There were lots of big moments during this season of Parenthood: a birth, a wedding, a first time, an adoption. But after last night's finale, I’m forced to question why it doesn’t feel like a season where very much happened. Let me be clear about something first—this isn’t a criticism. Parenthood is one of my favorite dramas on TV. The fact that it doesn’t feel like a series with big moments, despite having many of them, is actually a testament to what makes the show so great.
There is something so natural and effortless about Parenthood—each progression is the next logical step forward. Even the missteps can be smoothed over because the end result is so satisfying. That Parenthood gives us this much drama without ever feeling like a soap, and that I can look back on a season that drove the plot forward and still feel as though I was simply watching a family grow, reflects a series at the top of its game. Parenthood is grounded and consistent. Quite simply, it’s the best family drama on television.
I don’t know how else to say it: I love Parenthood. It’s rare that I just gush about a series—as a critic, I try to keep my responses more measured, less based on gut feelings. But this is just the kind of show you fall in love with—the Bravermans are the kind of family you fall in love with. And so I’m left feeling nothing but warmth as I think back to the arcs of the show’s third season. I can nitpick the mistakes that were made along the way and the choices that I still don’t understand, but I basically just want to hug the show and tell it how much I love it, flaws and all.
It helps that the finale worked for me on so many levels: Each of the season’s storylines reached a conclusion that was honest and earned. Even the marriage of Crosby and Jasmine, which I’d initially thought would be too rushed, felt true to those characters. Of course Crosby and Jasmine would drop everything to suddenly marry each other, and of course Parenthood would give us that perfect wedding before saying goodbye for the season. (God, please just let it be for the season. I don’t want to imagine a TV landscape without the Bravermans.)
Even the plots I cared about less reached conclusions I appreciated. I’ll be honest, I had little interest in Amber and Bob Little. And if you told me I’d be at all invested in Drew and Amy’s first time having sex, I’d have been—well, mildly uncomfortable. But it all worked. These stories led to some of the episode's best moments: Amber calmly choosing work over a man, Drew and Amy sweetly (and awkwardly) falling into bed together. There’s always a lot at play on Parenthood, so it’s easy to lose track of the subtler stories—that just makes them hit harder when they do come to the forefront. This is a show where I don’t always realize I’m on board until we’ve reached our destination.
The story I was most drawn to this season, and this is likely my bias as an adopted person, was Julia and Joel’s decision to adopt another child. This is also the story that has taken the biggest toll on me emotionally: I’m glad you couldn’t see me last week when Julia realized she would not be getting Zoe’s child, and ducked into an empty room to cry while Death Cab for Cutie’s “Transatlanticism” played. (Just typing that made me a little bit weepy.) It would have been too simple to just give the couple another baby, so I admire the show’s decision to complicate matters with the adoption of an older son. I’m thrilled to see how the family adjusts.
The other plot I don’t want to see end is the relationship between Sarah and Mark, which is a testament to the performances of Lauren Graham and Jason Ritter, two actors with strong, believable chemistry. I hate the fact that the finale left us on a proposal, and I accept that if Ritter’s pilot is picked up, we may never see him on Parenthood again. I’m just glad we got something past that abrupt break-up—a chance that maybe these two can find a way to make it work. I’m rarely so invested in a TV couple, and logistics aside, I desperately want them to stay together.
Give me another season of Parenthood, NBC. Give me five more seasons of Parenthood. I don’t know that I’ll ever want to say goodbye to the Bravermans: some of the most realistic, endearingly flawed characters on television. May we continue to step into their homes every week and be a part of their family. And, you know, “may you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true, may you always know the truth, and see the lights surrounding you...”
– Will Victor be welcomed into the Braverman family?
– Is Sarah going to accept Mark’s proposal?
– Can Crosby and Jasmine learn to live together?