If you’re anything like us, last season’s finale of Parenthood had you worried. Not because you thought the show wouldn’t be renewed (it’s the smartest relationship/family drama on television) but because when Mark (Jason Ritter) asked Sarah (Lauren Graham) to marry him, the look on her face said she still wasn’t quite sure of her answer. Well, Parenthood is just about ready to make its new season return, and apparently, we’re not the only ones who worry about that relationship!
In “Family Portrait,” the Bravermans are gearing up to take another group shot, and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) is reluctant to let Mark be in the photo because nothing is official between him and Sarah. Apparently her kids have a history of “swearing [people] are the one” and then breaking up with them later, only to leave their mark in old family shots no one can be bothered to Photoshop.
But the seriousness of Mark and Sarah’s relationship isn’t the only thing up in the air with “Family Portrait.” Though much of last season’s finale felt like it could have been a series finale—with Jasmine (Joy Bryant) and Crosby (Dax Shepard) getting married, and Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) finally getting a kid to adopt—we all know that things are only neat and tidy in a big family like the Bravermans for a few minutes. It’s a new season, and so there are a whole new set of banter-style issues.
- RELIGIOUS CLARITY IS KEY. When Jabbar (Tyree Brown) starts praying and asking the tough religious questions, it becomes a time for reflection for his own parents. If they want to be the ones to provide the tough answers, they have to make sure they not only know what they believe individually, but collectively as a family, as well. Thus starts a series of soul-searching to find answers for themselves…from their families.
- NEW JOBS LEAD TO NEW ROMANTIC COMPLICATIONS. Both Sarah and her daughter Amber (Mae Whitman) are taking big professional strides this season. Amber is working at the Luncheonette, where she falls under the spell of a handsome and charming musician (American Idol’s Paul McDonald), while Sarah takes a gig as a photographer’s assistant to the “grumpy” but perhaps more seriously antisocial photographer who has been hired to shoot the Braverman family portrait (guest star Ray Romano). She may know nothing about photography, but she certainly knows how to make people feel comfortable—in front of the camera or otherwise—and even he can’t help but see the value in that.
- ONE FAMILY MEMBER FINALLY FLIES THE COOP. Haddie (Sarah Ramos) is prepping for college and because of it Kristina (Monica Potter) is adamant about the family spending as much time together as possible and making sure Haddie and Max (Max Burkholder) bond a bit more before she leaves for what Kristina exclaims will probably be “for good.” But though the family goes all out to send her off, it isn’t the big gestures that make her realize what she will be missing.
- DREW OFFICIALLY HAS A NEW FATHER FIGURE. Though he has bonded with Mark and even relied on Adam (Peter Krause) in many ways, Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) has officially taken him under his wing when this season starts. He is helping the young Braverman bulk up to impress his girlfriend when she returns from camp. But something tells me he’ll have to help him deal with a broken heart if she comes back with a confession about a summer fling…
- ADOPTION ADJUSTMENT. Victor (Xolo Mariduena) is still very much in the Graham household, though he doesn’t yet want to call his adoptive parents by “mom” or dad,” nor does he want to follow all of their rules, which creates a learning curve for him but also for Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae), who doesn’t like that her new big brother gets to do things she can’t—like eat in front of the television. Easing Victor into their home has illuminated a “I want to be a peer-ent” side of Julia we thought we’d never, ever see but it also exposes a harsh truth about adoption that many people are scared to face, let alone say out-loud: the length of time it may take for a stranger to feel like your own kid.
But thankfully Camille doesn’t have a problem including Victor in the new photo—because being adopted already makes him feel too different from everyone else. It’s a fascinating topic to explore on-screen because in a way, Victor could be a stand-in for the audience when we were first introduced to the Bravermans.
The Bravermans have always had their own language with each other—an ease, a comfort, a not-quite-shorthand-but-still-ability-to-understand-when-everyone-talks-over-each-other. That certainly takes some getting used to for any outsider. But once you let down your guard, you see just how welcoming they—and the show itself—is, and you feel like one of the family, kicking yourself for coming late to the party. We hope Victor embraces them soon so his life can be as enriched as ours now is, but regardless, it’s always better late than never. And that goes double for anyone just starting Parenthood for the first time this season.
Parenthood returns to NBC with “Family Portrait” on September 11th 2012 at 10 p.m.
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