All Good Things Come To An End: Parenthood

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We know well that all good things must eventually come to an end.

Parenthood was brilliant. Honest and heartwarming, tragic and heartbreaking. I expected to cry my eyes out throughout the finale but surprisingly held back the tears until the very end. With 12 minutes left of the episode, I texted a friend and said “I’m not crying yet” but montages set in the future kill me. Every time.

Early last year, I was lucky enough to visit the Parenthood set. I sat behind Larry Trilling as he directed the season 5 finale episode. During a break, he turned around and asked what I liked about the show. I told him it was the storytelling. I often cringe when I think about that thirty second exchange. Should my answer have been more profound? Should I have specifically mentioned Kristina’s breast cancer story and how I could personally relate? Should I have talked about what the show has done for autism awareness? Should I have asked if Joel and Julia were ever going to reconcile?!

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But, it is the storytelling that I loved and will miss most about Parenthood.

And Adam.

Yes, I loved Adam. A couple of weeks ago, I felt an overwhelming sadness for how I won’t see Peter Krause each week anymore. And especially Peter and Dax Shepard together. Man, those two have some kind of perfect synergy that worked so well as Adam and Crosby. It got me thinking that I needed to seek out their past projects.

Thank you, Netflix. (Unfortunately, not all titles are available to stream on Netflix but many are available on DVD)

Peter Krause: Six Feet Under, Sports Night (with Josh Charles from The Good Wife!), Dirty Sexy Money, Lovelife, The Truman Show. And how could I forget…He played Jay, Andrea’s older boyfriend, in three episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 in 1992.

Lauren Graham: Gilmore Girls, Because I Said So, Bad Santa, News Radio and the short-lived sitcom Townies from 1996.

Dax Shepard: The Judge, Veronica Mars (how cute is it that he’s in his wife movie?), This Is Where I Leave You, Robot Chicken, Without A Paddle, and who remembers him on MTV’s Punk’d? I do. He Punk’d Nick Lachey when he pretended to be Jessica Simpson’s white trash relative.

Monica Potter: Patch Adams, The Last House on the  Left, Along Came a Spider, The Very Thought of You and Head Over Heels.

Erika Christensen: Traffic, Lie To Me, Flightplan and The Tortured.

Sam Jaeger: American Sniper, Hart’s War, The Riverman, Take Me Home (director credit), and an uncredited role in Friday Night Lights. Shout out Jason Katims for always putting his FNL actors in other projects.

Max Burkholder: Tons of voice work for Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, My Friend’s Tigger and Pooh. He also played Senator McCallister’s son on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters.

Joy Bryant: Entourage, The Skeleton Key, and About Last Night.

Miles Heizer: Rudderless, Private Practice and Ghost Whisperer (Ghost Whisperer feels super binge-worthy!)

Mae Whitman: Oh how I love Mae Whitman! She’s been in tons of things but I remember her first in Hope Floats with Sandra Bullock. Other work includes a 1996 episode of Friends where she plays a Girl Scout, Arrested Development, and tons of voice work in American Dad and as the voice of Tinkerbell.

Bonnie Bedelia: I’ll never forget her as Shirley Muldowney in Heart Like A Wheel! Die Hard, Presumed Innocent (loved that movie!), HBO’s Big Love and Sordid Lives.

Craig T. Nelson: Poltergeist, Coach, Troop Beverly Hills, Soul Surfer, My Name is Earl, The Family Stone, The Incredibles, The Skulls, Turner & Hooch and Private Benjamin.

Of course, Parenthood is available to stream on Netflix.

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May you stay forever young, Parenthood.

Behind the Scenes: Parenthood

Earlier this week, I spent my morning on the set of the TV show Parenthood.

Here’s the quick back story of how it all happened:

During season 4 of Parenthood, Kristina was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wrote a few blog posts about how I felt the show dealt with the storyline. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when a blogging friend tells me she met Parenthood’s Executive Producer, Jason Katims, at the recent Dad 2.0 conference. She casually drops a bomb and tells me she mentioned my blog to him during their meet and greet.

Um, what?

YES! HOLY SHIT!! I was ecstatic. The mere thought that the incredible Jason Katims could possibly know about my little space on the internet is just too much for me to handle. Of course, I took this news to Facebook and what came out of it was a day spent watching Peter Krause, Dax Sheppard and Craig T. Nelson film scenes from Parenthood’s season 5 finale episode.

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A family friend, who knows all the right people, generously offered to set up a visit to the Parenthood set at Universal Studios. We drove to the very back of the lot, passing stage after stage with huge billboards for Parks and Recreation, Community, and PARENTHOOD!

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Parenthood Call Sheet

We were taken through the doors of stage 44 where Bonnie Bedelia and Ericka Christensen were filming a scene that takes place in the Braverman home. You know the one Camille and Zeek are considering selling? Yeah, that one. The set was massive. Almost the size of a real house but without a roof and stairs that lead to no where. We passed a stack of mattresses – and I wondered what those were for – as we climbed the stairs to meet Executive Producer Lawrence Trilling (Alias, Felicity). We’ll revisit the mattresses after the finale airs – no spoilers!

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Exec Producer Larry Trilling and the Parenthood Script Supervisor

We sat in producer chairs and watched as cameras rolled. “Ericka, Ericka, Ericka” one guy whispered into a mic to cue the actor to enter the shot. The script supervisor watched and listened closely to the scene. They took several takes and once they were done, we got to meet Ericka Christensen who plays Julia. She was lovely and I looked closely for a wedding ring which might give me some clue on what to expect from the Joel and Julia storyline. No spoilers!

We then got to tour several of the other Parenthood sets, including Adam and Kristina’s home, Jasmine and Crosby’s house, Amber’s apartment, Sarah’s apartment, Drew’s dorm room and community bathroom, and the Luncheonette! The crew was breaking down one of the sets which was a huge spoiler that I won’t share here because no spoilers!

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From Adam and Kristina’s bedroom. Out of the shot were about 50 people on the Universal Studios VIP back lot set tour also checking out the set.

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Upstairs hallway of Adam and Kristina’s house on the Parenthood set.

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Sarah’s apartment door.

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Sarah’s desk inside her apartment.

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The awesome sliding door to Amber’s apartment.

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Outside Jabbar’s bedroom in Crosby and Jasmine’s home.

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The Luncheonette! Have you seen the webisodes? Google that.

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Yep. That’s me inside Crosby’s recording booth.

We finished touring the sets and headed back to stage 44 to watch another scene. I just had so much fun watching from behind the scenes of how this show comes together.

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Outside the Stage 44 door. The red light means they were filming.

While lighting was adjusted for the next scene, Larry turned and asked what I like most about Parenthood. I fumbled around for an answer but told him it was the storytelling above all that keeps me invested. The show is so spot on. If you aren’t watching Parenthood, I suggest you download it and start binge watching it now.

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Larry Trilling watching Craig T. Nelson in the Parenthood finale.

Want to see more photos from the Parenthood set? Check out the photo album on my Facebook page!

Parenthood Grabs Me Again

I know I’ve been critical of Parenthood this season and the treatment of Kristina’s breast cancer storyline. Though, in last week’s episode, a two minute scene between Adam and Kristina, pulled me right back in again.

This scene just reminded me how awesome the writer’s have handled Adam’s reaction and how breast cancer affects the whole family. Good stuff there, Katims.

Parenthood Returns

Hey, look!  Kristina Braverman has a full head of hair in the season premiere of Parenthood.

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So, I’m not trying to be annoyed by this but those of us who have lost our own locks from chemo know that it can take months before your hair starts looking like a normal head of pre-chemo hair again. I kept a hair diary as proof!

If you are a regular reader, you might remember that I wrote extensively about Parenthood last season and Kristina’s experience with breast cancer. The storyline had some ups and downs for me personally. I also got a lot of hater comments here on the blog about it, too.

But that was last year.

This season it looks like Kristina is writing a new story. In an interview at The Daily Beast, Monica Potter talked about how Kristina is “seizing the day and wanting to go after her dreams.”  She also mentioned that Kristina’s experience with breast cancer is referred to but that this season is “the year of celebration.”

I’m conflicted though. Part of me definitely wants to see a storyline where Kristina is moving on with her life post cancer. It’s a place a lot of survivors want to be. However, in my experience, many of us are frozen in fear after finishing treatment. Some are afraid of what’s next or waiting for the other shoe to drop. The area is very gray and I think for the most part we muddle through it trying to figure out our new stories.

Interested in reading my posts from last season’s Parenthood? You can find links to each recap post here. Are you planning on watching the season premiere of Parenthood tonight?

photo source: Monica Potter, Twitter

Parenthood Looks to Add Some Dramatic Oomph

I’m worried, y’all.  I’m worried Parenthood might be looking to add some dramatic oomph with Kristina’s breast cancer storyline.  I think you might know what I mean if you saw next week’s previews for the episode titled “What to my Wandering Eyes.”  A bedside vigil and the discovery that Kristina recorded messages for her children?  I’m worried Parenthood is trying hard to work the heartbreaking side of this disease.

Yeah, cancer can be heartbreaking because its surprise arrival disrupts life and best laid plans.  But, it doesn’t always have to be so damn dramatic.  There are a lot of women living fairly normal day-to-day lives, getting up, going to work, taking care of their families, getting treatment, and moving on with life.  So why is Parenthood trading in their exceptional storytelling for a cliched cancer tragedy?  I guess because being able to successfully manage breast cancer treatment makes for boring television.

Hrumph.

Now, I’m only making an assumption based off of the preview I saw.  Of course I’d be happy to eat my words if NBC or Jason Katims want to send me an advanced preview of the episode to prove me wrong.

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Did Mark overreact to seeing Hank and Sarah?

So, what did you think about Mark dumping Sarah after he saw she and Hank together?  Talk about overly dramatic, right? Seriously, she wasn’t doing anything.  But, this opens the door for Hank to pursue Sarah.  Do you think he will?  And is it just me or is it hard to watch Ray Romano play anyone other than Ray Barone?

Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC

Parenthood Addressing the Less Obvious Aspects of Breast Cancer

What can I say about Parenthood?  Man, they are so totally getting it right — at least compared to my experience with breast cancer.  Parenthood is brilliantly addressing some of the less obvious aspects of breast cancer and that makes this girl happy.

Last week, I had almost forgotten to watch but luckily only missed the first few minutes after snuggling in for the night.  Kristina had completed her first round of chemo in the episode before and I’m guessing this episode was supposed to be the next day.  The girl was sick off her ass until Adam got his hands on some “high powered genetically modified ganja.”

Here’s the crazy irony of this episode: it aired four years to the day that I underwent my first round of chemo.

From the stick of the needle to the overwhelming feeling of nausea, my first time was awful.  The nurse struggled getting the I.V. into the stupid catheter embedded below my collarbone that afternoon.  My anxiety was already sky-high and to have things go wrong only amplified my fear of what the chemo was going to do to me.  I broke down in tears, naturally.  That night, the nausea hit me like a ton of bricks.  I learned quickly to stay on top of my medications.  Chemo made me feel as if everything in my body came to a grinding halt.  A fight between good and evil.

Last night’s episode we see Kristina start to fear what she might miss.  This is where I think Parenthood is getting the story so right.  See, before being diagnosed, I never thought about dying.  Well, of course I did.  But, it was always this “thing” that hangs out there on the fringe of reality.  However, when you are presented with your own mortality – you bet your ass you think about it.  What sucks though is that you aren’t allowed to talk about it.  You’re challenged to stay positive and optimistic – you know, “Livestrong” –  and the topic is often brushed off at the mere mention of it.

I loved Adam’s reaction to Kristina’s wishes to see Max go to the dance.  It says so much about the character and how he’d do anything for Kristina.  I’m worried about Adam though.  I think he’s trying to hard to keep it together that we’re going to see him break.  This could potentially be a really interesting dynamic I hope the writers explore.

My love for Parenthood is in full bloom.  Not only am I so pleased with Kristina’s breast cancer storyline, I’m really loving the complex relationship budding between Amber and the former Dillon Panther and what about the previews for next week?  Sarah and Ray Romano?  I never really thought Jason Ritter’s character was right for Sarah but I certainly don’t think Hank is any better.  Lorelai and Luke forever.  Ok, now I’m just mixing real names with old shows.  But you get me, right?

So, here’s the question: are we going to see Kristina lose her hair or what?

Photo by: Danny Feld/NBC

I’m Really Sorry for Doing this to You | Parenthood

I’m really digging Jason Katims’ writing this season on Parenthood!  Did you see the episode  “The Talk” this week?  They stayed light on the breast cancer story line but jumped feet first into another that needed to be handled with some finesse.  It was done perfectly.

Anyway, I’ve included a clip from last night’s episode.  Kristina apologizes to Adam essentially for getting breast cancer.  It sounds absurd to apologize for something you have no real control over. But, this disease disrupts life and shatters routines. Doctor appointments and treatments take priority over dinner plans and laundry. Family members, especially spouses, have to pick up the slack.  And more often than not, as the patient, you deal with the guilt that comes with that.  You deal with the guilt of not being able to be yourself.  It sucks.

Parenthood is getting it right. Good stuff.

What Parenthood Got Right about Breast Cancer

I wrote last Wednesday on how the television show Parenthood is writing breast cancer into its story line this season.  This ides makes me cringes a little bit because I’m afraid Kristina’s battle with the disease will succumb to the magic of T.V. — in other words, she’ll be cured by the end of the season.  Hell, I’m afaid she might be cured by the end of October!

In my previous post, I wrote how I would like to see the show tackle genetics, treatment, and survivorship.  These might be lofty expectations because – really – who wants to watch that?  The writers might have to dumb it down a bit for their audience too.  All that cancer-lingo otherwise would just be lost on viewers who don’t have any previous experience with breast cancer.  I think they’ve done pretty good with the autism story lines but that opinion comes from a person who has no experience with autism.   The Parenthood writers could simply be glossing over the reality of autism and I wouldn’t know any better.  I’d LOVE to hear with from those readers with children on the spectrum to see if Parenthood realistically portrays a family with an autistic child or not.

I guess that’s why I’ve decided to write about Parenthood here on the blog.  I want to share my opinion on whether or not the show is realistically portraying a woman’s fight with breast cancer (at least from my perspective).

In last night’s episode “Everything is Not Okay”  I was so super pleased with a couple of things I heard and saw.  Here’s what I think Parenthood got right about breast cancer so far:

  • Kristina’s fear.

Kudos to Monica Potter for perfectly depicting the fear of a patient before seeing her doctor for the first time.  Quick story – I clearly remember my first visit with my oncologist to discuss my treatment plan.  As I waited, I nervously fumbled around with my purse, when another young patient asked if it was my first time.  That sweet angel – clearly recognizing the panic on my face – tried to calm my fears and told me that treatment wouldn’t be as hard as I imagined it would be.  That bitch lied.  Kidding.  Sort of.

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  • “I need the results on the BRCA ASAP.”

Woot!  Genetics!!  Yeah sure, it was breezed over.  Did you even catch it?  It was the scene where Kristina had just been examined by her doctor and he barked this request into his phone.  While I’ve never had a doctor take a phone call from his/her cell during my appointment, I have had a doctor leave the room for a phone call on more than one occasion.  Yes, it’s VERY annoying.

  • Determining the characteristics of breast cancer.

I love that we haven’t yet learned what kind of breast cancer Kristina will have.  The writers could have easily just skipped over all that.  It’s truly a waiting game. Kristina won’t know what kind of breast cancer she has until she has it surgically removed and pathology reviews it.  It was explained that during surgery, a sentinel lymph node will be removed and analyzed as well.  All those things are factors when determining the course of treatment.  Waiting to find out if the cancer has already spread and if you’re going to need chemotherapy is agonizing.   Another thought: why don’t they just do a core needle biopsy?  Maybe because of its location.  See?  Details.  Too much for the regular viewer?

  • Statistics

Kristina’s visit to another doctor for a second opinion yielded some important statistics.  In so many words, it was that a woman’s cure rate when having a lumpectomy and radiation is the same as having a mastectomy.  Le sigh.  Doctors rely so heavily on statistics but they don’t always make your decision easier.  I hope we see this come up again in future episodes.

There were a couple of other highlights that I thought were portrayed beautifully.  First,  Adam’s tendency to try to make everything better and his encouragement to stay positive.  I’m surprised he didn’t bring Kristina home a Livestrong bracelet!  Also, we caught Kristina searching the internet.  Oh man, staying off Google is the cardinal rule after you’ve been diagnosed!  I loved that they included this.  And lastly, Kristina’s plea to Adam to allow her to be scared and not offer a solution.  Being afraid of the unknown, of treatment, of dying, or of whatever is a totally common emotion patients experience.  I’m really loving the direction Parenthood is going.  I know Jason Katims’ wife has had experience with breast cancer but the specifics they touched on can only come from someone who’s been there.  I wonder if they have a survivor consulting the script.

Did you see last night’s episode?  Drop me a comment.  I’d love to know if the details were too much for the regular viewer.  Or, if you’re a survivor…what did you like or dislike about the episode?  And please, I really want to know about the autism portrayal.  Realistic or not?

 

Photo by: Danny Feld/NBC

Parenthood Does Breast Cancer

Wendy-Nielsen-Facebook-ParenthoodOh boy.  Last night, already reeling from the news that a friend from a survivorship group I belong to had passed away from metastatic breast cancer earlier in the day, I caught the end of the show Parenthood.  I don’t usually watch Parenthood – well, I did the first season – but reality TV on Bravo usually trumps scripted programming.

Anyway, I caught maybe the last 15 minutes of the episode titled “Left Field” last night and as soon as I saw Kristina getting her mammogram and thought – “Oh great, Parenthood is doing a breast cancer story line.  And right in time for October.  Perfect.”   And naturally, I took to Facebook too.

A couple of years ago, the show Brothers and Sisters tackled a cancer story line when Calista Flockhart’s character was diagnosed with lymphoma.  I wrote about it in another post:

I’ve been pleased with how the writers have handled the character’s diagnosis and treatment. They have tapped into the fear one deals with facing a deadly illness. They’ve shown Kitty writing letters to your son in the event she dies. They’ve shown her look like crap after chemo – dark circles under her eyes and exhausted. And they’ve shown Kitty search out alternative treatments.

But you know what sucked about the Brothers and Sisters story line?  Kitty was cured by the end of the season.  Boo.  And not boo because she was cured but boo because it was wrapped up pretty with a bow and never heard about again.

So what do I want to see from the breast cancer story line on Parenthood?

parenthoodWhile researching for this post, I did read that Parenthood writer Jason Katmis has had some personal experience with breast cancer as his wife was diagnosed several years ago.  With that news, I’m hoping audiences get to see what a cancer patient experiences from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship.  In addition to wanting to see Kristina freak out, here’s the other things I’d like them to address:

  •  I want to see her go from fearing death to finding the courage to fight the disease and then back again.  Because you know what?  That’s real life.
  • I’d love to see Kristina have to get a mastectomy.
  • For her to be diagnosed with a HER2 cancer or to be BRCA positive (especially because she has daughters and how that diagnosis can affect the future of her girls).
  • I’d definitely like to see her lose her hair from the chemotherapy (yes, most breast cancer chemo drugs make your hair fall out.  I’d really like to see Monica Potter shave her head).
  • I’d love to see her have to deal with babysitting while she has to have seven weeks worth of radiation treatment (or the overall taxing commitment with doctor appointments).
  • I’d like to see her in a cancer support group.
  • I’d like to see her deal with survivor guilt or feeling alienated from her peers or family members.
  • I’d like to see this storyline continue past October and definitely past this season because even when you’re done with cancer treatment, you are never back to normal.

Will I watch this season of Parenthood even though I haven’t watching in two years?

Yes.  Will you?