September 26, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Parenthood”


PARENTHOOD:  Thursday 10PM on NBC

It’s something of a miracle that PARENTHOOD, with its marginal-or-worse ratings, low concept and large, expensive cast, even survived to a 6th season on NBC.  Much of its luck had more to do with the collapse of the network’s schedule around it than Parenthood itself–its audience, while small, was loyal, and its content was advertiser-friendly, and that made its hour one less for NBC to worry about.  But now that the network has strengthened several of its other nights, the Grim Reaper has come to call, and this fall’s 13 episodes of Parenthood will be the last.

Last night’s season premiere, written by series creator Jason Katims and directed by Lawrence Trilling, made it clear that Parenthood‘s end certainly isn’t being forced by a lack of material.  The Braverman clan always has plenty going on, and the hour was very busy, even though one of NBC’s edicts for this last season was that the entire ensemble couldn’t appear in (and be paid for) every episode.  The major event of the hour, which presumably will ripple through these final episodes, was the collapse of Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) at a blackjack table in Las Vegas, where Sarah (Lauren Graham) had brought him as a surprise birthday present.  The cardiac “event” ended up played largely for laughs, as Sarah tried to keep Zeek under control but Adam (Peter Krause) and Crosby (Dax Shepard) were no help as the clan ended up spending the post-hospital evening in the casino.  Nevertheless, one imagines that issues of mortality will surface during this last batch of episodes.

There was much afoot with the rest of the Bravermans.  Amber (Mae Whitman) revealed her pregnancy to her visiting (and now-gay) cousin Haddie (guest star Sarah Ramos), and at the very end of the hour to her mother, who knows far too much about single motherhood.  Hank (Ray Romano, still billed as a guest star), now an official couple once again with Sarah, had his life complicated by the return to Berkeley of his ex-wife (Betsy Brandt) and disaffected teen daughter Ruby (Courtney Grosbeck).  Julia (Erika Christensen), who’s having a steamy law office romance that seems to be borrowed from Mistresses, is also being pursued by repentant and once again wonderful Joel (Sam Jaeger), Adam and Kristina (Monica Potter) are ready to open the charter school they were planning last season, despite son  Max’s (Max Burkholder) initial refusal to participate.  We even got a glimpse of Drew (Miles Heizer) and now-official girlfriend Natalie (Lyndon Smith) as they helped with the painting of the new school.

As loaded with plot–some of it melodramatic–as Parenthood is, one of its strengths has always been its willingness to slow things down and let us enjoy its fine cast interacting with one another, with dialogue that’s sometimes improvised.  The Amber/Haddie reunion was one of those sequences in the premiere, a lovely bit where the two young women chatted about the changes in their lives while they hung out on their old high school football field.  Another was a morning scene between Sarah and Hank before his family arrived that showcased Graham’s and Romano’s comic rapport.  There are hardly any shows on TV, network, cable or streaming, as devoted to depicting the way ordinary people genuinely are with one another.  (That even includes Katims’ own About A Boy, a sitcom that improved during its first season but still pushes too hard.)

Parenthood, in short, is going to be missed, at least by the comparatively few of us who have stuck with it through all its timeslots and hiatuses and what often appeared to be its systematic shunning by the NBC marketing department.  Its premiere rating last night was even lower than last year’s (although a mere tenth below the incessantly-hyped Mysteries of Laura), so one can’t really quarrel with the network’s decision that it’s finally time to fold up the show’s tents.  We will, at least, have twelve more weeks of the Bravermans in all their resplendent, messy glory.

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."