'Parenthood' season finale review: 'Lost and Found'

Few shows this season premiered as more of an underdog than Parenthood. An ensemble family drama arriving just after shows in that genre had peaked (I’m [not] looking at you, Brothers & Sisters), the series had to do a crucial bit of re-casting, with Lauren Graham replacing Maura Tierney, who had to leave for health reasons.* And while we know families can be diverse, would it be possible to believe in a series in which Craig T. Nelson is the father of Dax Shepard?

As it turned out, Parenthood steadily developed into one of the most engrossing, adventurous family dramas in years. Credit creator Jason Katims, who’s worked on good stuff ranging from My So-Called Life to Friday Night Lights, with knowing how to juggle multiple story lines while keeping the big cast evolving emotionally.

Last night’s finale was a good example of everything Parenthood does right. Adam and Kristina (Peter Krause and Monica Potter) had their hands full and their eyes bugging out as their “good girl” daughter, Haddie (Sarah Ramos), dyed her hair black and smeared on black lipstick in an adolescent reaction to her “bad girl” cousin, Amber (Mae Whitman) making time with Haddie’s ex-boyfriend. The ever-less-unlikely duo of dad Zeek (Nelson) and Crosby (Shepard) got drunk together and commiserated over their women-problems.

Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) tried to help Zeek out of the financial hole he’s in with his bad real-estate investment. Julia did what Julia usually does — tried and failed to avoid being judgmental about everyone around her. (Christensen has the trickiest role in Parenthood, in many ways, and nearly always pulls it off in a manner that only leaves you wanting to throw a pie in her face every other week, which I assume it how Katims wants you to think about Julia.)

The family secret that has set Zeek’s wife, Camille (Bonnie Bedelia), finally engaged in a juicy subplot), off on a middle-aged-angry art career — i.e., Zeek had an affair years ago — is now common knowledge among all the adult siblings. Sarah (Graham) had a lovely awkward moment when she gave her mother what must have sounded like Sarah as sage advice — “You don’t need an invitation to your own life” — only to hear it curdle into unintentional smugness even as it left her mouth. (Lauren Graham is great at playing abashed compulsiveness.)

If the drama that gave the hour action was the search for runaway Amber, Parenthood proved that it doesn’t need a lot of action to be excellent. The dialogue, the unexpected mixtures of one sibling with another (I found the tension between Sarah and Kristina especially choice) combine to give the show a richness that’s going to make it one of the show’s I most look forward to seeing again in the fall.

So what did you think of Crosby’s impulsive decision to move to New York to follow Jasmine and Jabar? How about the brief return of Jason Ritter to offer soft-spoken advice and pull at Sarah’s heartstrings one more time? Can we agree that if there’s another marriage in trouble next season, it’ll probably be that of Adam (the guy tries so hard to be laid-back, he gets tense) and Kristina (she’s not just tense, she’s wound-tight to the breaking-point)? And for any baby-boomer women out there: Could you possibly be won over by a man serenading you with a Herman’s Hermits song played on a ukulele?

And what do you think, in general, of Parenthood?

*(The encouraging news there is that Tierney is reportedly in good health, has appeared in a play in New York, and will return in the upcoming season of Rescue Me in her recurring guest role.)

Follow: @kentucker

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  • Shane

    I thought Parenthood was fantastic last night. For a season finale, though, it was a little lackluster compared to some of the other episodes, but it was held together very well. The show is great, and I can’t wait for season two!

    • Sina

      Yeah this episode was very lackluster. I hated the ending with everyone coming together like that. Camille should have stayed angry longer, she has that right. Steve and Amber should have gotten a scene together especially after he said he loved her. Sarah was so shocked to hear that and Adam/Sarah and Steve’s parents yelling was good. And I wish I could have seen Sarah and Amber’s teacher one last time especially after she said I missed your face. The ending was a total miss. Team Julia!!

    • Ofelia

      If Fred is my gradnson that means Pat is the sire. Gotta say they rebmesle Pat more than me! In all seriousness thou,you were never really that cute Pat. So lets get back on track and get mean and ugly again. Love, Dad

  • kim in kentucky

    Love this show and am thrilled that its been renewed for next season – now if we can just get more people to watch it! Last night’s show was a good way to end the season and for once, it wasn’t mostly about Adam’s and Kristina’s son.

    • mushu

      i may have to give this one a chance next season, it sounded like something I would like but Dax Sheppard really skeeves me out for some reason. and then Lauren Graham came on board who has annoyed the heck out of me since that one episode of gilmore girls i managed to watch….but the reviews have been so great..

      • PMD

        I was not a huge fan of Dax either but I thought if Kristen Bell can love him, I should give him a chance. So, I did – he is fantastic. A very talented actor. As for Lauren Graham she used to bother me until I started watching GG and I kind of wish she was my own mother. But to each their own!

        Seriously, though if you like FNL, you will really like Parenthood. It is a wonderful show. It does have its slow moments but all of sudden something will happen (usually the wonderful acting) and it will make you go, ‘wow, I am glad I tuned in’.

        Now if NBC was not such a douche of a network.

      • Karen

        I didn’t think I’d like Dax either, but he’s AWESOME!!! I thought it was so sweet last night when he told Jabar he’d like him to call him dad.

      • Val

        PMD – EXACTLY! For ages I have cringed every time I’ve seen a movie with Dax Shepard in it, because he just bugged me so much. But I always gave him a shot because, honestly, if Veronica Mars can love him, there must be *something* there. And finally, I see it. He is so incredible in this role. It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s touching, and he does such an amazing job. His storyline is literally the only reason I wade through all the shrill, shrieking, everybody-yell-at-once-as-fast-as-you-can arguing, lazy parenting, and constant middle-class navelgazing.

      • Hannah

        Oh my god, I’m so happy that I’m not the only one who gave Dax the benefit of the doubt because he’s with Veronica Mars, I felt totally crazy. So worth it, he’s really good in Parenthood

    • um…

      Am I the only one who hates that kid? I mean…I know that he has that disorder and all, but he is so annoying. I would never let anyone talk and act that way to me like that kid does to his parents.

      • ZoeStars

        It doesn’t matter if they don’t like the way he’s talking to him, it’s the fact that most kids with disorders like Asperger’s don’t realize they are doing it. They don’t have the ability to recognize the social signals and read the body language that shows someone disapproving or getting angry about something. It’s not there. So no matter how many times they could tell him that he can’t talk to them like that, he would never be able to recognize when he IS talking and acting in a way he shouldn’t. I love how this show has brought more recognition to Austism and the effects that it has on the family and the children.

      • Jill

        try raising a child with aspergers then you can feel free to comment. They do a great job showing the both child and family perspective, this coming from a parent of a child exactly like Max.

      • Shannon

        Yeah, he’s annoying, but unfortunately that’s EXACTLY what it’s like to live with a kid with Asperger’s. Your entire world revolves around that kid. I think the show does a great job of conveying it.

      • Ronnie1

        I once had a child with Asperger’s in my classroom. And Max’s mannerisms and social interactions are SPOT-ON. The writers have done their homework on this and the young actor does an awesome job. I tend to wonder if the young man actually has Asperger’s?

      • Val

        I’m not casting doubt on what its like to live with a child with asperger’s, because I know that has to be one of the most challenging things a parent can face. But I really hate it that the writers have painted it so that it just looks like horribly lax, kid-with-all-the-power parenting. Yeah, for those of you who have real-life experience with autistic children, it may ring incredibly true. But to those of us without that sort of experience, he just comes off as a spoiled brat who gets whatever he wants because everybody’s so afraid of upsetting him that they never thought to give him any rules. It makes me insane, and really taints the entire show for me.

      • Alia

        Ronnie1: I saw an interview with the boy who plays Max, and he does not have asperger’s. However, he did do a vast amount of research on the topic. Very impressive, especially for such a young actor!

      • Sally

        I am glad the show is bringing recognition to autism and it’s characteristics.. maybe now the public make think twice before labeling a child as spoiled, and think maybe he/she can’t help it. Social cues have to be taught… and I am sure Max may get there yet!

      • Jen

        Sadly for the parents of autistic kids, there are a lot of just plain spoiled children out there and lazy parents. Also this family is actually trying to help their son learn social skills which I love because there are parents of autistic kids who don’t even try to help their kids and it makes me really sad because there is so much that can be done to help them out.

  • Kc

    Love this show. It is unfortunate that it plays on NBC and is largely ignored by people because of it. I hope Parenthood gets to stick around awhile like FNL any maybe get some Emmy recognition.

  • Kathgal

    This is the only show I watch now, and I love it. Dax Shepard is really surprising me in this role! And I love all the little ad-libs and ease with each other the actors all have. And it never falls into the ‘lesson of the week’ sugary sweetness other shows do. Thanks Ken for reviewing it, I hope you will still do so next season!

    • Pennyforyourthoughts

      I was so glad he asked her if he could come instead going with the ‘stay with me’ scenario. It’s refreshing to watch a show where a male supports his female counterparts decision to pursure her dream.

      • Zoe

        I agree 100% with Crosby’s awesomeness in that regard. But his girlfriend’s choices have annoyed me throughout this entire season. In the beginning of the season, she wanted to disrupt Crosby’s life so Jabar could be part of it–even though she selfishly didn’t tell him about the child for years. Then (on multiple occasions), he wasn’t good enough. She flipped when he wanted a (justified, IMO) paternity test. Finally, she takes this job in New York, with little regard for how her choice will hurt both Crosby and her son–a relationship SHE chose to start. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for following your dreams, but there is such a thing as responsibility as well. The expression on Dax’s face killed me when Jabar said, “I’m just like you, Daddy.” Hopefully, next season, Jabar will be living with Crosby while Jasmine pursues her career.

      • Liz

        I agree with Zoe. I want to like Jasmine because Jabar is so freakin cute but she is just making terrible choices! You force your son into a relationship and just when he starts feeling comfortable with his father you want to rip him out of it and take him across the country? What?!

      • Ali

        But isn’t that what makes this show so great? It’s not super sugary and tackles things the way they might possibly play out in real life. A person making poor decisions without truly figuring out how those decisions might affect someone else? It’s more true to life than other shows, I think. Love this show can’t wait for next season!

      • ps in seattle

        To Zoe and Liz – I don’t understand the Jasmine bashing. I thought that she and Crosby didn’t even know each other very well when she got pregnant, I don’t think they were in a relationship together. They obviously were not in touch during her pregnancy. I suspect her family exerted a great deal of influence on her decisions, and we caught a glimpse of that at Jabbar’s birthday party. But I believe she continued to think about Crosby and felt he had a right to know his son, and she was trying to do the right thing by finding Crosby to tell him about Jabbar.

        Also, we knew early on that Jasmine is a dancer. As the mom of a dancer, I know that dancing takes many years of hard work and discipline. It also takes thousands of dollars in classes, leos, tights, shoes, costumes, etc. Many dancers start as young as 3 years old, and it becomes as much as part of them as breathing. An injury can end years of training in the blink of an eye, and a dancer’s career is typically short-lived anyway because of the toll it takes on the body. It is also intensely competitive, and only a handful “make it” and go on to dance professionally. For Jasmine to be invited to dance with Alvin Ailey is HUGE, a phenomenal affirmation that her years of dedication and hard work have paid off! It would be cruel to deny her that opportunity, because she deserves the chance to do exactly what she has been working her whole life to do. She is not just running off across the country on a whim.

        Huge props to Crosby for understanding that and offering to go with her. What is so wrong about encouraging a loved one to pursue their dream? Do you live your dream? Don’t you wish you could?

      • J.Norman

        @ Zoe
        Excellent post.

      • Tina

        @ps Jasmine’s dream itself isn’t a problem, per se, but it has followed on some rather selfish and unilateral decisions. She decided not to tell Crosby about Jabar when she was pregnant, and lied to her family about it. I don’t really care that they’d only been dating a little while; he deserved to know. Her family stepped up to support her. Yay! But they didn’t know the truth.

        Why did she suddenly decide the time was right to spring Jabar on Crosby? Why now? Was she thinking all along she’d dump him on Crosby and go to New York? Why did she flip out about the paternity test? It’s a reasonable question. I’m female, and if I were Crosby I’d be swabbing that kid’s cheek and sending the kit off. Jasmine may have thought Crosby was untrustworthy (flaky, etc.), but so far SHE’s the one. Lying to everyone. She told him she did then what she thought was best for HER. She’s just doing it again — putting herself first. But now there’s Jabar to consider… and Dax.

        I think if she had been an honest person from the beginning, we’d (I’m lumping myself in with Zoe and Liz) be more comfortable with her following her bliss. Right now it’s just another selfish decision.

        Although we all know that they won’t be moving to New York. Unless Dax’s contract was for one year?

      • Dilara

        An order of fried clams with onion rings to go. When my wife & I were first mreiard that was more than we could eat. Friday night after work.

  • Show Watcher

    I hope they don’t have another marriage in trouble, but if they do, Joel & Julia are a more likely candidate. He’s kissed another woman, lied about her, and undermines Julia at almost every turn.

    I’m liking the show, and am looking forward to next season.

    • me2

      Did you see how much Joel was enjoying the grilling Zeek was giving Timm? There was a shot of him behind Julia at the dinner table and he looked downright giddy. I had to laugh because whether Timm is helping for the right reason or not, he is still a tool. I loved Matthew Del Negro when he was on The West Wing so it pains me not to like his character.

      • Alia

        THAT’S where I know him from! Thanks, me2!

      • Leah

        He’s also currently on The Unites States of Tara playing a so-so dude.

      • Allison

        I totally noticed that and was suprised there wasn’t a chance for Joel to say “I told you so” to Julia.

      • Dan

        Um, more importantly…he was cousin Brian on The Sopranos! C’mon people! :)

    • Sina

      I hope Julia and Joel’s marriage don’t suffer. Julia is my favorite character on this show. I just love her. I want her to punch that tramp that kissed her husband. I hope she stays the soccer coach. Joel did love Zeek grilling Timm but that’s because Joel hates Timm also.

  • Luna

    This show amazes me by keeping me entertained with out having to have a big huge problem every week, that nobody talks about.
    I love that the siblings actually talk to each other like adults.
    So freaking refreshing in todays contrived reality tv world.

  • Maddy

    Perfect! The finale was just perfect. It was one of the funniest episodes all season and definitely one of the most touching. Hope the show and cast get recognized at the Emmys, especially Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman.

    • Karen

      I agree with you. Mae Whitman is an amazing actress, and I’ve always loved Lauren.

      • Alia

        Mae Whitman is PHENOMENAL. I’m so glad she’s found a role that really shows off her skill and unique emotional appeal.

  • S

    FABULOUS. I adore all the characters and find myself engrossed every week.

  • Marsaili

    I love this show, my hubby watches it with me and seems to sorta, kinda like it! As parents who just recently had their youngest child diagnosed with Autism, we can SO relate to everything that Adam and Kristina are going through with their son. I love the teenager stories as well, I’ve got 2 grown kids and 3 current teenagers—all boys but my oldest is a girl—I remember what it was like to have a girl and how different it is with a boy (just throw a ball around with the boy, he’ll be fine! The girl, on the other hand……!) Great show, I’m looking forward to watching it next season!

    • Mandy

      I think you missed the fact that Drew is clearly not fine, but his problems are covered up by the larger problems of Amber and Sarah. I am sure more of this will come out next season

    • Biswajit

      Today, we visited our site, Holy Cross Church/school. Father Michael Matthews gave us a tour of the chucrh and school. First we visited the school. There are really three parts to it, the original part which was built in 1929, an added part which was built in the 40s, and another renovation that was recently built. The school used to be the chucrh, and we were able to see the library and auditorium in which service was held. The chucrh and school are obviously going through many financial issues, as they need a lot of repairs. A lot of the work on the buildings are done through grants and donations from current and past parishioners. The chucrh was absolutely beautiful also. The statues and stained glass was simply wonderful. The neighborhood around the chucrh is really run-down. The chucrh used to be thriving, with a maximum of 1500 parishioners. But the size of the school and chucrh have dwindled. Also, they try to keep the school in high performance, because a failing school is the first sign of a failing chucrh. We were not able to see the Ash Wednesday mass, but the tour was very informative. Father Michael was awesome as well.

  • Amber

    I watch this show online on Wednesday mornings so thank you NBC for that! I love it and am so glad it got picked up for another season.

  • kim

    I love Parenthood and I actually kind of appreciated a more low key finale. The series is steady and reliable and so true to life. Can’t wait for its return next season.

  • Matt

    I think it was Jason Ritter, not Josh.

    • Ken Tucker

      right! Thanks. Fixed.

      • Ali

        haha, but Josh Ritter is a fabulous singer-songwriter, just as Jason Ritter is a fabulous and (cuuute) actor! :)

      • Alia

        He IS dreamy, but his facial hair is a CRIME. Nevertheless, I really hope he recurs next season.

    • Pamela

      Jason Ritter was a highlight this season. He is so good in that role and his chemistry with Lauren Graham is fantastic. Hope he’s back next season! (Though I think a pilot he was in got picked up. Yes?)

      • TMB

        Yes Pamela, he’s on the cast of “The Event” this fall, but it’s also on NBC. Hopefully that makes it easier for him to appear on both shows.

      • yes!

        their scenes together totally made me melt! and when she said, “i missed your face,” omg, i just about died. he’s the only reason i’ll check out ‘the event’ next season, but i hope he still has time to pop in on ‘parenthood’ every now and then…

    • Nibby

      Ppl like you get all the barsin. I just get to say thanks for he answer.

  • Jeff

    I hate this show. It, without fail, makes me cry every week. How am I supposed to hold onto my manly manhood while watching this show? It’s a dilemma, to be sure. Seriously, when I heard Parenthood was going to be a series (again. At least we don’t have Ed Begley, Jr this time around) I rolled my eyes. But, this has become one of our favorite programs to watch each week.

    • Don

      Ha. I am in the same boat. When Haddie and Amber fought/hugged in the diner. I was hoping my son didn’t walk in on me with tears rolling down my cheek.

      • Karen

        That was such a great moment between the two of them.

      • Shannon

        Indeed. It poured buckets. On my face.

      • BILL

        my favorite part of the show too.it is sad that both this show and” the good wife” are on at the same time. hope they both last.

      • Leah

        You guys are all so cute! I’m in the same (watery) boat :)

    • Lilly

      Mighty usuefl. Make no mistake, I appreciate it.

  • LS

    Thanks for your review Ken. I just love the show. I am so invested in the characters that it was just painful for me when Adam and Sarah were at Steve’s house–excruciating.

    What I really like is how the writers show the tension between your obligations to your birth family and your family you marry into. Such universal issues.

    Kudos to a great first season and can’t wait for next.

  • Katie G

    I really do enjoy Parenthood, though I wish they would pull back on the cheesy sap at times. But I enjoy the characters, and I think the relationships between the siblings is really genuine and fun to watch.

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