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Parenthood goes for "aesthetic" appeal of family conflict mixed with love

Dave Masko's picture

The return of NBC's Parenthood - when it premieres Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 10/9c - means one of TV’s few family-focused drama programs about love has survived for its fourth season.

Television is “aesthetic;” that is, it gives pleasure by presenting various elements of classic literature. At the same time, “Parenthood” shuns violence, sexual titillation and other usual TV horrors in hopes viewers will tune in to watch the loving Braverman clan instead of CSI, Criminal Minds and Sons of Anarchy that also air on Tuesday’s at 10/9c. Thus, this new fourth season of “Parenthood” again puts the focus on the “aesthetic appreciation” of language, characters, events and other details that occur in the realm of real life. Of course, TV and movie veteran Ron Howard knows all this as executive producer of “Parenthood,” even while his show is viewed by critics as both one of the few remaining family-focused dramas now on television, and “an old-school look back at what used to be popular on TV.” So fans may now wonder is “Parenthood” a TV dinosaur because of its “family theme” in a time of violent and sexy reality TV?

Parenthood survives another year

Parenthood faced being cancelled due to a ratings slide last season, say producers, but Howard and its stars are pressing forward even while NBC has ordered fewer episodes of the drama for its fourth season.

Meanwhile, Howard and his Parenthood team are ready to present more drama that focuses purely on family matters and relationship issues.

For instance, a teaser for Season 4 of Parenthood states that “Adam and Kristina face a bombshell so bit it will force daughter Haddie to come home from her freshman year at Cornell.”

While such a teaser seems tame in this age of action, horror and realty TV when a usual preview for either a new series or a returning one features dead bodies, a horrific murder or murder investigation or lots of “T &A.”

Thus, this is not the Ron Howard or “Parenthood” style for a TV show. Instead, Howard and his producers utilize a great ensemble cast with a story line that often means some family member must say they’re sorry or again confess their deep love and affection. And, by sharing those human emotions on TV week after week, Parenthood has become the target for a new generation of TV critics who lack any empathy or depth of feeling for something called love and family working together on the small screen.

Parenthood returns on 9/11 anniversary

In turn, Howard and producers have moved the usual return of their series premier to early September (9/11) instead of later in the month when most returning shows launch new episodes for the new season.

As an example, one Parenthood fan tweeted: “I’d rather watch a family show on the 9/11 anniversary than someone killing again on TV.”

Meanwhile, both Parenthood and other primetime TV shows are not devoting any special story line for Tuesday’s anniversary of 9/11. Still, fans sensitive to usual television themes of death, killing and murder investigation may like to know that Parenthood’s return on Sept. 11 for its fourth season links back to the show’s finale this past February when it seems that everybody in the Braverman clan had relationship or family-focused issues.

For instance, Crosby and Jasmine are now newlyweds after this interracial couple married during the final episode of season three of Parenthood; while Julia and Joel are now considering the adoption of a 9-year-old boy named Victor and their serious health issues facing the family patriarch.

Also, the addition of Ray Romano to the Parenthood cast is unlike other popular TV series in that Ray isn’t out to kill or screw someone over; instead the Parenthood producers say they’ve added the “Everybody Loves Raymond” star to the cast “for Ray to have a love interest and for his comedy talents.”

Lauren Graham’s turn to shine on Parenthood

The addition of Romano also means that TV and Parenthood veteran actress Lauren Graham, 45, will again be playing - her “Lorelai Gilmore” self from TV’s successful “Gilmore Girls” – but this fourth season of Parenthood having Graham expand her role as Sarah Braverman who must now choose between Romano and her current boyfriend Mark, played by Jason Ritter.

After starring as “that Gilmore girl” for seven seasons, from 2000 to 2007 on Gilmore Girls, Graham took the role of single mother Sarah Braverman when Parenthood debuted in 2010.

Also, Graham has said in TV interviews that she’s been “in a relationship” with her Parenthood brother Adam (Peter Krause) since the start of the show back in 2010.

Thus, fans commenting about - this Parenthood brother and sister on screen actually being real-life lovers - has resulted in lots of tweeting during scenes when fans note “Adam consoling Sarah is not just brotherly love.”

Romano vs. Ritter for Sarah’s love

In turn, the new fourth season of “Parenthood” has Sarah starting a new job as an assistant to Hank (Romano). A recent TV Guide overview notes that the Parenthood script calls Hank “a caustic photographer who may present a threat to her engagement to dreamy young teacher Mark,” played to perfection by Jason Rittter, who is the son of the late great TV star John Rittter.

Meanwhile, the Parenthood producer Jason Katims told TV Guide this week how the relationship issues for Hank, Sarah and Mark “will play out for a large part of the season,” while also noting how real heartache is in store for Adam (Peter Krause who is dating Graham in real-life) and Kristina (Monica Potter) who continue to have issues with their son Max.

In fact, Katims “teases,” states TV Guide about how Adam and Kristina “will undergo their greatest test as a couple when an unexpected complication arrives in the second episode;” while TV Guide also noted how the producer is “staying mum about what exactly goes down,” but Katims confirms that the arc “will ultimately affect every character on the show.”

Still, what makes “Parenthood” magic, say fans commenting about the new fourth season of the show on Facebook and Twitter, is “the payoff of genuine family warmth and humor even when the Braverman’s face hardship.”

Another fan writes: “Parenthood lifts us up because we know a family or anyone working together as ‘One’ can make it no matter what. That’s the joy of Parenthood.”

Parenthood's fourth season kick-off on NBC is set for Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 10/9c.

Image source of Lauren Graham, 45, who returns to the NBC family drama series “Parenthood” as the single mother Sarah Braverman who falls for the show’s new guest star Ray Romano. Photo courtesy Wikipedia


Submitted by Patrick (not verified) on
This, I think, is a rather poignant review of Parenthood. I like the focus on the fact that on the 9/11 anniversary, there will be something a family can tune in for without violence. I am working at Dish tomorrow night and I’m going to miss the airing of the premier. Thankfully, with my Hopper DVR it’s not a problem. The Hopper will automatically record all the shows in prime time from the major networks without me having to set a reminder. When I do get a chance to watch, I’ll have all the other shows from Tuesday night so I can watch without having to channel surf to catch everything. I really hope the show does well this season, I think it’s one of the few original dramas on TV right now which isn’t crime centered.

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