…Including Billy Riggins.

(Lainey: what? Billy Riggins is on this show??? Why didn’t you SAY SO?)

I’ve been trying to figure out who the Parenthood viewer is. It’s not everyone, because then the ratings would be, you know, up.  I used to think it was about those of us who fantasize about big families, but it isn’t that either. Some of the viewers who love it the most know from experience that the life of a big family isn’t nearly this sun-kissed and funny this much of the time. It’s inclusive of, but not enveloped by, the Friday Night Lights fan. (Billy Riggins was here!)  It is, judging by the spoilers I dodged Tuesday night, every single person on my Twitter feed.

Parenthood this year felt more like my family than it ever has. Not because the characters resemble my blood relations or I wished they were, but because big dramatic moments were brought up and then…life continued. They weren’t resolved, and they weren’t fixed. Zeek’s health is a great example. This is how it goes in life. Your parent gets a little older, has a health issue. You’re  concerned, you interrogate them to find out what the doctor said,  and…then you continue going to your job every day.  

Parenthood knows family is in the quiet moments between the big events. Yes, the wedding was gorgeous but the emotional moments have come all the way through the season, and they don’t have beginnings and ends. Haddie’s disappointment with her parents, which might be justified, started all the way last year. Adam’s tunnel-vision where his own decisions are concerned, Amber’s aimlessness, these have all been brewing for months before now. Why doesn’t most TV understand this? That I’ve been having the same continuous conversation with my sister, in sections, for years, and we might never be finished?

When I last wrote about the Bravermans I received some very angry mail because I called Max selfish. I heard that I didn’t understand a kid with needs like his, and that it wasn’t his fault, despite the fact that Haddie agrees with me. Half a year later, I still think he’s kind of selfish – along with funny and generous and excellent at basketball and probably lacking in table manners and having Asperger’s syndrome. He has that syndrome. And beyond that, a personality that has good traits and flaws, all his own. Just like everyone.

All of the characters on this show have flaws. Every last one. Haddie is sarcastic and petulant. Drew has a habit of punishing his mother for things she can’t control.  Camille stays silent, not wanting to “push” her children, when really, sometimes they need their mommy. Joel…well, Joel hasn’t made a mistake since the first season.  Which means there’s a whopper coming.

This is the thesis of the show. No matter who else you meet and like, your family knows you, loves you, accepts that you, like everyone else in the world, are going to have flaws, and that they’re going to point them out to you while defending their own. That’s family.

Specifically, this season was about the anticipation of a baby. While baby Nora has proved to be rather convenient (and I always forget, when I see the baby beside Kristina, how short American maternity leaves are), she represented the baby dreams that fueled Julia and Sarah this year.

Julia made mistakes, pinning her hopes on an unlikely scenario. Can you blame her?  Maybe.  (How incredible was Rosa Salazar as Zoe?) Those mistakes brought her here, to an even more unlikely scenario, where, even though I found the language of the social worker a little vague, she and Joel are now the adoptive parents of a child at least as old as their own daughter.  Is that complicated and troublesome and not at all what they were expecting?  YES, dammit, and thank God for that. “Man plans, God laughs.”  Is this arguably making another or different mistake, one that they didn’t think through entirely?  Possibly. Isn’t that interesting?

Sarah screwed up her courage and made a decision she could cling to in times of sadness. “At least I did right by Mark. I told him the truth.”  She took the moment when she had some calm and some courage, bolstered by being able to have a real conversation with her daughter – and she told him having children might not be for her, that he might want them, if not now, then in 10 years. She knows for a fact he’s got stars in his eyes. She is absolutely right when she cuts him loose.  When he comes back to her and proposes, exactly nothing has changed in their situation, i.e. she’s still 40 and ambivalent, he’s still 28 and naïve; still, she agrees. Are they any further away from the problems she stated? Probably not!  Are they thinking this through? Doesn’t look like it. Don’t you love it?

There’s not shock on Parenthood. There’s not boundary pushing. There’s people consistently, constantly, being likeable and unlikeable, reliably, every day (remember how Adam’s speech didn’t even mention Jasmine? Jerk). There’s allowing people to grow and change so slowly. And the other people who they interact with letting them do it, if reluctantly, sometimes.

It’s been a fantastic ride and I’m far from the only one who thinks it’s reached new heights. If the show is renewed for a fourth season (and God, I hope so) I imagine we’re talking about a minimum of a 6.5 month hiatus until then. It’s worth a rewatch to go back to the beginning and see how these people have changed, and what happened to Haddie’s hair. Think about how you hated Kristina and who she’s become, and whether she was always that person. Think about your family, and how imperfect they are. And what a relief it is to see that reflected back to you, in your imperfect, constantly changing life.

Attached - Michael B Jordan at the Elton John Oscar party on Sunday