Saturday, January 31, 2015

The End of "Parenthood"

NBC aired the 103rd - and final - episode of "Parenthood" this past Thursday night (January 29), and we fans of the show wondered how everything would turn out as we all tuned in.  Would Julia and Joel stay together for good this time?  What would Crosby do without the Luncheonette recording studio?  Would Sarah and Hank be able to get married quickly?  And how would Adam make a living now?  Would the various plot lines come to definitive conclusions? 
As the series finale neared its close, the show's many storylines appeared to be left open-ended.  Sarah and Hank got married without a hitch, and Zeek - whom Hank asked for his blessing, the only suitor to any of Zeek's daughters to do so - was able to attend despite his heart troubles and recent hospital stay.  Crosby decided at the last minute to keep his recording studio open and move on without his brother, with his brother's and his wife Jasmine's support.  His brother Adam took a job with a spring water company, but his wife Kristina - looking to work with a non-profit organization - offered him to take over as headmaster of the school she founded based on his volunteer work at the school.  Their son Max, who continued to handle his Asperger's syndrome, worked as the photographer for his Aunt Sarah's wedding and ended up . . . dancing with a cute girl at the reception.  Amber - a new mom after an affair with Afghanistan war veteran Ryan, her baby boy named for Grandpa Zeek - continued to work for her Uncle Crosby at the recording studio and moved in with Zeek and Camille at their urging.  And Julia and Joel, learning that their adopted son had a newborn half-sister, adopted her as well.  The inference was that life for the Braverman family would continue as expected, its many unresolved stories suggesting that producer Jason Katims could have easily produced another season of "Parenthood" had NBC, recovering from a nine-year ratings drought but still in trouble on Thursday nights, been in a position to allow it.           
And then it happened.
While admiring her grandson Max's photos of the wedding, Camille turned and asked Zeek, in the next room, what he thought of them.  Hearing no reply, she entered the living room and found her husband dead in his easy chair after having suffered another heart attack.  The message was clear; the series was all over.
The finale ended with Zeek's ashes being scattered on a baseball field and the Bravermans playing a ball game in his memory, interspersed with scenes of future family milestones - a Christmas morning for Julia and her family, Max's graduation ceremony, Camille on a foreign vacation, a Luncheonette recording session of a cover of the show's theme song, Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" (which backdrops the final scenes), a new husband for Amber and a visit from Ryan, and even an apparent pregnancy for Jasmine.  These last scenes spoke volumes, and they successfully conveyed the message that life goes on but that, contrary to the lyrics of a certain hit song from the 1980s, life ends long before the thrill of living does, and that love, home, and family will always be the bedrock for the things that make life worth living.       
I really am going to miss this series.  I have difficulty making time for TV dramas - even "The Fosters," starring Teri Polo - but I always made time for "Parenthood."  It was appointment television from the day it premiered in March 2010 to the day its last episode aired.  It not only affirmed real family values, it did so with class.  I also loved the choices for the show's soundtrack, which featured the sort of folk-rock artists so obscure even DJs at college-indie stations never heard of them, along with the use of songs from Nick Drake, Ray LaMontagne, and Paul McCartney.  Not to mention an obscure Stephen Stills solo track.  A warm, substantial and comforting drama, "Parenthood" was and remains one of the best shows of this decade, and there's not likely to be another show like it.
And I'm still stunned by Zeek's passing.         

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