well-meshed an ensemble as any on television.  Katims and his writing staff are superb at showcasing the subtle connective tissues of family life.  
Parenthood is located squarely on NBC’s bubble, with ratings that would surely get it canceled on any other network, but (especially in the last couple of weeks) in the not-so-bad range for the Peacock.  If network branding and identity still mean anything, the series, even with its occasionally flawed episodes, should be granted the opportunity to continue telling its first-rate tales of ordinary people.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."