by Julian Spivey
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, family shows in television history “Parenthood” had its farewell on Thursday, Jan. 29 with an utterly fantastic series finale that ranks right up there with some of the finest finales I’ve ever seen.
With an incredibly large cast there were a lot of beloved characters to say goodbye too and storylines to wrap up, and even one major storyline thrust upon us during the finale itself, but the show’s creator and writer Jason Katims delivered all of the goodbyes and wrapped up all of the storylines very neatly in the one-hour allotted for the finale.
In the end “May God Bless and Keep You Always,” which takes its name from the opening lines of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” the show’s theme song, ranks right up there with the all-time greats of this show’s six seasons.
The biggest focus of the finale was the wedding of Sarah (Lauren Graham) and Hank (Ray Romano), who had gotten engaged in the penultimate episode of the series. Sarah wanted to rush the wedding because of her father Zeek’s (Craig T. Nelson) fading health and decided to hold it the very next week. Right before the opening credits is the first great scene of the finale, and one I’ve been waiting for as a major fan of both Nelson and Romano, when Hank asks Zeek for Sarah’s hand in marriage.
Another fantastic scene in the finale was the one between Zeek and Sarah on the porch were Zeek lets Sarah in on the fact that she’s his favorite child and asks her if he’s been a good father. It’s one of the real tearjerkers that “Parenthood” is known for and perfect culmination for these two characters.
Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) get a huge surprise early on in the finale when Victor’s (Xolo Mariduena) social worker calls them and tells them that Victor’s birth mother has had another child and would like for them to adopt her, as well. The couple spends the rest of the episode thinking about it before finally decided that being Victor’s sister she already pretty much belongs to them. It was an interesting storyline to throw into a series finale, but hey there aren’t any more episodes of the series remaining so why not go for it?
In the previous episode Adam (Peter Krause) and Crosby (Dax Shepard) had decided to cut ties and sell The Luncheonette recording studio and look for more steady employment. Adam is getting ready to take on a job at a bottled water company and Crosby isn’t taking the loss of The Luncheonette too well. By the end of the episode it turns out that both of them will end up doing what they truly love to do after all – Adam working as headmaster at the school for mentally challenged students that his wife Kristina (Monica Potter) created and Crosby going at the record studio business on his own.
The entire wedding segment of the episode was lovely and Sarah and Hank truly are perfect for each other and I’m incredibly glad that “Parenthood” finally let Sarah have a happy and fulfilling relationship. I’m also thrilled to see the development of Romano’s photographer with Asperger’s syndrome over his three seasons on the series. He went from a guest role that nobody realized would last throughout the remainder of the series to potentially being the best character on the whole show (along with Zeek), in my opinion, over the last two seasons. I don’t believe it’s going to actually happen, but it’s certainly time the Emmy Awards acknowledge Romano’s terrific dramatic work in this series with a nomination.
“Parenthood” finished up its last 10 minute segment with a series of beautifully written and filmed flash-forwards that let us into what the future held for the Bravermans, including the moment of Zeek’s passing that we all were dreading, but Katims made it work exceptionally well. Among other things captured in the flash-forwards were the flourishing of The Luncheonette under Crosby’s control, Julia and Joel’s new extended family, the reveal that Ryan (Matt Lauria) is playing a role in little Zeek’s (Amber’s baby) life and Max’s (Max Burkholder) graduation. These flash-forwards are perfectly juxtaposed with images of the Bravermans pouring Zeek’s ashes on a baseball field and playing a family game of baseball in his honor.
It was a truly beautiful way to wrap up such an incredible series, one that I fear we may never see the likes of on network television again. Katims and the entire cast of this show truly outdid themselves over the last six seasons and the Braverman clan will certainly be missed.
by Julian Spivey
The Bravermans, my favorite television family of all-time, are saying goodbye tonight after six fantastic seasons on NBC and I’m not OK with that.
It’s not just that I’m going to miss the Bravermans and the fantastic stories they share with each other every week on my television so much, but I honestly think the end of “Parenthood” could also mean the end of realistic portrayals of life, especially family life, on network television – at least for a while.
Jason Katims, creator and executive producer of “Parenthood,” has become an expert at realistic, natural portrayals of real life families and situations not only on this show, but “Friday Night Lights” (2006-2011) before it, which he served as head writer and executive producer on. His body of work on “Parenthood” and “Friday Night Lights” has been among the best on television not only of the last decade, but in my opinion of all-time. I can’t get enough of these realistic, honest to life storylines that he and his incredibly talented staff of writers put forth week-in-and-week-out in these terrific serials. The acting that the stories bring forth from the talented casts of both shows is utterly beautiful to watch, as well.
“Parenthood,” like ‘FNL’ before it, is critically acclaimed and beloved by a small number of loyal fans, but isn’t a widely watched television series. The show has always hovered around six and a half million viewers a week and has frankly been lucky to have held on as long as it has with those numbers. I think those in charge of the network over the years must have really enjoyed this show to hang onto it as long as they did. The Nielsen ratings for “Friday Night Lights” were never even as strong as those for “Parenthood”, which is why the series was pawned off to DirecTV for its final three seasons on a first run basis and later aired in late spring or even early summer on NBC.
Most television viewers don’t care about Nielsen ratings and rarely, if ever, pay attention to them – many don’t even watch television as it airs any longer making the idea of the Nielsen ratings almost archaic. But, the networks still follow the ratings because it’s the best way to draw advertisers to their products and if shows aren’t drawing viewers they won’t last. These incredibly realistic shows simply aren’t drawing enough viewers for network television to want to keep adding them to their fall lineups and thus I believe “Parenthood” could be the last of its kind for a while, which makes its farewell ever more hurtful.
I’ve never understood why realistic television series don’t pull in good ratings on network television, despite critical acclaim and terrific storylines and casts like those of “Parenthood” and “Friday Night Lights.” I know a lot of TV viewers just like television as escapism, but after you’ve seen Mark Harmon solve a different variation of essentially the same crime 250 times don’t you want a little more? Please don’t stone me “NCIS” fans, I really do enjoy that show too. But, what makes 18 million people a week tune into “NCIS” and only six million tune into “Parenthood”?
It’s not going to be easy to say goodbye to Zeek, Camille, Sarah, Adam, Kristina, Crosby, Jasmine, Julia, Joel, Max, Amber, Drew and the others tonight, but knowing it’s potentially the end for an entire genre of television makes it even harder.
'Big Bang Theory' Finds Religion
By Aprille Hanson
The last thing I ever expected while watching the hit CBS show “The Big Bang Theory” was a correlation to something Pope Francis said back in October. Primarily, the discussion between God and Science and how the two can coexist without jeopardizing faith or fact.
In “The Space Probe Disintegration” which aired Jan. 8, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is worried and stressed for most of the episode waiting to hear whether the New Horizon Space Probe that he helped launch nine years ago was able to collect information about Pluto. He tries taking his mind off it by hanging out with Howard (Simon Helberg) but soon realizes he can’t relax on his own or with the help of his friend.
The two go for a drive and Raj makes a surprising request: that the two of them go to temple. Howard of course misunderstands, thinking he’s referring to his Jewish temple, but Raj explains he’d like to go to his own Hindu temple. It’s a minor side story that ultimately makes a bigger splash for the series as a whole.
While religion has been discussed throughout the show’s eight seasons, it’s never come from a desire to be near God. Typically, Howard will make jokes about being Jewish and Sheldon will complain about his overly Christian upbringing in Texas, only made into more of a caricature when his mother (Laurie Metcalf) shows up to enforce her views.
A show called “The Big Bang Theory” about a bunch of scientists has no room for serious talks on religion … at least until now. Howard points out that Raj has never had an interest in going to temple or talked about “believing in God.” Raj explains that for him, religion is very personal and he does in fact go to temple. Howard pushes him further about his belief in God, exclaiming, “But you’re a scientist.” Raj doesn’t see the problem, but Howard goes onto explain that as a scientist you are programmed to adhere to fact and evidence. Raj explains that plenty of famous scientists believed in God, including Albert Einstein who, “was famous for attacking quantum theory on the grounds that God does not play dice with the universe.”
Raj’s next answer to Howard has added another important layer to the show. It’s not a funny moment in a show that’s irreverent 99 percent of the time, even throughout this whole bit, as Howard provides the comic relief. It takes a serious turn, marking a major shift, as Raj says: “You know what? Whenever I walk into that temple I realize that whatever happens is OK. We’re all part of an immense pattern and though we can’t understand it we can be happy to know it’s working its will through us. Whether you call it God or the universe or the self, we’re all interconnected.”
Of course, his speech is cut short as a man in the temple parking lot dings his car, so the comedy sets back to its course.
It’s the first time I can see that the show has not bought into the stereotype of scientists vs. religion and for a show built on stereotypes – the geeky comic-book loving genius falls for the hot girl next door was what the show was based on after all – it proves that the show is evolving. Every character started out as a caricature, but has experienced some sort of growth throughout the progression of the show … except Raj. Yes, he’s able to talk to women now, but that was an inevitable occurrence. His leaning on a greater power leads right into what Pope Francis said about creationism and science.
“When we read the account of creation in Genesis, we risk thinking that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand, able to do everything. But it is not like that,” the Pope said. “He created living beings and he let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave each one, so that they would develop and reach their full potential.”
It’s such a shift from the early days of the Catholic Church when Galileo was excommunicated for saying the Earth and planets orbit the sun. Pope Francis is not the only pope to explain that evolution in particular is not at odds with Christian faith, but having this most prominent figure who reaches beyond just the Catholic faith say something so bold as this next phrase is a shift: “The Big Bang, which today is held as the beginning of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator, but requires it. Evolution in nature is not at odds with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve,” the Pope said.
It helps that Pope Francis is in fact familiar with scientific notions. He holds a Master’s degree in Chemistry.
So what does all this have to do with Raj? No, he’s not Catholic and the Pope is not referenced in the episode. But it’s not too far of a stretch to see a correlation between the Pope’s words, as he is a worldwide religious figure, or Raj’s, the musings of a scientist character on a TV comedy. They have the same theme. It’s important because this mentality of not putting religion and science at war has seeped its way into Christian faith and now, pop culture.
In the end, Raj and Howard arrive at the temple only to find out the space probe is safe. It doesn’t matter that we never know if Raj still goes in to give thanks to God. The bigger picture is how these two, as it turns out, scientific and religious figures prove that the two schools of thought can live in harmony, whether in the real world or the most popular comedy on television.
by Aprille Hanson
When you think Blake Shelton in terms of a variety show, he’s certainly a little more “Hee Haw” than “Saturday Night Live.” So, Shelton brought “Hee Haw” to ‘SNL’ on his first hosting gig Jan. 24.
It was only a matter of time when Shelton, a judge (really the judge) on the hit NBC singing competition “The Voice,” would take center stage at Studio 8H. The big question was how would this off-the-cuff, irreverently funny Southern man handle reading cue cards and doing skits that were way out of the box?
Turns out, a country boy can survive hosting ‘SNL’ … and actually do a great job.
After a funny opening regarding the NFL “Deflate-gate” scandal, Shelton came out to a monologue mimicking “Hee Haw,” with the cast by his side, as he strummed his guitar on a hay bale. Some of the cast, all dressed in overalls or big country dresses, “got” the gist of the 1960s-1980s show, which favored one-liners. Others, just tried to tell dirty jokes while Leslie Jones hysterically, wearing a blonde wig, kept saying no, she just did not get this at all, she was not OK with it.
It spring-boarded from there, featuring country-esque sketches like “Farm Hunk” where Shelton was essentially “The Bachelor” and the female cast kept up a revolving door of who would sit by him, each one saying “Can I steal him a sec,” something that really does happen on “The Bachelor.” Each time, the girls would get crazier, whether it was bringing him a live Macaw or telling him he’d have to feed her her meds in bits of cheese. The most laugh-out line was Shelton saying he’d probably kick off the two black contestants, because that’s how it works. It was hysterical and sad because it’s really how the show tends to go.
Other stand-out skits were “Family Feud” where Shelton played with his ‘Voice’ teammates, most notably Taran Killam playing Adam Levine. It was inevitable, as host Steve Harvey (played by Kenan Thompson) explained of the relationship of Shelton and Levine, when the two suggestively sunk behind their podiums. Shelton also did well playing a horrified parole board member to Kenan’s jailed man who eats people in a parody of “The Shawshank Redemption.”
But, the show wasn’t without low points. “Weekend Update” wasn’t worth talking about, the first time this season where it’s fallen really flat. Shelton’s “Topeka Today” sketch where he helped an old man pay tribute to his widow Joan starts off as a love song, but quickly turns into how much he hated her. It was unexpected, but it went on a little long. The plus side, is Shelton could sing the phone book and it’d still sound great with his smooth Southern voice.
The worst was definitely “Wishin’ Boot.” It was mocking the “message” type songs that many country artists gravitate towards by singing how in troubled times, the wishing boot appears to provide food, love and even protection. It lost me when an imposter boot pulled a knife on Shelton. However, it did redeem itself at the end when Kate McKinnon said they’d be making a shit ton of money on that song.
Shelton of course killed it with his performances of “Neon Light” and “Boys ‘Round Here.” However, ‘Boys’ has gotten old – he should have opted for “My Eyes” or his newest hit with Ashley Monroe “Lonely Tonight.” If he wanted to stay upbeat, he could have performed “Doin’ What She Likes” which was another recent major hit for him.
The best performance came at the end of the night where Killam plays a magician performing a show and Shelton as the skeptic in the audience. It was the one time where a skit focused on Shelton and gave him the ability to show off some comedic timing. When the magician convinces the skeptic that there’s no catch, it’s actually magic, Shelton exclaims “OH MY GOD” and goes up on stage to beg the magician to “make me rich.” As Killam tries to continue with the show, Shelton has perfect comedic timing listing off his demands – making him rich, guns for hands and finally the ability to go down on himself.
It was the type of humor that Shelton can pull off.
‘SNL’ in the hands of Shelton could have easily been stale and forced. But Shelton proved that he encompasses the word “performer” in more than just being a country singer.
by Julian Spivey
A double standard was on full display on Sunday night during the telecast of the 72nd annual Golden Globe Awards when it comes to men talking about women and women talking about men.
The controversy started when Oscar-nominated actor Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lopez presented an award together and Renner remarked to Lopez “you got the Globes, too” while looking down at her exposed cleavage. It was obviously not one of Renner’s finest moments and frankly a little cringe-worthy in its embarrassing lack of wit.
Renner’s remark instantly burnt up social media sites like Twitter with a mixture of stupidity consisting from people praising Renner for his line to those calling him a sexist.
Within less than an hour of the remark an article (actually you can’t call it that, it’s merely a paragraph and copied and pasted tweets about the incident) was posted by Salon.com in which “journalist” Anna Silman referred to Renner as a “pervy uncle.”
To be honest, I didn’t have a problem with people giving Renner hell for his comment, because it was stupid. It wasn’t until later when actress Ruth Wilson did essentially the same thing in her acceptance speech after winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Drama for her role in Showtime’s “The Affair” and got away without a smidge of complaints that I was angered and realized a double standard applied.
During Wilson’s acceptance speech she complemented co-star Dominic West’s backside by saying, “your ass is something of great beauty.” The social media, Salon and the rest of the Internet was crickets. Well, actually many women took to Twitter to complement Wilson for complementing West’s nice rear. Earlier many of these same women probably rolled their eyes at Renner’s remark.
It was a clear sign that a man can’t publically admire a woman’s body without being deemed sexist, where as a woman can admire a man’s body and receive absolutely no backlash whatsoever.
I didn’t like Wilson’s remark any more than I did Renner’s, but didn’t necessarily take issue with either until I saw the double standard. The problem is you can’t have it both ways. They are either both sexist or not.