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Friday, January 30, 2015

A Farewell to "Parenthood"

I will announce right up front that there are spoilers here if you haven't watched the last episode!

With the end of the NBC series, "Parenthood" after 5 1/2 seasons, we have lost one of the few dramas on TV that isn't about murders, espionage, politics or medical crises. It was a series that was from its inception, about family.

"Parenthood" was about the Braverman family. The matriarch and patriarch, and their four adult offspring and their families. There were no forensics, no trials, no politics, well, except that one time when Kristina ran for office. It was about family and the lives lived within it.

It was that simple, and that complicated. And it was probably one of the most underrated series on television. Choosing to focus on the simple, the everyday, and beautifully so, it sadly fell under the radar for many viewers and critics.

For most of us, this is what life is. The drama is in the relationships, the ups, the downs, our jobs, and our children. Rarely have the nuances of real life been portrayed so well.

"Parenthood" always struggled in the ratings. Something I never understood. The cast was stellar, the writing spot-on and rich, and the characters all thoughtfully developed and multi-dimensional. But somehow it was always on the bubble as to whether it would be renewed or not.

There is I am sure criticism about being a bit of a tearjerker, but I would posit that it wasn't because it was overly dramatic or maudlin. The issues that the Braverman's struggled with were issues so many of us do. Aging parents, cancer, marital strife, substance abuse,  adoption, interracial marriage, a child struggling with Asperger's, financial stresses...these are among the things that many of us face.

This is what life is. It is being handed what feels like so much more than you can handle, and yet somehow you do. You hopefully find the support you need, and you get through. "Parenthood" was one of the very few series on network television that showed what real life looks like.

This was a series that had some of the best writing and direction seen on the small screen. At least on network television. The agility in which the writers kept all of the characters engaged, their story lines ever-evolving, was nothing short of masterful. The direction was always beautiful and unobtrusive.

And the cast. What can you say about this cast? What can't you say? They were brilliant, and their love and appreciation for each other shone through in every scene. Especially in this last season. Craig T. Nelson was masterful at portraying an aging man making choices about his health, and what he wanted his life, and its end to look like. Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Ray Romano - in a role that showed a depth I never knew he had. Monica Potter, Dax Shepard, Bonnie Bedelia, and all of those talented children and supporting cast. Amazing. I don't know when we'll see a more talented cast assembled.

So let's talk about the tears. There was never an episode that didn't have me reaching for the tissues. And I think that's a good thing. Unlike a Nicholas Sparks' story, these tearful scenes were because the writing was so good, so moving. I never felt manipulated or like I wanted to throw something at the screen, which has been my inclination during an aforementioned Sparks sobfest. I cried because I could relate. No, I don't have a child with Asperger's, but I am a mom, and I know how it feels to love your child and to want everything to be okay for them.

More than anything, for me the appeal was that there were many times I wanted to leap in and be part of the big, messy and far-from-perfect Braverman family. Of course they could be a pain in the neck, and if I were a Braverman (oh, how I love saying that almost out loud) I am sure I would grow weary of them. But most of the time, almost all of the time, I would want to be swept up in a family that shows up. They show up for school events, meals together, and they love each other.

That's what I will miss. In a world of back-stabbing, scandals and procedurals, it was refreshing to spend an hour a week with family. Family that you know no matter what has your back.We are all so far flung, there is no way a regular Friday night dinner would be possible for most of us.

I can think of very few series finales that were as moving and true to the show as this. I admit within the first four minutes I was already crying, and by the end, after Zeek's death, I had soaked my cat's fur as I clung to him.

It might have not broken ratings records.but this show, (ever so loosely based on the movie of the same name) brought to TV by the very talented Jason Katims will I am sure, go down in history as one of the best dramas to grace our screens.

I refuse to say goodbye to the Braverman's. They will forever be in my heart, as well-crafted characters are wont to do. I will be forever grateful for all the hard work and talent that went into producing this show. Thank you for giving me a good reason to cry, a reason to feel, and something to aspire to as a mom, and a writer.

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