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It doesn’t get a lot of attention, but ‘Parenthood’ deserves praise

Alan Pergament

In the age of the DVR and On Demand, NBC’s “Parenthood” is one of only three series that I watch live and don’t time shift.

The other two are “The Good Wife” and “Mad Men,” though I’m not so sure how much longer I am going to give Don Draper such devotion on Sunday night.

I chose NBC’s Parenthood” over ABC’s “Scandal,” which proves I’m not normal around here.

I say that somewhat proudly.

Last week’s warm, sweet, emotional season finale of “Parenthood” – which could end up being its series finale – had a 3.2 live rating on Channel 2 on April 17. The same night “Scandal” ended its season with a 7.3 live rating on Channel 7.

Nationally, “Scandal” had three times as many viewers aged 18 through 49 – the money demographic – than “Parenthood.”

I hope NBC realizes that it is doubtful that anything NBC would put on at 10 p.m. Thursday could challenge the outrageousness of “Scandal.”

I also hope that “Parenthood” gets a big bump in time-shift viewing in the two weeks before NBC decides whether to renew it.

I have anecdotal evidence that I’m not alone around here in thinking that the cancellation of “Parenthood” would be a crying shame.

The blog before the finale was one of the more popular I’ve written about entertainment programs in the last year. My role primarily is to write about local news and local programming and occasionally weigh in on prime-time programs when I think it is important.

I think saving “Parenthood” is important. Interestingly, a couple of guys in local news were among those who joined my concern that the story of the Bravermans was going to end after five seasons. Who knew that local news developed such softies?

“Parenthood” is one of the few TV series that packs an emotional wallop that can lead to weekly tears. A family drama, it can’t rely on murders, fires or silly scandals to attract audiences.

It certainly can’t compete with “Scandal,” which features a president and a vice president who both are murderers.

“Scandal” is a series that prides itself on how ridiculous it can be. It reminds me of a less plausible version of “Dallas,” with the ethically challenged president played by Tony Goldwyn protected by a chief of staff, Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry), who has J.R. Ewing’s principles.

I admire series star Kerry Washington’s ability to keep a straight face as Olivia Pope, the so-called fixer whose family life is more of a mess than the Ewings and Barnes who roamed on the first version of “Dallas.” For a strong woman, she sure cries a lot.

I guess that is supposed to make viewers sympathize with her character. But there really aren’t any “Scandal” characters worth rooting for.

Some of my good friends swear by “Scandal” and I’ve really tried to understand why besides Washington’s appeal. But I watch more to educate myself more about people’s guilty pleasures and tastes than because I love the craziness of the plots.

The finale was as crazy as ever and the conspiracy plot involving Olivia’s warring mother and father is getting a little too complicated. “Scandal” seems to be a series that will fall as quickly as it rose – say after one more crazy season.

My taste is more suited to “Parenthood,” which has something for every demographic and this season tugged at the heartstrings in multiple relatable ways.

There was the story of the show’s patriarch and matriarch, Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia), first disagreeing about downsizing the family home and then warmly embracing the idea and each other in a way anyone would want their parents to do. The final scene without dialogue in which the Bravermans had a family meal was poignant.

The story of daughter-in-law Kristina (Monica Potter) and son Adam (Peter Krause), fighting for their now teenage son Max (Max Burkholder) with Asperger syndrome to have as normal an education and life experience as possible was heartbreaking and heartwarming. Potter, whose character has battled cancer and a lost political election, gives a weekly performance that practically demands an Emmy Award.

The story of daughter Julia (Erika Christensen) and son-in-law Joel (Sam Jaeger) battling marriage issues that led to a separation has changed the Braverman family dramatic, especially with their two confused children. I’m told Julia’s pain and discomfort with being in limbo resonates with anyone who has been separated. There was a sign of hope for their marriage to be saved in the finale.

The story of daughter Sarah (Lauren Graham) got mixed reviews from some readers who didn’t find her dropping a perfect, handsome, world-renowned doctor plausible. That enabled her to be free to sort through her feelings with a photographer, Hank (Ray Romano), a good guy who fears he has Asperger’s and is trying to learn how to express his feelings better. Romano just might get an Emmy nomination for playing a sweet guy trying to change himself.

The stories of Sarah’s children, Amber (Meg Whitman) and Drew (Miles Helzer), navigating the new rules of young adult romance that are even more complicated than the old complicated ones are educational. Amber’s story is even more complicated because of her broken engagement to a military man who had trouble re-entering society after becoming a civilian and then rejoined the service. Her final scene suggested that the show might deal with a pregnancy if it returns. I’m not so sure about that story line or the need to throw it out there.

Then there’s the comic relief of son Crosby (Dax Shepard), the free spirit of the Braverman children. He has settled down with his wife, Jasmine (Joy Bryant), and two children but had to move them all into his childhood home because of mold at his family home brought about by his own incompetence.

Of course, this is TV and some solutions can seem to be a little too optimistic and manipulative. But let’s face it, we all wish our problems could be easily solved and many of us prefer happy endings and a good cry over murdering presidents and vice presidents.

I’m not so optimistic that NBC will allow “Parenthood” to supply these moving moments for one more season because this entire emotional season seems to have been built toward a series ending at the final meal.

But I really, really hope that I am wrong and “Parenthood” will be back in some way – either in a shortened season or in a movie that ends the Braverman story with one prolonged good cry.


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