Critic's Pick

TV Picks: 'Parenthood,' 'Fortitude,' 'Parks and Recreation'

'Parenthood,' a show bold and true, comes to an end

  “Parenthood”: Jason Katims’ gently splendid family drama comes to an end with the Braverman clan all facing new stages of life, albeit on more solid ground than when the show began. The big question, of course, is whether patriarch Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) will survive the show — much of this season has involved him battling heart disease and, with heartbreaking realism, losing — though cast members have said the finale will include a flash-forward epilogue, so one can only hope Zeek will die off screen.

As an adaptation of Ron Howard’s 1989 comedy of the same name, “Parenthood” has accomplished the nearly miraculous feat of staying true to the original’s structure and spirit — an extended family supported and beset by all manner of “modern” problems — while becoming something very much its own.

Even in television’s age of exploration, “Parenthood” is unique: an adult family drama that swings big by not swinging big. None of the Bravermans are serial killers or drug dealers or brilliant scientists; instead, they’re ordinary professional people, balancing work and family with perhaps more ease than most of us, but in a way that remains rare on television. Most of them are white and live comfortably in the Craftsman zone of the upper-middle class, but the issues they struggle with — the balance of work and family, the travails of marriage, the demanding nature of children, the desire to fulfill both one’s obligations and one’s dreams — are universal. 

With last week’s penultimate episode delivering (heh-heh) Amber’s baby, “Parenthood” paid homage to the film once again, leading one to wonder if, as in the  movie, the final image will be of Amber’s mother, Sarah (Lauren Graham), having a baby with her new husband, Hank (Ray Romano).

It’s always sad when a good show ends, and “Parenthood” was a very good show. A brave one too, that refused to bow to trick or trend, that built its audience the old-fashioned way, slowly but surely, through great writing and solid ensemble performance.  And fortunately, finales are no longer quite so final; all six seasons are available on Amazon.

NBC, Thursday,  10 p.m

 

“Fortitude”: Michael Gambon shooting at polar bears in the Arctic archipelago. Christopher Eccleston losing it over a mammoth’s tooth. Stanley Tucci tracking down a brutal killer among the glaciers.

Ever heard of Pivot TV?  Well, go immediately to the pivot.tv and find out which channel your carrier has given it because it’s about to be a player. Already getting notice for airing the delightful Australian comedy “Please Like Me,” Pivot is the latest platform to enter the original scripted drama, and its entrance is, well, dramatic.

The Arctic town of Fortitude is small, isolated and populated with all manner of tough and eccentric characters, whose secrets collide and surface when one of their number is murdered. Comparisons will certainly be made to “Twin Peaks” and “Top of the Lake,“ but writer Simon Donald (“Low Winter Sun”) takes the outlier community template to extremes, showcasing the beauty and brutality of nature,  the complexities of outpost society, the power of splendid performance and the ability of television to transport the viewer.

I know there are already too many great series to watch, but you’re gonna want to watch this one. Pivot TV, Thursdays, 10 p.m.

 

“Parks and Recreation”:  We are almost midway through the final season of the  show that helped bring optimism back to television, that gave us Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson and the wit and wisdom of Retta, that eschewed the big city for the small town and reminded us that comedy does not have to be mean to be funny.

For its last season, NBC has decided to double down for Tuesday nights. That means fans get two half-hour episodes at a time, but for only six weeks. So keep an eye on that DVR queue — you need to record both episodes! Or better yet, watch it in real time. You will miss it when it’s gone. NBC, Tuesdays,  8 p.m.

Twitter: @marymacTV

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