Prior to the series finale of NBC’s drama “Parenthood,” a couple of my friends and I spent quite a bit of time anticipating the ending. Would Zeke actually die? Would Amber have her baby? What the hell was happening with Hattie? I was (and still am!) sad to lose one of my favorite television shows, especially when I feet like there is so much more to tell. At one point during this text chain (which frankly warrants it’s very own post), my friend AW mentioned the possibility that one of the brothers could die in lieu of the expected death of the father.
I grew very upset and texted something back along the lines of “if that happens I will quit tv forever” which of course was absolute nonsense because as we’ve established I quite like a good television show. AW, who is something of an expert when it comes to television, did a lot of referencing and told me that the creative behind “Parenthood” was also some of the creative behind “Thirty-something” (which I am too young to have watched pleaseandthankyou and really she should be too) and “Thirty-something” had a shocking ending so the possibility existed that “Parenthood” could kill of the really only minorly troubled Crosby instead of the the heart-disease riddled Zeke.
I felt shaken by this possibility. In my defense, the finale came during a ten day span where at most I slept two hours a night – first Evangeline, and then Duncan, came down with the kind of chest-rattling colds that keep mommas up at night even if the children eventually fall asleep. Knowing there was no way I would manage to stay up until 10 p.m. to begin watching the finale, I begged AW to text me who died before I watched the episode the following day. She did, but from a cursory glance at social media channels the following morning I knew everything would be okay – there was wide-range internet agreement that the ending was lovely, and by the time I was lucid enough to agree with the general consensus.
This behavior was pretty unlike me – I have never, not once – read the ending of a book before reading the rest of it, or skipped to the ending of a movie, and while I do really enjoy television I don’t tend to take it terribly personally. I wasn’t, like some people I know, in mourning because of the way “The Sopranos” ended.
The idea I kept returning to was that, in its way, “Parenthood” had a contract with its viewers. From its inception, and even with the original movie so long ago, “Parenthood” has been about redemption and overcoming odds as much as it has anything else. From Sarah’s early, precarious return home to Adam overcoming the burden of responsibility to find a job he truly loved, the television show has been about struggling and overcoming. “Parenthood” is not “Lost” or “Breaking Bad” – death isn’t inherent to most of the plots. It would have been really hard for me to handle the loss of Crosby.
Of course, I took psychology 101 in college like every theater major did, and I know that part of the reason I’ve attached so particularly to this program is probably because I live so far away from my own family, and the life I live is pretty different than I how I grew up. I grew up close to almost my entire family, both physically and geographically. I really never thought, except in my more grandiose daydreams, that I would end up far away from my aunts, uncles and cousins and parents. In some ways, week after week, “Parenthood” echoed my visions of what I think family life should be like.
When I started to parse this out with my friends, I realized it was just that – a make-you-laugh, make-you-ugly-cry, somewhat sanitized version of real life. My own version of the movie would look terribly different – with Sam’s and my parents aging in tremendously draining and difficult ways, and siblings thrown to far-flung corners of the universe, not to mention the trauma potty-training Evangeline imposed on our house or Duncan’s determined death wish, the baby constantly doing his best to fling himself down the stairs or swallow Draino.
It was a great show. It brought Lauren Graham back into my life after losing the beloved “Gilmore Girls” (and can I just say I really really hope she has another show in the works right now?) and it grew Dax Shepherd’s range enormously. I’m going to miss it, but I’m glad it went out on a high note instead of spoiling. Well done, NBC.