What Happened? Why Is Every Character on Parenthood the Worst Now?

NUP_165248_0749.jpg Photo: NBC

I was so relieved when NBC announced that Parenthood would return for a farewell season. The dignity of a proper good-bye, I thought. The mere memory fills me with shame, because this season of Parenthood has made me so damn excited for this show to end. Get away from me, Bravermans! You are all terrible! You are all so terrible, and I hate all of you so much, and I will not miss any of you at all. Except for Adam and Kristina’s dog, who has done nothing to elicit my ire. Everyone else, though — I have grown to loathe all of you.

Especially Adam and Kristina, and especially-especially Kristina. Kristina has never been qualified to run a school — if anyone could do it, don’t you think more people would? — and now her incompetence has become dangerous negligence. Max was harassing Dylan, and Kristina and Adam appear to have given up on any kind of therapies for their son. Max’s behavior is explainable, but it’s not excusable, and his parents’ ongoing refusal to recognize that is as bad for him as it is for everyone else. Kristina’s constant “sweetheart,” “babe,” “honey” lingo is grating in her home, but at school, directed at her students, it’s inappropriate and degrading. That girl in a toga isn’t your “sweetheart.” She’s a student who deserves to be educated by someone who is a qualified educator. Sucks for you, toga girl, but that’s what you get for going to a school started by a former shoe salesman, a former political consultant, and an egregious sense of entitlement.

Joel and Julia started the series with a severe deficit of interestingness, and while they’re the characters I generally find the most sympathetic, their story arc of are-they-going-to-get-divorced is still not as gripping as the show thinks it is. Because the answer was a clear “no, they are not” even from the moment they separated, because all the hiccups in their relationship have felt incredibly contrived. (Sorry, Ed. Sorry, Lost lady.) I never bought that Joel would leave, nor do I really buy how stubborn Julia had been about moving forward with the divorce. Mostly I’m horrified that Joel and Julia haven’t been more adamant about family therapy, particularly starting with Victor’s adoption. Adopting a child out of a traumatic situation is really great time to get some family therapy for everyone! They’ve dabbled a little here and there, but everyone in this family could use some consistency, for example, the consistency of visiting a therapeutic environment once a week. Sydney’s mean-girl antics, while sort of clichéd, were at least grounded in reality; same goes for Victor’s struggles at school. Both kids are pretty irritating, but that’s often how children are in the wild as well.

Speaking of irritating, Sarah and Hank’s relationship no longer makes sense at all. They seem like mostly compatible roommates, but for people who are allegedly in a sexual relationship, they have about as much chemistry as two piles of hair. My fondest wish would be for Lauren Graham, Ray Romano, and Mae Whitman to run off and start their own, better show, because their performances remain terrific. Unfortunately, their characters do not. What is Sarah doing? Last night’s cheap reappearance by Mr. Cyr only served as a reminder that Sarah hasn’t had a strong emotional motivation in years. Wasn’t she going to be a playwright? Is she still managing an apartment building? What happened with that big beach-photography client — did that lead to anything? Instead, Sarah/Hank is replaying Lorelai/Luke from late-season Gilmore Girls: She sure knows all the secrets to parenting, and her gruff boyfriend sure doesn’t! Snooze.

Even less viable than Hank and Sarah’s relationship is Crosby and Jasmine’s. The two have always had a bickering-based romance, with Crosby happily playing the role of reckless man-child doofus and Jasmine seemingly happily playing the role of harping, fun-crushing schoolmarm. So why would Jasmine — who knows her husband has a chronic case of irresponsibility — be in the dark about her family’s finances? A few weeks ago, when Crosby tearfully confessed how scared he was, I got a little choked up. And then I got confused because Jasmine got all moony about how all she needs is Crosby, and the rest is fluff. What? Where was that attitude when they had to move out because of mold? Nowhere! Because that is not a reasonable way to feel, since Crosby is not reliable at all. Also, I’m not sure what Parenthood’s idea of a low-key party is, but Jabbar’s Harry Potter birthday bash did not seem low-budget to me at all. Are the Braverfolk unaware that many people are told as children, “No, that’s too expensive”? That is an okay thing to tell children, particularly when it’s true. Perhaps it would help alleviate some of Jabbar’s whininess. (Aida gets a pass.)

For many years, Amber was my favorite character on the show. And like I said, Mae Whitman forever. But Amber’s pregnancy story line is frustrating and confusing; for a woman who’s been a delayed-launch free spirit, deciding to be a parent seems like an awfully strange leap. Does Amber still play the guitar? Does Amber even have medical insurance? Does she have any employable skills other than having been a receptionist and occasional musician-whisperer at the Luncheonette? Obviously, these are circumstances under which many, many women have children — but I don’t buy that they’re circumstances under which Amber would have a child.

Drew’s college girlfriend is so viscerally nightmarish to me that she pollutes everything Drew-adjacent. The Zeek/Drew bond, which has been a source of some of the show’s much touching scenes, has taken a weird turn in the last few weeks as Zeek’s self-righteousness has become unbearable. Plus, Zeek yelling at Drew about how his grandson let him down? Ugh, you are monster.

I get it; heart surgery is scary. But it doesn’t get less scary the bigger a jackass you are, as we can see with Zeek, who came into it as a tremendous jackass. He’s a rude guy, and his weird anti-medicine attitudes — while perhaps a true depiction of many people — do not make for enjoyable viewing. His unpleasantness is matched only by Camille’s vagueness: She goes from laying down the law to secretly worrying to openly worrying to throwing her hands up and admitting there’s nothing she can do to get through to her husband. Camille’s spiel to Julia about how marriage is about forgiveness sounded less like wisdom and more like rationalizing why she stayed married to someone who seemed not to respect her for so long. Also, for people who are aging, that house has a lot of stairs, including stairs to the front door. Good luck.

Parenthood doesn’t come back until January, when, presumably, Zeek will die and everyone will be very sad for several episodes, but also Amber will have her baby, and the circle of life will remind us all that life is beautiful, and the only constant in this world is family, etc. Okay. That will be fine, particularly if it will curb the show’s desire to keep adding in new, irritating teen-girl characters. Ruby, Dylan, Drew’s college girlfriend? Please all go away for forever; go get your own shows about your own families and leave us to Braverman it out in peace. We only have four episodes left. Let’s hate-savor them.

Every Character on Parenthood Is the Worst