‘Parenthood’ Mid-Season Review: How is it fairing thus far?

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As Parenthood approaches it’s mid-term mark, it’s a good time to gauge how Season 4 is progressing. My inclination is to discuss each character, so here we go.

Zeek

Oh, Zeek.  At times, he risks becoming a caricature of the typical ‘bumbling’ older dad/grandfather. Craig T. Nelson usually manages to avoid going completely OTT with Zeek, but it’s sometimes a very near thing. Perhaps the best moments for Zeek occur with daughter Sarah and with grandkids Drew and Max. There you best see the gruff, but always devoted patriarch.

Camille

Camille just needs to be in the show more.  She is the solid center to the entire Braverman clan and her quiet wisdom is sorely under-used. In the most recent episode “Together”, Camille showed that mature compassion to daughter-in-law Kristina. Kristina and Camille have mostly had an awkward relationship, one that’s never been fully explained. But with this episode we learned that Kristina’s own Mom isn’t present in her life, and has actually declined to come stay with Kristina while she undergoes chemotherapy.  This helps illustrate that Kristina, in perhaps a perverse way, actually resents Camille’s genuine warmth and love. She wants that to come from her OWN mother. But Camille perseveres (as loving mothers do) and shows Kristina she will always be there for her. She even physically proves it, by gifting Kristina with a sweater, passed down from cancer survivor to cancer survivor–a sort of cozy talisman to keep one warm, literally and symbolically,  during treatment.

(See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU4pE6Vme3k for the true story of the “cancer sweater”)

Adam

Adam is the most grounded of the Braverman children. He’s a dedicated husband, father and oldest brother to his three siblings. He strives to do the right thing and has a pretty unshakeable moral compass. Peter Krause does a superb job making Adam very upright, but always likeable. But with Season 3, we’re seeing Adam’s world shift off its axis and it’s revealing interesting layers to the eldest child.  As his wife Kristina battles cancer, we’re also witnessing the effect on Adam. On the one hand, I love this less-perfect reveal of Adam, but that said, his storylines are almost always in REACTION to another–his wife, his kids, his brother Crosby, etc. Personally, I’d like to see Adam have a strong plot line that strictly comes from him. The character is interesting enough to warrant his own organic storyline.

Kristina

Adam’s wife is anal, a bit neurotic and high-strung. She’s also generous, loving and a devoted Mom. Kristina is a character you should hate, but one you dearly love. The “big” storyline this year is, of course, her breast cancer diagnosis. I have a similar love/hate relationship with this entire arc. It’s hard to watch, but wonderfully acted. It’s uncomfortable to watch, but it’s a good way to develop core characters. It’s painful to watch, but it’s accurately written.  My hope is that the writers continue to write this one realistically. They can’t cop out on it now. So far, Kristina, as a character, is indeed growing with her diagnosis. She’s not just the helicopter parent anymore.

Sarah

Sarah can be the best character on the show, or the worst. This season, I’m loving her burgeoning relationship with Hank. In my opinion, it’s the best storyline of the season. While it lacks the high drama of Kristina’s cancer, it’s funny, romantic, interesting and, well, just fun. I like seeing Sarah play off both fiancée Mark and boss/crush Hank. The contrast between the two men, and her different relationship with both, is awesome.  That said, Sarah is sometimes such a moron that it gets frustrating to watch this grown (almost middle-aged) woman continue to act like such a child.  Sometimes that’s part of her lovely charm (i.e. when she won over Hank’s sourpuss teenage daughter) and sometimes it’s just really annoying (like when she embarrasses the hell out of her own children.)

While we’re discussing Sarah, may I just say again, MORE HANK, PLEASE!

Julia

Julia and Joel. Insert yawns here.  I’ve made no secret that the adopting Victor storyline is my least-favorite of the season.  The stereotypes and clichés perpetuated with this one are almost too numerous to mention. So I’ll just say I hope they wrap it up very soon, or maybe Joel, Julia and Victor can begin all over? Preferably overseas?

Crosby

Crosby is a lot less visible this season. That’s a shame, as the youngest Braverman is such a fascinating contradiction. Irresponsible, and a real rascal,  but always loving and loyal;  and watching him mature and evolve has been a real pleasure. I hope the next half shows us more of Crosby’s development as a husband, dad, brother and businessman. One bright spot: how solid a brother to Adam he’s become. In “Together”, Crosby takes at-the-end-of-his-rope Adam out for a beer. As Adam begins to reveal his fear over the chemo treatments, Crosby just listens. He allows his brother to admit how scared he is over how sick Kristina is about to become, with no judgements, and no interruptions. He simply gives Adam exactly what he needs, in that single moment.

The Braverman Kids

While it’s not really fair to lump all these characters into one paragraph; in the interest of space;  that’s exactly what I’m doing. Amber, so far, has the meatiest story this season, with her “let’s take it slow but sleep together by the second date” romance with Ryan. I love Matt Lauria (Texas Forever!) so I won’t say no to this development. That said, as a character,  I actually prefer Amber’s brother Drew.  So his recent shift to the forefront is a welcome one.

Haddie and Max are evolving into more interesting and mature people as their mother battles cancer and I like them both a lot for it. I was a 15-year-old teenager when my own Mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer, so perhaps that’s why I relate to them so strongly right now.  Their attitudes and responses have been both accurate and well-acted.

Jabbar

Who? He’s been a rare sight this year and the same can be said for Jasmine, Crosby’s wife and Jabbar’s mom. We may see more as the season hits the back half. But for now, I got nothing.

With just a few exceptions, the overall strength of the core characters is really the secret to Parenthood’s success. The Bravermans are complicated, interesting, fundamentally decent folks and it’s almost always a pleasure to glimpse into their lives.

 

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