Parenthood: Season 5
One type of television series that seems to be on the decline in popularity is the family drama. Arguably the ultimate in giving the audience something they can readily identify with, chose of this genre, at one time had a fairly consistent presence on the major broadcast networks. Ever since premium cable paved the way for more explicit material drama upon the trials and tribulations that confront the family has been eclipsed by families that are involved in crime or have supernatural attributes. For the last five seasons, the traditional broadcast network, NBC, has done their part to revive this type of program with ‘Parenthood’. While the archetype premise is concerned with a close knit, working-class family, the subject of ‘Parenthood’, is the Braverman family, a rather large, multigenerational family structure. The benefit of such a large ensemble cast is that the storylines can utilize a number of different situations and personalities. The series began on a very strong footing. But over the last couple of seasons has slipped a bit taking on many elements of the melodramatic soap opera. Still, it is a far sight better than teenagers becoming werewolves and vampires fighting supernatural occult forces while still trying to find the right dress prom. ‘Parenthood’, may have lost some of its initial impact and freshness, but it still has retained a definite feeling of familiarity. So much effort has been given to fully developing the characters, after five seasons, most fans have a sense of knowing the Bravermans and watching episodes is like visiting old family friends. The fifth season is under consideration here, and it should be noted that the sixth and final season debut shortly.
Zeke (Craig T. Nelson) and his wife Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) started off with four children now the family has grown to include spouses and nine grandchildren. This is not an unusual situation, but from a television writer’s perspective, it is a gold mine of potential. You have three generations of characters and situations that run the gamut from the challenges of a marriage that has endured for many decades down to grade school bullying. In this fifth season, the grandchild count went up by one achieving the above cited number when the youngest of the original brood, Crosby (Dax Shepard), and his wife, Jasmine ((Joy Bryant), had their second child together, Aida. It had already had a son together, Jabbar (Tyree Brown). Overall, the Braverman family is rather exceptionally close knit, possibly too much so for the comfort both many of its members. In a clan like this a newborn baby exerts the gravitational pull of a black hole growing all the others family members around. Jasmine finds this exceptionally trying as she just wants to get used to being home with a new infant again and get her bearings on a new routine. Julia (Erika Christensen) was fourth in birth order and successful corporate lawyer.
The first born of Zeke and Camille, Adam (Peter Krause) and his wife, Kristina (Monica Potter) are still dealing with their own issues after Kristina’s recent fight with cancer. They barely have time to react for me to life when Kristina becomes involved with a campaign for mayor, eventually seeking the office herself. The oldest child, Haddie (Sarah Ramos) has been arraigned school and therefore absent for most episodes, but returns with a friend Lauren (Seema Lazar), who turns out to be more than just a friend. Adams younger sister, a middle child, Sarah (Lauren Graham), was usually rather aimless, a trait shared to some extent by her younger brother, Crosby. Sarah’s oldest, Amber (Mae Whitman), has always been strong willed, intelligent and rebellious. She has been close to her cousin Patty and moved out of her own a couple of seasons back. Most recently, a distrust of her father, Seth Holt (John Corbett), has begun to initiate a relationship with them. Hoping to propagate his sense of reality to the myriad of interwoven stories, the involvement of individual family members undergoes an ebb and flow as the focus of the various episodes. Taking center stage most frequently in this penultimate season is Kristina’s campaign and the new addition to Crosby and Jasmine’s branch of the family tree. This doesn’t mean the others are completely left out of the proceedings. Sarah’s relationship with a younger man, Mark (Jason Ritter), is threatened when she puts her job working for Hank Rizzoli (Ray Romano), a photographer. Another situation that is always the source of family drama is an impending wedding. In this instance, the nuptials are between Crosby and Jasmine and understandably results in a lot of Braverman turmoil.
Amber’s character off this season pays considerable attention helping her younger brother, Drew (Miles Heizer), as he enters the tumultuous teen years. Amber is shown to be a caring person, always willing to help others out, and emotional growth from her rather turbulent teenage years. Natural musician herself, Amber goes to work at the recording studio, uncles, Crosby and Adam. She meets Ryan York (Matt Lauria), the young veteran of the Afghanistan war. The relationship becomes more serious than Amber expected resulting in a considerable amount of introspection. There are some well-drawn contrasts present in the Braverman family. While Crosby has always been a bit of a free spirit, is directly juxtaposed with Julia, who was exceptionally organized borderline obsessive. In this season, Julia realized that her job was interfering with her involvement with the family. The previous season led to her resigning from her job to spend more time at home. In this season, the reality of suburban life begins to take its toll. Another contrast occurs between Adam and Kristina’s son, Max (Max Burkholder), and his cousin, Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae). Max is on the high end of the autism spectrum, while Sydney has been placed in a class for gifted children. Both are exceptionally bright but the stigma associated with autism makes Max’s mainstreaming very difficult. The boy does blossom at school and at home due in large part to his close friendship with his cousin, Jabbar.
There is always been a distinctive quiet strength associated with this program. Even if some of the storylines have a propensity for the melodramatic the series remains a showcase for some of the best performances on television. The reason for this, the very heart of the series is the remarkable ensemble cast and the undeniable chemistry they have generated over the years. There is also a very solid sense of reality, perhaps not completely to the number and expense of the situations that are presented, but to the often convoluted into family relationships. Originally, Adam and Crosby were separated by the differences in work ethic. Once Crosby decided to use his talent as a recording engineer for his own business rather than working for someone else, he managed to convince Adam to contribute his business acumen to the project. The growth in this relationship is indicative of the entire series. The downside being that eventually the equilibrium has to be achieved for the any dramatic poignant moment seems to be contrived. Perhaps they just don’t like to think that any family could be beset by so much conflict and diversity, but that is a rather true reflection of real-life. The six season will be the swansong was following the Braverman family, but at least in this fifth season, the series has maintained its core values and talent on both sides of the camera.