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.
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