Hey GTers! I'm unemployed now (whoopee!) so there's about to be a lot more TV binge-viewing posts up in here. You're welcome. I think I'll start with Parenthood. (spoilery for lots of stuff)
Good stuff. Once I got over that it wasn't going for the similar hyper-realism of Friday Night Lights, and embraced the soapier feel, it turns out it's really fun and sweet. There are definitely characters I could do without (and wish got less plot time), but I understand why they're there. It took me two and a half seasons to like the Bob Dylan theme music, and understand why it was chosen (they do live in Berkeley, after all). I decided the song was much better when I tried to harmonize with it on "stay." I think I hit the right notes twice. Definitely needs more practice. I'm sort of enjoying that Sarah is so messed up with her dating life. I rooted for Mark, but at this point, he deserves better than Sarah, so I might be okay with him staying away now. Amber seems to have her head on straight, and be better at dating than her mother, but I'm afraid the writers are going to forget who she is, and lose her wild-child artistic soul. I also love that Adam has that stick solidly up his ass. Reminds me so much of my dad, it's a little scary.
I also love playing Friday Night Lights Bingo with this show. I wasn't expecting to see Vince's Mom on the show, and got genuinely happy to see her! I keep waiting for Buddy Garrity to find his way on there somehow. "Billy from out of town" at the wedding might have been my all-time favorite. I don't think there's really any beating that cameo.
It's weird to catch up to a show that's still going. You've seen the whole story, in rapid succession, and remember more. You've seen the character arcs. You've noticed that they're up to the second biological dad for Amber and Drew. You remember how they started, and where they've come from, and now you are forced to slow down, and get the story in piecemeal on someone else's schedule. That's my least-favorite part of binge-viewing. I don't think I could have survived if I'd watched Battlestar Galactica as it was on SciFi. I'd have lost my mind a long time ago. I much prefer to watch a series as a complete set. It is a benefit to some shows, like Lost, and a detriment to others, like Cheers. In Cheers, we can see just how much Sam Malone hasn't changed. He's the same at the end that he was in the beginning. I think that the big reveal in the end, that the great love of his life is his bar, was the only moment of depth he ever had. Shows like that, that don't let the characters grow, and just keep telling stories with the same ...schtick every week, are dwindling nowadays, because of the availability of binge-viewing. We are paying attention to the whole story, and we can remember now. I love the Dickensian novelization of television. I also still appreciate crime procedurals, that tell stories on a-case-a-week schedule, but that also acknowledge the crime-solvers' as people. NCIS does a great job of this, with this adoptive family, with an adopted dad, and kids full of daddy issues. They bicker and love each other, and also solve crimes. It's a perfect formula, that's relateable and watchable to many, many people. Which is why it's been #1 for years.
Parenthood seems to be somewhere in between. We're supposed to follow them, and watch them grow, but we aren't supposed to remember everything, either. There's the soapy repetitive exposition, to remind us of what we should know. And there's also definite character growth, while maintaining who they were. It's fun, though. I enjoy the Big Chill-type moments with spontaneous dancing, that's not very good, but stupid fun like families have. I love the autism storyline, and explaining the "weird kid" that I'm certain I knew growing up. It's time to make the adjustment and watch the show on someone else's schedule, and I think I'll be able to stick with it. Especially if aw-shucks-Matt-Lauria sticks around.