September 13, 2012



PARENTHOOD:  Tuesday 10PM on NBC


WHERE WE WERE:  The wedding of Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant), an event long in coming, considering that they’ve been raising Jabbar (Tyree Brown) together and were initially engaged two seasons earlier.  The joyous event was made more joyous when Mark (Jason Ritter) asked Sarah (Lauren Graham) to marry him.  And after a miserable season trying to no avail to get pregnant and then pursuing an adoption that didn’t happen, Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) found out they would indeed be parents again–but of a teen boy whose mother had to give him up to the system, because she was facing a lengthy stint in jail.

WHERE WE ARE:  5 months have passed since the wedding, and when we return to the orbit of the Bravermans, it’s with a very Sunrise/Sunset vibe.  On the one hand, Julia and Joel have their newly-adopted son, Victor (Xolo Mariduena)–and he’s a cast regular, so his character isn’t going anywhere.  On the other, sadly for the family and for viewers, Haddie (Sarah Ramos) is going off to college, and in TV terms that means she’ll just recur occasionally on the show from here on.  Also, Amber (Mae Whitman) has gone to work at the recording studio run by uncles Crosby and Adam (Peter Krause).  And say hello to new extended-arc guest star Ray Romano, playing Sarah’s new boss, a photographer with a familiar wry, grumpy sense of humor.

For a relatively small-scale show, Parenthood has always been greatly ambitious, and the season premiere, written by series creator Jason Katims and directed by Lawrence Trilling, is no exception.  Within the hour, we touch on belief in God and religion, and how much parents should overtly shape the beliefs of their children, as Crosby and Jasmine learn that her mother has been tutoring Jabbar in Christian prayer, a fact that doesn’t sit well with Crosby.  There’s yet another of the show’s exquisitely drawn portraits of life with someone who has Aspergers, in this case Haddie’s brother Max (Max Burkholder), as she awkwardly tries to have a sentimental farewell from him.  And as always, there is the tension between adults trying to decide just how protective they should be of the younger generation, in this case Adam mixing business with his niece’s personal life after Amber sleeps with one of the band members cutting a record as the studio.  Also, Amber’s brother Drew (Miles Heizer) is totally getting dumped by last season’s love of his life, Amy (Skyler Day).

Parenthood is the last vestige of quality drama on NBC–a distinction that isn’t going to change with the arrivals of Revolution or Chicago Fire–and sadly it’s never featured into the awards picture (neither did Katims’ Friday Night Lights, until it was too late and the honors were posthumous).  It’s the only family show on television that tries to capture the angry, funny messiness of what a real family is like, with scenes that sometimes feel improvised and have a shaggy, off-kilter rhythm.

The cast of Parenthood continues to be flawless, and only those who failed to watch Men of a Certain Age–unfortunately, that’s the majority of viewers–will be surprised at how instantly well Romano is fitting into the ensemble (Jason Ritter is a terrific actor when he’s not toplining idiot special effects shows, but even Marc seems insecure about whether he and Sarah will last).  The initial impression of Victor as a kid who’s taking advantage of Julia and Joel and, for the love of God, stealing Max’s lizard, isn’t necessarily promising, but Parenthood has certainly earned the chance to let the character and his storyline play itself out.  The series seems completely on target to continue its low-rated (a wan 1.9 for its season premiere, and that was without regular season competition on CBS or ABC), but high-quality run.

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."