When asked about God during the show’s story arc - in this 9/11 premiere episode of Season 4 of Parenthood - former “Coach” Craig T. Nelson quipped back, as family patriarch Zeek Braverman: “Didn’t we give you baseball!” Only fans of Nelson, who starred in the legendary TV sitcom “Coach,” that aired for nine seasons on ABC from 1989 to 1997, could get his sports analogy of baseball being akin to experiencing God. After all this is American television and other than TV evangelists begging for money in God’s name, no primetime TV drama show – other than Ron Howard’s “Parenthood” - would dare to raise the “G” word for God. After all, people watching at home usually tune in to primetime network TV for shows about sex mixed with action or a drama about revenge or killing that seems to define most vulgar programs on television today.
However, this was the premiere episode of the fourth and much shorter fourth season of Parenthood; with NBC only ordering a much reduced 15 episodes for this beleaguered family drama series that suffered poor ratings last season.
And, this was the first show of the new series that just happened to air on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Thus, the Sept. 11 airing of “Parenthood’s” return to primetime was received with mix reviews and numerous tweets asking why “God” was being featured as a main theme for this episode.
Zeek Braverman waiting for God
Fans of “Parenthood” know that the family patriarch Zeek Braverman – portrayed by the 68-year-old Emmy-winning actor Craig T. Nelson – is suffering from heart and other health problems that have forced this father and grandfather to admit he’s “waiting for God.”
Thus, the Sept. 11 premiere episode of Parenthood’s fourth season was not shy in evoking the theme of God and prayer after Crosby caught his seven-year-old son Jabbar (Tyree Brown) not watching TV or playing with video games, but doing something almost never mentioned on primetime television, and that’s praying to God.
In turn, the little boy Jabbar tells his father that he’s simply praying for him and his mother, their family and that “God will keep us together.” After all, Jabbar faced the break-up of his mother and father during this past season of Parenthood.
For instance, nobody laughs at God in intensive care at the hospital or when a cop knocks at your door with bad news. Thus, this family drama show – produced by famed director Ron Howard – is attempting to say, during its return on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, that when you really pay attention, everything is your teacher.
What does God have to do with it, asks Camille
The cast of Parenthood, led by “Baby Boomers” Craig T. Nelson - as patriarch Zeek Braverman - and his long-suffering wife and matriarch Camille Braverman, played by TV and film veteran Bonnie Bedelia, brings a gentle awareness to the many layers of parenting during this family drama series that recently asked about God and prayer during its 9/11 premiere episode.
Camille reminds her concerned son Crosby (Dax Shepard) that she and Zeek found God during the Sixties when “we explored our spiritual side. We worked in a Commune, we were Buddhists for a time, and we explored Tantric love.”
In turn, Crosby asks: “What did you take away from that experience?”
Camille answers that “God is right here in our family. Son, it’s something that you have to discover for yourself.”
A father finds God through his son
Later, Crosby is asked about “his belief system,” and “what’s your doctrine” by his strict African-American mother-in-law who taught her grandson Jabbar how to get down on his knees at night and pray to God.
At this point in the “Parenthood” episode, this is where the show’s writers can see that questions about God are more than just a unique manifestation from a little boy.
Thus, as the curtain of understanding lifts for father Crosby; who at the end of the episode finds a place of connectedness that he understands is part of his deepest self that he wants to open from his heart for son Jabbar.
Who are we humans in this vast universe?
This first episode of season four of "Parenthood" ends with father and son - Crosby and Jabbar - looking up at the night sky and wondering about God and their place in the vast universe; while the 30-something father admits to his son “that I’m pretty blessed. I’m blessed by something.”
Overall, the parents realized again that God, for them, is the “love” they share.
Parenthood’s new fourth season returns to its regular Tuesday airtime on NBC; with continuing episodes about the Braverman family with the show on at 10/9c.
Image source of veteran actor Craig. T. Nelson who plays the “Parenthood” patriarch Zeek Braverman as a 68-year-old much like himself in real life. Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_T._Nelson