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Parenthood keeps on rowing

Parenthood (2009) poster

Written by : published Thursday 3rd January 2013

Parenthood - "Keep on Rowing"
Grade: 88%

NBC's Parenthood returns this week for the final few episodes of the fourth season with "Keep on Rowing." Kristina (Monica Potter) tries to reward her husband, Adam (Peter Krause), for putting up with her behavior lately. Crosby (Dax Shepard) considers helping out his mother-in-law, Renee (Tina Lifford). Julia (Erika Christensen) begins to have second thoughts about adopting Victor (Xolo Mariduena). And Hank (Ray Romano) helps Sarah (Lauren Graham) get over her ex.

Parenthood has gone a little more melodramatic this season, taking the story into areas it doesn't necessarily need to go to keep the drama up, and getting a bit preachy at times. Thank goodness the Bravermans remain the same engaging, lovable characters they always have been, or else this slightly less than stellar storytelling could begin to drag the series down.

The most frustrating arc has been Kristina's cancer. It's a common card pulled out in a family drama after a few years on the air, when the ideas start to run a bit dry. However, without the drama behind the scenes, a la Brothers & Sisters, there seems little chance that Kristina will actually perish, as the sensibilities of the show are lighter than that. Thus, each attempt to make her situation seem dire just comes across as hokey.

That being said, it's sweet to see Adam being a good husband. I mean, we know that Adam is a good husband, but it's nice to be reminded of just how sweet he is. And then for Kristina to not only acknowledge that, but also to try to repay him a bit for his patience and support, well, that gets genuinely moving. Plus, she looks good with the red hair, and the surprise cameo by Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars, 2 Broke Girls), hitting on a vivacious Kristina in the bar, is fun.

The sucky story of "Keep on Rowing" goes to Crosby. Adam has to talk him into agreeing to loan Renee money, and then Jasmine (Joy Bryant) practically bullies her mother into their house. Taking care of family is important, something Crosby ought to understand, given his upbringing, and the people that make up his own relations. Perhaps he may not want Renee in his house, and that's understandable. But that doesn't mean that he can protest and still be a sympathetic character. In the end, Crosby does the right thing, but it feels a bit too little, too late for viewers who have to sit through his selfish whining.

I also am not a fan of Julia turning against Victor. I can see why she'd be upset, with Victor throwing a bat near Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae). I even feel Joel (Sam Jaeger) may have under-reacted at first to the incident. However, stretching this into Julia considering not keeping Victor may just go too far, especially after only one occurrence of this nature, and one that can so clearly be chalked up to an accident.

The thing is, everything about this incident is understandable. From Sydney being a brat and running her mouth, to Victor's response and feeling bad about it later, to Julia's fear for her daughter, it all makes sense, given the characters and the circumstances. I don't like the story because I want to see Julia win Victor over, and Victor to eventually feel like part of the family. Yet, it's done in such an authentic way, and acted well, that it doesn't deserve to be complained about.

I am extremely disappointed to see things between Sarah and Mark (Jason Ritter) come to an end. There is so much working against them, it is satisfying when they finally find a way to be happy as a couple. Still, there are enough issues in the relationship that the fact that it ends isn't entirely surprising, even if there is also real love present.

Now that Mark is gone, though, the door has really opened for Hank, who seems a much better match for the elder Braverman daughter. He relates to Sarah, and it seems like he feels lucky to be with her. This means that he will treat her well, and she is certainly smitten with him, too. They started things way too soon, to be sure, with Sarah and Mark having only recently split, but at the same time, they kind of act like soul mates. Hank also brings a new personality to the series that isn't there until he arrives, which should shake up the dynamics nicely.

Only time will tell if Parenthood can find a way to make Hank a main character, as he deserves to be. That is, should Parenthood get a fifth season, which is not a certainty at this point.

"Keep on Rowing" is a solid episode in a solid season. Even when the plots stray a bit too far away from where I'd like them to go, this show remains compelling, and I look forward to watching each new episode. I think the missteps are just disappointments because I know how amazing Parenthood is at its best, so when it stumbles to only better than average, it feels like a slight let down. If it does go off the air, I will be disappointed and miss it. I consider that the true test for if a show is good or not, and on that scale, Parenthood definitely passes.

Parenthood airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episodes I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter!

About the author JeromeWetzelTV

JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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