Follow TV Tropes


Series / Parenthood

Go To

Parenthood is the second television adaptation of the 1989 movie of the same name, and like the first series (which lasted just 12 episodes in 1990), Ron Howard (who directed the film) is an executive producer, although Jason Katims, executive producer of Friday Night Lights, appears to be the main showrunner, and aired on NBC for six seasons, ending its run in January 2015.

The show explores the lives of the various families belonging to the Braverman clan.

Not to be confused with The Parent 'Hood.


This TV Series provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor : None of the main cast appear in every episode. Until the final season, the only characters who were present in every story were Adam, Kristina, Julia, Sarah and Crosby. However, sometimes, they were mentioned.
    • By the sixth season, every character has been absent in at least two episodes.
      • With the exception of Las Vegas, and May God Bless and Keep You Always, which were also the two episodes with Haddie coming back, every other season 6 episode did not feature one or several characters.
      • "Happy birthday Zeek " did not feature Drew.
      • "The Waiting Room" did not feature the young kids and Kristina.
      • Drew and Amber were absent in "A Potpourri of Freaks"
      • Sarah and Hank were absent in "The Scale from Affection is Fluid", though Hank isn't a main character.
      • Zeek, Camille,Julia, Joel, Sydney and Victor were absent in "Too Big To fail"
      • Adam, Kristina, Crosby, Jasmine, Jabbar and Camille were absent in "These are The Times We Live In"
      • Adam, Sarah, Zeek, Joel, Julia, Sydney and Victor were absent in "Aaron Brownstein must be Stopped"
      • Crosby, Sydney, Victor, Jasmine and Amber were absent in "Lean In"
      • Jabbar in fact only returned in the finale.
      • Max, Sydney and Victor also were absent in "How did we Get There ?"
      • Drew did not appear in "We Made It Trough the Times ", so his penultimate episode was "Let's Go Home".
  • Actor Allusion:
    • One episode has Haddie and Amber talking about a movie that stars Michael Cera. Guess who played Michael Cera's girlfriend back on Arrested Development (and kicks Cera's ass in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). Mae Whitman's character also wear a banana costume for Halloween, which is a reference to what is worn by the employees on Arrested Development at their Frozen Banana stand.
    • Lauren Graham's character Sarah's first (albeit short-lived) love interest is a barista, and later on she dates her daughter's teacher, who is younger than her. In Graham's starring role in Gilmore Girls, her character was a coffee addict who eventually fell in love with the man who served her coffee (He was a diner owner and served her food also, but she came in just for coffee often), and she dated early on— and got engaged to— her daughter's young teacher.
    • In Season 3 Alex is explaining to Haddie why he doesn't think he should go to a high school party. Max says it's not a good idea because of the underage drinking, which he knows about because he watches Friday Night Lights. Max is telling this to Alex, played by Michael B. Jordan who not only was a star on Friday Night Lights for two seasons but who also got his role on Parenthood through Jason Katims' executive producer position at both shows.
  • Aborted Arc: In season 4, Adam & Kristina lie to their daughter Haddie about a major medical issue. They claim Kristina is 100% cancer-free when she isn't. They do this, presumably, to convince her it's 100% fine for her to fly back across the country to the college she's attending instead of take a semester off to help out at home. This is clearly something that should bite them in the butt, especially if something goes drastically wrong. But when something does, and Kristina is in the hospital around Christmas and might die from a severely compromised immune system, Haddie shows up and simply hugs her mom. The lie and potential for Haddie to be either very angry and betrayed, or forgiving and understanding is 100% ignored/forgotten.
    • This is also done between Season 2 and Season 3 of the series. At the end of Season 2, Sarah writes a play, gets a big-name agent Zeek knows, and the play is a hit when performed locally. Maybe it would have flopped in bigger venues, and with the play seeming to be partially autobiographical, Sarah may have had no additional ideas. However, one would at least have expected a line in Season 3's premiere, "No producer wanted to pick it up for LA, much less New York, and I don't have any other ideas that seem worth it." Instead, Sarah went back to her (then) low-paying job as a bartender.
    • Season 1 ended with Amber handing Sarah information on college classes and encouraged Sarah to try and go back to school, and it implied that this was going to be further explored, only for it to be dropped completely between seasons.
    • Season 4 ends with Sarah moving away in a promising relationship and embracing the idea of someplace new. ... season 5 she is right back where she was before.
    • Zeek bought an RV! ... must have sold it off screen because they never mention it again.
    • In season one, the grandparents were in serious financial trouble, and were in danger of losing their home. In season 2 this appears to have been resolved, and only their marriage is in trouble, and they can afford to give their family members very large sums of money as loans, as well as take sudden trips to Europe.
  • Adults Are Useless: Some of the parents have this problem; Julia can't seem to do much of anything right with her daughter, Crosby is a Bumbling Dad for quite a few episodes. Adam and Kristina have mostly ignored their daughter while trying to deal with their son, who has Asperger's Syndrome.
  • The Alcoholic: Alex is in AA. Seth (Amber and Drew's father) is an alcoholic and has other substance abuse problems as well.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Sarah. She yells after her kids to "make good choices!" on their first day of school. After this, Amber asks her to drop her off a few blocks from the front door. Adam and Kristina also qualify, considering their "MY DAUGHTER IS DATING!" freakout.
  • Babies Ever After: Amber gives birth to baby Zeek in the second to last episode, and the final scenes of the finale (which take place about two years later) feature a pregnant Jasmine, Julia and Joel with both a toddler and a baby, and Amber with a young step-daughter.
  • Back for the Finale: After leaving for college, Haddie appears only once in the finale of season 5, and besides a single scene in the first episode, appears only in the finale of season 6.
  • Bald Woman: Kristina for the last chunk of Season 4 as a result of getting chemotherapy.
  • Baseball Episode: The beginning of the first season featured a few episodes about baseball, as Max was playing on a team.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: When a customer at the grocery store calls Max a retard, Adam punches him in the face.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • A few episodes do end with in rather uncomfortable positions, where the parents have to do what's best for their child even though their kids may not appreciate or understand it at the time, such as when Crosby has to learn to be more strict at disciplining his son.
    • The Series Finale: Sarah gets married to Hank early so Zeek can walk her down the aisle. Zeek dies in his favorite chair, then we have a time jump and we see Amber Happily Married, Max graduating, and Julia and Joel happy together with four kids.
  • Brainy Brunette: Haddie, though she has become blonde in seasons 5 and 6.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Amber is this. Haddie also sometimes fills this role, although it is justified with her. Sarah apparently used to be this.
  • Bromantic Foil: Crosby towards Adam, to an extent. One is happy in his role as a father, confident, and responsible, and the other has absolutely no idea what he's doing.
  • Brother Chuck: The Lessings, who were Kristina and Adam's strongest support outside of the family during season 1 with advice for Max's condition declare they are getting a divorce in season 2. Afterwards, their appearances quickly diminish and are no longer even mentioned in season 3. In season 4 they make a single scene, quickly mention the divorce is off, and Kristina was less than thrilled to see them.
  • Bumbling Dad: The only dad without shades of this seems to be Joel.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Amber in the First Season seemed to be treated this way by everyone.
    • Up to Eleven with Crosby.
  • Children Raise You: This happens to Crosby, and a variation happens to Sarah.
  • Clear My Name: Amber is accused of smoking Marijuana, but she insists she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's actually Haddie's pot.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The premise of the show.
  • Cool Old Guy: Zeek is always right, even when it seems like he's being belligerent and meddling.
  • Cringe Comedy: Though a lot of the time it's just plain ol' cringe. The show does love it's horrifyingly uncomfortable moments.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Ryan's time as a soldier in Afghanistan has left him with a bad case of PTSD.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Amber. Also Crosby, with his sarcasm likely being his way of coping with being a Butt-Monkey. Max also has his moments.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Hank to Sarah. Also Victor to Joel and Julia.
  • Distant Finale: The final scene of the show shows flashes forward to what happens to each of the Bravermans a few years into the future.
  • Disappeared Dad: Amber and Drew's dad. Lampshaded by an explanation and occasional reminders in the dialogue.
  • The Ditz: Sarah can be one sometimes.
  • Doting Parent: All of the parents are this to all of their kids to a degree, but Joel in particular dotes on Victor a lot, much to Sydney's chagrin.
  • Dropped After the Pilot: The pilot episode introduced Sarah going on a date with a guy who crushed on her in high school. Despite them seemingly having an immediate emotional connection and having sex that night, she breaks up with him in the opening of the second episode, shrugging the events of the pilot episode off as her being swept up in the moment after feeling particularly emotional.
  • Dysfunctional Family: But still loving.
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Expy: Lorelai Sarah. Just try watching an episode and not thinking of Gilmore Girls.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: In season one Haddie dyes her hair black to try and be more like Amber. In season 3 Amber starts dying her hair blonde once she's decided to live on her own and stay out of trouble. Sure enough in season 5 when she starts making similar bad choices Sarah did at her age, Amber's hair is long and dark again like her mom's.
  • Family Versus Career: Beautifully averted with Julia; her husband Joel stays home with their daughter while she goes to work as a successful lawyer. As of Season 4 though she's had to leave her job due to now having two kids to take care of.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting
  • Generation Xerox: Sarah and Amber.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: A rare 21st century aversion, as Drew's girlfriend Amy has one;
  • Green-Eyed Monster / Sibling Rivalry: Sydney towards Victor after Joel and Julia adopt him.
  • Happily Adopted: Victor by Joel and Julia. It certainly wasn't a smooth start in any capacity, but eventually he and the rest of the family come to accept one another.
  • Happily Married: Zeek and Camille, Adam and Kristina, Julia and Joel, at least until their marriage hits the rocks in Season 5.
  • Happy Ending: Season 4 had one. Kristina is cancer-free and gets to go to Hawaii with Adam, Jasmine is pregnant with her and Crosby's second child, Victor has become Happily Adopted and is no longer a Jerkass, Amber and Ryan are planning to get married, Drew gets to go to college, and Hank gets to go be with his daughter in Minnesota.
    • Earn Your Happy Ending: And how, especially for Kristina and Adam
    • Except Sarah was caught between two men, and now has neither of them.
  • Hollywood Dateless: A female example with Sarah; early in the season it is a joke between the women that she hasn't had a date in years, despite being attractive. Possibly justified in that she has two teenagers, and all men are terrified of women who already have kids. Totally not justified in that later on, two very different men who know she has children fall for her very quickly.
  • House Husband: Julia's husband Joel, this brought a level of strain in their relationship during the first two seasons, as he started showing signs of frustration over how Julia takes his duties for granted, and his own desire to financially support the family. Fortunately they seem to have moved past this, as he accepts that getting a job is not only unnecessary but also leaves Sydney unattended
  • Hypocritical Humor: Adam: "I don't like to work with family." Sarah: "Is that why you went into business with our brother and hired my daughter to work your front desk?"
  • I Have This Friend...: Zeek asks Drew for advice about his marriage this way. Drew sees right through it.
  • Informed Flaw: Up until the point where he cheats on Jasmine, Crosby's irresponsible/deadbeat nature is this. Other Characters treat him as though he's a "screw up" and constantly talk him down, but the audience is only treated to a likeable character responding rather well to sudden fatherhood. It's not until after his infidelity that he starts actually exhibiting the informed behavior on screen.
  • Idiot Ball: Sarah's "This time's different!" claims about Seth's current stint in rehab and the resulting repercussions. Not Genre Savvy at all. Unfortunately, this is Truth in Television for many addicts' loved ones.
  • Innocently Insensitive: A side-effect of Max's Aspergers is him being this quite often.
  • Insufferable Genius: Due to being Innocently Insensitive, Max can sometimes be this.
  • It's All About Me: Max frequently adopts this mindset, his Aspergers hampering his ability to empathize with other people, including his own family.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Haddie gets into Cornell. Julia and Joel's kids attend a fancy private school.
  • Jerkass:
    • Joel and Julia's adopted son Victor has become a serious case of "Small Victories" By the last few episodes of Season 4 though, he's grown out of it.
    • Sydney and Haddie are also this (or in the case of Haddie used to be), but all of the kids have elements of this.
    • Adam can be incredibly selfish and dismissive of others, and of all the family members during the early seasons he is the one to most often his life is being affected by Max's condition rather than thinking about what's best for Max.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Max can be rude and insensitive, but he's a good kid at heart.
  • Kick the Dog: "Small Victories" is just one long string of Kick the Dog moments for Victor, not the least of which includes making a fake 9-11 call accusing Julia of child abuse.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Almost all of the kids besides Jabbar display this to some extent. Max's struggle with empathy can cause him to say incredibly blunt and insensitive things to and about other people. Sydney is incredibly spoiled and a sore loser who doesn't take kindly to change, and Victor masks his own shyness, fear, and hurt by putting on a cold front and lashing out sometimes.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The family was already large and extended in the first season and only gets bigger
  • Maternally Challenged: Julia is a very loving mom, but she doesn't feel happy as a stay-at-home mom. During long stretches of time where she isn't working she tends to mentally unravel.
  • Must Make Amends: After Crosby drives Jasmine away by cheating on her he goes to great lengths to try and win her back. And lucky him, he eventually succeeds.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Crosby's girlfriend Katie was feeling this, hence her ultimatum.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands:
    • Amber changes her job once a season or more to whatever would be more convenient for interacting with the other family members.
    • Sarah also has a pretty fluctuating resume throughout the series, including bartending, graphic design, playwriting, photography, and being a landlord.
  • Nice Guy: Adam, Joel, and especially Sarah's ex-fiancee. Ryan is also one...usually.
  • Odd Friendship: In season 5 Max picks up an interest in photography and makes a very strange little bond with Hank, as they both can relate in their discomfort for social interaction.
  • Overprotective Dad: Adam and Kristina are both over protective to a fault. Many, many, many episodes have been done focusing on how they would rather stamp out their spouse or children's ambitious ideas out of fear that they might risk getting hurt trying something new.
  • Out of Focus: Most of the younger kids besides Max get significantly less attention in the later seasons as they grow older and into their teens. Jabbar, Sydney, Victor, and Drew are all out of the spotlight, and Haddie straight-up leaves the show. Simply put, they're too happy and content.
  • Prone to Tears: Kristina handles nothing well, though it's a 50/50 chance as to whether she'll cry or become comically irrational. Worse now that she's given birth to the latest Braverman.
  • Put on a Bus: Haddie, when she goes to college, and Hank, when he leaves for Minnesota to be with his daughter.
    • Commuting on a Bus: Haddie comes back in Season 4 when Kristina is diagnosed with cancer, and in Season 5 for summer vacation.
    • The Bus Came Back: Hank comes back in Season 5 after "it doesn't work out" with his daughter.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" from Planet Waves.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Frequently averted, you can hardly find a single scene without someone interrupting or talking over each other.
  • Really Gets Around: Amber, though not as much as her reputation.
  • Retired Badass: Hinted that Zeke is this.
  • The Runaway: Drew, Amber and Haddie run away from home once. Drew and Amber were easily found, while Haddie went to her grandparents' house.
  • Serious Business: The missing vending machine is this for Max, and in fact its what motivates him to become his school's president. Lucky him, the vending machine is ultimately brought back thanks to Kristina's influence.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Max and Haddie have a rather one-sided one. Haddie gets frustrated, jealous, and overwhelmed at times by Max. The fact that Max isn't able to pick up on how irritated she gets with him both fills her with guilt and also makes her feel even more annoyed. By the end of the series though, with having some time away in college to finally have her own space, Haddie returns to apologize for Max as she comes to terms that she was more upset at the situation rather than him.
    • and later in the series Sydney and Victor exhibit a pretty nasty intense one. They cool off over time, but even in the best of days they still fight a lot.
  • Shout-Out: The scene in "Solace" where the TV automatically turns to SpongeBob SquarePants might be a reference to a scene in Zathura where one of the brothers was watching sports and one of them changes the channel to Spongebob unexpectedly (Although, unlike Parenthood, the boy changed it during the middle of an episode, not the intro theme like the Parenthood episode).
  • The Slacker: Crosby is one, before Jasmine and Jabbar come into his life.
  • The Smart Guy: Max is quite knowledgeable in a variety of different things, per common Aspergers symptoms.
  • Status Quo Is God: Amber and Sarah will continue to live in the same town, looking for serious relationships, and no matter how often their own passion and promising ability in a career path may be, they will still keep small working-class jobs.
  • Teens Are Short: Amber is pretty tiny, although during season 3, Max's actor has a pretty significant growth spurt, and already is competing height at age eleven with his 17 year old sister.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: When Adam and Crosby are trying to find a receptionist.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: How everyone reacts when they learn of Crosby's cheating on Jasmine. They do all eventually forgive him (even Jasmine!) but it takes a while.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: However badly Crosby suffers in his role as the quintessential Butt-Monkey, this usually winds up happening at some point down the line.
    • After spending some time as The Woobie, Drew gets in to a good college at the end of the most recent season.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • Victor takes quite a few levels in Jerkass in "Keep on Rowing" and "Small Victories". Ryan also takes a brief but nasty one when drunk that causes Amber to (at least temporarily) break up with him
    • During the course of season 2 and the beginning of 3 Crosby seems to go on a downward spiral where his reputation as an unaccountable schlub which the characters refer back to finally starts to show. He starts making rash impulsive decisions, showing up late to things, and puts his family as a second priority to a string of meaningless one night stands.
    • Bob Little is introduced as a charming and capable politician that Kristina believes while helping his campaign. When next we see him in season 5, he now comes off as a rude and obnoxious showboater with a smarmy grin permanently fixed on his face.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Max likes Skittles. A lot. He is repeatedly bribed by his family throughout the series to perform mundane tasks in exchange for skittles, and once won a student presidential campaign using his desire to have more vending machines containing skittles to be available in school.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The opening credits of the show from the very start of the first season already features a picture of Crosby and Jasmine smiling and embracing each other, which is kind of a dead giveaway that Crosby's girlfriend introduced in the pilot will not be sticking around for long.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Alex is in AA. Adam and Kristina attend a support group for parents of children with Asperger's.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Amber is a female example. Also Ryan, and it might be part of the reason why they become a couple.
  • You're Not My Father: Victor shouts to Julia and Joel that they're not his real parents about as often as Sydney shouts at him that he's not her real brother.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: