The Good: Wonderful characters, Great acting, Decent plot progression, Better balance among the many characters.
The Bad: Somewhat predictable plot developments
The Basics: Parenthood has a pretty incredible third season that is well worth watching and picking up on DVD!
There are so few shows that I would argue get better and better as their stories progress. Parenthood is one of them! After doing a marathon of Parenthood season one (reviewed here!) and Parenthood Season Two (reviewed here!), we found ourselves eagerly going into Season Three! The third season is an eighteen episode, hour-long (each) drama and the heavily serialized episodes move along exceptionally quickly.
Parenthood centers around the three generations of the Braverman family; Zeek Braverman (an ex-Vietnam vet) and his artistic wife living in California. They have four adult children: Adam, Sarah, Crosby, and Julia, all of whom have families and children of their own. Adam and his wife Kristina have a young son, Max, who has Asberger’s Syndrome, and a teenage daughter, Haddie. Sarah got her daughter Amber and son Drew away from her alcoholic musician ex-, Seth. Crosby has a son, Jabbar, with the dancer, Jasmine. The youngest Braverman, Julia, is married to Joel and they have a daughter, Sydney.
In the third season of Parenthood, the storyline picks up few months after the end of the second season, with Amber moving out. As Adam struggles with being unemployed, he gets a surprising opportunity from Crosby, who finds a recording studio called the Luncheonette. Having determined that it is a viable option, he and Crosby go into business together, which leads to complications with his wife. As Sarah becomes more comfortable with her writing, she reconnects with Amber’s former teacher, Mark Cyr. As the Luncheonette attracts people like Cee-Lo Green and has the potential to get bought out, Crosby and Jasmine struggle to negotiate their on-again, off-again relationship.
On the child front, Haddie is growing up and showing a real aptitude for going to a great college, which comes at a time when expenses for Max’s treatment is driving up the family’s bills. Zeek and Camille begin to worry about their health and Joel and Julia become more concerned about Sydney and they work to have another child of their own, but getting a surrogate who moves in with them.
Because the plots, which are heavily serialized, are an ongoing family drama, the plots are far less important than the characters. The plots periodically involve characters standing outside rooms where they listen to what others are saying or doing. The characters have a pretty consistent way of spying on one another that would usually add a huge element or melodrama, but in Parenthood, the characters have a way of bringing out the truth exceptionally quickly, so the dramatic tension does not last long. Instead, Parenthood goes for realism much more often than not. In the third season, the very real characters are:
Adam Braverman – After much debate, he goes into business with Crosby, which becomes complicated when Kristina has her baby and their new assistant at the Luncheonette, Rachel, kisses him when they get drunk one night and Adam drives her home. He comes to Alex’s aid when Alex punches a teenager at a drinking party he is rescuing Haddie from.
Kristina Braverman – After having Nora, she drifts for a bit. She tries to enforce a family fun time, with disastrous results, and becomes very jealous of Rachel working in proximity to Adam. She comes to Max’s aid when he is mocked by his peers without his knowledge. As revenge upon Adam for the kiss, she goes back to work working for a candidate for city council and gets Amber a job on the campaign with her.
Haddie Braverman – Seventeen now, she begins facing adult problems when Alex comes to her aid at a party and hits a teenager. She is heartbroken when he breaks up with her afterward. When she gets saddled with Max for a weekend, and loses him, she works with the police and Adam to get him back. When she gets into Cornell University, the family finances prevent her from going,
Max Braverman – A child with Asperger’s, he becomes convinced Jabbar is his best friend and has a fit when Jabbar does not want to eat lunch with him every day at school. After a fallout with Jabbar, he apologizes when Kristina gives birth. He is mocked without understanding he is being mocked, for his mannerisms when he solves complex math problems. After leaving the family to go to the museum on his own, he calls Kristina a bitch and is forced to stay home during the family trip.
Sarah Braverman – The eldest daughter of Zeek and Camille, mother to Amber and Drew, she continues with her new career as a writer. She is seeing Mark Cyr, but begins to romanticize her relationship with Seth, when Seth returns and goes into rehab. She finds herself conflicted and forced to play more of a parental role when Drew starts acting out,
Amber Holt – Sarah’s daughter. She moves into her own apartment, while working at a local coffeehouse. She gives Drew advice on how to get around their mother and lets Seth stay at her place after his in-patient program ends. She gives the politician she is working for an honest opinion of his campaign and earns his respect. She works to negotiate a relationship with Bob Little, the candidate she and Kristina are working on,
Drew Holt – Sarah’s son, he takes Zeek’s advice and ends up dating a girl who lives down the street. He has his first kiss and gets a D in math at school as a result of both his new dating life and his father’s in and out of rehab. He is further traumatized by seeing Sarah and Mark Cyr having sex. He and his new girlfriend move very quickly toward being together, which contrasts his resistance to the relationship between his mother and Mark Cyr,
Crosby Braverman – With his relationship with Jasmine in shambles, he gets inspired to buy the historic Lunchonette recording studio. He gets jealous of Jasmine and the pediatrician getting into a relationship and they have to explain to Jabbar that they are not getting married. He and Jasmine hook up one night, confusing things between them. He gets jealous when Adam is spotlighted in a magazine article about the Luncheonette. When Adam is given an amazing offer on the business, it causes some serious friction between them,
Jabbar Trussell – Crosby and Jasmine’s son, he and Max become friends at school. He begins to bond with Dr. Prestige, but gets excited with the results of a very important camping trip between the three,
Jasmine Trussell – Taking care of Jabbar full time, she begins dating Doctor Prestige, Jabbar’s pediatrician. Otherwise, she and Crosby negotiate their relationship awkwardly. And that changes when she, Jabbar, and Crosby go camping together,
Julia Braverman-Graham – Wife of Joel, mother of Sydney, she is a powerhouse lawyer. With Joel, she becomes determined to adopt and the coffee cart girl at work is pregnant. That leads her to befriend Zoey and she prepares to adopt the child until Zoey’s boyfriend tries to extort the couple for money.
Joel Graham – Househusband to Julia, he starts to stand up to Zeek, when Sarah comes to him and Julia for money to get Seth into rehab. He also stands up to Zoey’s boyfriend when he extorts the couple for money. He has to discipline Sydney when she exhibits the traits of being a sore loser. He becomes protective of Zoey and he and Julia take her in before the baby is born,
Sydney Graham – When she loses at charades and a game Joel plays with her, she explodes, revealing that she is a sore loser.
Camille Braverman – Jealous of Zeek getting an acting job in a commercial, she begins to learn Mandarin. When Zeek makes the family go across the state to visit his mother, she becomes protective of him.
and Zeek Braverman – Gets a job working on an impotence medication medicine. When he becomes obsessed with bringing the family to his mother’s for her 86th birthday, he shows a dark side of himself to the family. He is diagnosed with a heart problem, which leads him to buy a mobile home for him and Camille.
On the acting front, the third season of Parenthood has the impressive cast of Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Mae Whitman, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Ramos, and Monica Potter falling flawlessly into their roles. Dax Shepard and Joy Bryant continue to play off one another exceptionally well and they make their on-again, off-again relationship seem entirely plausible. Both play off recurring guest star D.B. Woodside decently.
But the real winners in the diverse and large cast in the third season of Parenthood are Erika Christensen and Sam Jaeger. Sam Jaeger continues to get more and more of a role and in this season, he is able to present more of his dramatic chops as Joel. He and Christensen continue to develop their on-screen chemistry and there are moments where he seems frustrated with Sydney in a way he has not been in the past. It works incredibly well.
Erika Christensen improves her dramatic presence with a greater mastery of body language and emotion in her deliveries. While, before this, I had only viewed her as a poor casting director’s Julia Stiles, Christensen is fully blooming with a range and emotive power that I’d not seen from her before. As Julia negotiates with the mother of her surrogate mother, Christensen presents an incredible range of emotion that presents her as vibrant and complex. Christensen can say more with a look and a tightening of the jaw than many performers can say with pages and pages of dialogue.
In the third season of Parenthood, the show continues to raise awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome, current economic issues, and the complexity of emotional issues in the workplace. And yes, there is a group dance scene which the show gets out of the way very fast! Even better than the prior two seasons, Parenthood in its third season is an incredible continuation to the story of the Braverman family.
For other works with Mae Whitman, be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Nights In Rodanthe
For other television program and DVD set reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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