TV Review: Fourth Season of ‘Parenthood’ Begins Confidently

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CHICAGO – There’s an easy-going confidence in the first two episodes of the new season of “Parenthood” that separates the best family dramas from pure cliche. The team behind this beloved series clearly has reached a point where they know these characters down to their cores. The best family dramas reach a point where the characters feel genuine enough that we look forward each week to seeing how they’re doing, like old friends who we only see every seven days. And that kind of desired familiarity takes a strong degree of confident writing because it requires character instead of manipulative drama. I’ve come to like the Bravermans. And that’s so important with a show like this one.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 4.0/5.0
Television Rating: 4.0/5.0

It has been widely publicized that something major is going to happen to the Braverman family this season and that it starts in episode two. (Don’t worry — I won’t spoil it.) As I was watching “Left Field,” I had the striking realization that I was worried. Many of these characters have reached happy, stable places in their lives, some for the first time in years, and I thought to myself that I didn’t want something tragic to befall them even though I knew something was coming (if the stories hadn’t told me, the title kind of gives it away that something’s coming out of left field). Crafting characters that viewers can feel like they know and enjoy spending time with to the point that they worry about their fate is a notable accomplishment.

Parenthood
Parenthood
Photo credit: NBC

How’s everyone doing this year on “Parenthood”? There’s drama before that episode two twist but nothing too severe. In the premiere, Haddie (Sarah Ramos) is leaving home to go to school and Adam (Peter Krause), Kristina (Monica Potter), and Max (Max Burkholder) are dealing with it in their own unique ways. Adam seems to become more protective of Amber (Mae Whitman), who works at the studio with him while Kristina suffers some notable empty nest syndrome in episode two.

Parenthood
Parenthood
Photo credit: NBC

At the same time, Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) are struggling with how to take care of their new son. They don’t want to be overly disciplinarian with him but they also need to be parents. Sarah (Lauren Graham) gets a job with a surly photographer (an effective Ray Romano, who fits in perfectly with this ensemble) while Crosby (Dax Shepard, quickly becoming my favorite actor on the show) struggles a bit with the practicalities of a stable relationship with Jasmine (Joy Bryant) like having syncing calendars and scheduling sex.

There have been times in the past when I felt like “Parenthood” was trying to hard to please, working with melodrama instead of relatable characters. There’s plenty of emotion in the first two episodes of the new season but I would argue that it’s never felt less forced or more believable. It’s almost as if the constant threat of cancellation has finally pushed the writing staff to the point where they don’t care any more other then to satisfy the characters and their fans. The show is never going to be a massive hit but I feel like now that perhaps NBC and the staff has realized that it could become an even better program. The cast is certainly up to the challenge. They’ve always been the greatest strength of this series. And it feels like season four could give them the best material they’ve had to work with to date.

“Parenthood” stars Peter Krause, Monica Potter, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Erika Christensen, Joy Bryant, Sam Jaeger, Mae Whitman, Sarah Ramos, Max Burkholder, Miles Heizer, Bonnie Bedelia, and Craig T. Nelson. It returns on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 9pm CST on NBC.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

cheri's picture

I have always loved this

I have always loved this show and this season looks like it will be even better than last. I am glad Haddie got into the college that she wanted to go to, because she has been upset and sad for so long. This season I am excited to see what happens with Sarah and her relationships, and to see how Victor gets along with the family. This was definitely a good episode and a great start to the season.

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