Is it possible to survive all that life throws at you without the help of your loved ones? That's part of the premise behind the fourth season of NBC's "Parenthood," which had one close knit family as they dealt with everything life threw their way.
"Parenthood" followed Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) and Zeke Braverman (Craig T. Nelson) as they tried to help their four grown children deal with their problems. Their oldest son Adam (Peter Krause) was trying to be supportive while his wife Kristina (Monica Potter) was going through Breast Cancer, but he was starting to crack under the pressure. Their daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos) also left for college and their son Max (Max Burkholder) was learning how to be a teenager with the added challenges of having Asperger's Syndrome. Zeke and Camille also had to help their daughter Sarah (Lauren Graham) handle her messy personal life, while helping her children Amber (Mae Whitman) and Drew (Miles Heizer) stay sane as well. It also didn't help that their younger children Julia Braverman-Graham (Erika Christensen) and Crosby (Dax Shepard) were having some family difficulties as well. Julia and her husband Joel (Sam Jaeger) were adjusting to their new career roles, but they were also trying to figure out how their newly adopted son Victor (Xolo Mariduena) fit into their family. Crosby, on the other hand, was dealing with being a newlywed and how to handle living with Jasmine's (Joy Bryant) mother when she needs their help. Can the Bravermans overcome all of their personal complications and still function together as a family?
In terms of questions, "Parenthood" always managed to ask that same one every season and still manage to surprise viewers each time. Due to its large cast, it was sometimes challenging to follow the show at times. In the beginning, the show's tone was a little awkward and the stories tended to focus on certain cast members. Luckily, the episodes have now managed to rotate the focus on a different group of family members each week to give the cast an equal opportunity to shine. Sure, Bedelia's Camille hasn't had her own storyline in a few seasons, but she still had some nice material when she worked with Potter's Kristina in one episode as she tried to help her through her cancer. Hopefully, Bedelia will get her own story to contend with if the show does get renewed for a fifth season. As for breakout stories, Kristina's Breast Cancer diagnosis was at the top because it showed how the family tried to come together even in the most chaotic of times. The show also managed to mix in teen pregnancy, Amber's new romance with a war vet and Julia's complicated relationship with her new adopted son. Those stories might've sounded like potential plots in a Lifetime movie, but the show managed to give each story the right mixture of humor and emotional impact to keep viewers interested. The season finale appeared to resolve each story, but let's hope that won't be the cast if another season is in the cards for NBC.
As for the show's top performers, Krause and Potter lead the pack as they tried to give the right balance of emotion and substance to Kristina's Breast Cancer story. They seemed to have run through the emotional gamut each week from when they got the diagnosis until the conclusion of her Chemo treatment. Potter deserved some award nominations to come her way as she made Kristina's health struggles all the more realistic for those who have gone through it or watched a loved one deal with it as well. She allowed Kristina to be happy, sad and have an extra amount of grit to make viewers pull for her. Krause also deserved some credit as well, because he had the added challenge of making his usually stoic Adam start to crumble from the pressure. Viewers couldn't help but want to grab for the nearest tissue box as Krause's Adam prayed for Kristina to wake up after she was sent to the hospital in one episode. It was nice to see two characters come together after such a difficult time, especially when they received stellar news. Christensen deserved an honorable mention because her adoption storyline this season showcased that not every adoption is as easy as it appeared to be. She demonstrated how much it hurt when new son seemed to be rejecting her at every turn. Hopefully, Christensen and Mariduena will get the chance to explore the relationship further in the future. If not, the tightly wrapped conclusion in the season finale will have to do just in case.
"Parenthood" aired its fourth season finale on January 22nd at 10:00 PM on NBC. No new episodes have been confirmed as of yet.
Verdict: A show that has finally found the right balance of realistic comedy and drama, but its future was always up in the air for all the wrong reasons.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)