52 Shows, 52 Weeks: #10 Parenthood

When this show began last March, I wrote a pretty underwhelmed reaction to it.  I was disappointed because I had loved Peter Krause and Lauren Graham so much on previous shows and was hoping to love them together on a new one.  The pilot fell flat, but I gave the show another chance because pilots are kind of notoriously awkward.  We all know that a bad first date doesn’t necessarily mean a doomed relationship.  Parenthood and I had a bad first date, but a year later, we couldn’t be happier together.

After the pilot, I basically referred to Parenthood as a poor man’s Brothers & Sisters.  Now it feels more like a rich man’s Brothers & Sisters.  Whereas B&S plunges its characters into contrived turmoil week after week with increasing disregard for character development, Parenthood lets its characters be themselves and offers up the stories that grow out of that. (Nota bene: All of my Brothers & Sisters observations are from past seasons, as I have not watched this season at all.)

Sometimes, the dialogue on Parenthood barely feels scripted; as the characters talk over each other, stammer, shout, mumble, and cry, I find myself slightly uncomfortable as if I am a creeper looking in the window at a real family.  I’ve never been so glad to be made uncomfortable.

This season, I don’t have a favorite character because I am equally compelled by all of them, with the possible exception of Julia who is very hit-and-miss for me.  Last season, however, it was Drew who kept me watching while I figured out if Parenthood was going to be one of my shows.  It was Drew’s earnestness and the way he was always so deserving of a love and a patience he didn’t always get that made me stick with the show.

I’m generally not a crier (the last month of my life notwithstanding), and I avoid situations that seem designed to make me cry.  Last season, though, I can barely think of one episode of Parenthood that didn’t make me cry, and somewhere along the way I stopped dreading the inevitable weepy moment.  I never exactly look forward to these moments, but these days it’s nice to get teary about somebody else’s life instead of my own, even if it’s somebody fake.

My fondness for Parenthood kind of sneaked and keeps on sneaking up on me.  One day, I was watching something else, and I realized that when the theme song started, I expected and wanted it to be the Parenthood theme song—Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”  I turned off that show and put on Parenthood.

In fact, I like this show so much that I almost didn’t write about it.  See, I think it’s good but I haven’t noticed that it is universally recognized as good like your Mad Mens or your 30 Rocks.  Those shows don’t need me to defend them.  Parenthood seems to be flying under the radar and I’m not sure I actually know anyone else who watches it.  I am not used to defending it the way I am with General Hospital so in order to write about Parenthood, I had to either a) come up with a defense or 2) work up the guts to love without a defense.  I think I kind of split the difference here.

My favorite thing about this season so far has been Amber’s transformation from bad girl to hipster girl.  It wasn’t so much a transformation as a switch flip, but if you’ve ever known teenagers, then you know that sometimes their growing from annoying half-formed amoebas to whole humans can seem to happen all in one day.

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