The Bravermans, The Gilmores & The Pearsons…

***Spoiler Alert***

I won’t give away the famous “final four words” of the recent “Gilmore Girls” revival, but I will be talking about the “four seasons.”  Also, if you aren’t caught up on “This is Us,” you might not want to read ahead.  And finally…if you don’t know how “Parenthood” ended, you won’t want to read this, and seriously, where have you been, it’s been over for almost a year!?!?

Now that we have all that out of the way…

Can we go ahead and say that Jason Katims, Producer/Head-Writer of “Friday Night Lights” and Producer/Creator/Writer of “Parentood,” is a television genius?  I think what makes Katims’ writing so brilliant is the idea that he writes from his personal experiences.  Max Braveman’s character on “Parenthood” is based on Katims’ own son who also has an Asperger Syndrome diagnosis.  But what that man’s storylines did to my heart and my tear ducts has been unmatched.

What do the Bravermans mean for us?

Everything! OK, OK, I’ll keep the melodramatics to a minimum, if possible.  But honestly, what did “Parenthood” not touch on?  From the episode in 2011 when Adam and Kristina have to explain to Max that he has Aspergers, to Sarah dealing with two teen children heavily influenced by her divorce, to Crosby and Jasmine’s up and down relationship facing raising a biracial child and finally marrying, to Julia and Joel’s marital issues revolving around a working mother outside of the house, to Kristina’s cancer diagnosis and Zeek’s heart trouble, each and every storyline spoke to every single viewer, and typically with a strong emotion attached.

I think the truth of the matter is every viewer saw a portion of their life being played out on a television screen and for a moment, they were able to step out of their own issues and watch someone else walk thru them, and most importantly, survive them.  The Bravermans taught us that with a little forgiveness and a lot of love, anything can be conquered.

From the very first episode when Adam told Zeek, “Dad, there’s something wrong with my son” every parent walking through unknown challenges with their children had the opportunity to watch someone else “live it out.”  Crosby Braverman, the one who just wouldn’t grow up, finally did grew up and when he did he gave hope to every parent waiting on their adult child to “find themselves” and gave purpose to every girl out there waiting for Mr. Right to finally realize what loving someone really means.  Joel and Julia’s “perfect marriage” collapsing before viewer’s eyes and yet following Zeek’s advice, they fought for each other, they forgave, they dug in and they loved harder and each couple watching the show found a little more strength to hold on.  When a bully urinated in Max’s canteen on his first overnight school trip and he cried  out, “Is it because I’m weird?” Every parent with a child who is “different” felt every ounce of the tears Kristina shed in that backseat.  And every parent whose child fits the erroneous mold of “normal” found even more determination to teach their child the dangers of bullying.  Kristina’s battle with cancer was a journey that those who were sick walked with her and those who were caring for loved ones walked with Adam.  Watching her “farewell” video to her kids gave each viewer the reality check that tomorrow isn’t promised, say it all today, do it all today and live while you can.

The Bravermans really did mean everything to everyone, and with every tear we felt more attached and with every hug we wanted to love our families more.

“I just can’t stay in one place forever.”  Michel was explaining to Lorelai, during the A Year in the Life episode, that he needed his career to progress.  And for me, that summed up Stars Hollow and the Gilmore Girls for me.  I won’t share the final four words of the show because it’s too soon for everyone to have seen it.  But I will say, what I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of folks say, I’m going to need a little more closure than that.  Growing up in picturesque Stars Hollow is not the typical upbringing, although there are quite of few of you who may have been raised in a Mayberry-style town.  But no matter where you were raised I think most everyone can relate to “your world’ being a place where everyone knows everyone, and everyone’s business.  A town like Stars Hollow is a safety net.  And so is the community I grew up in.  I’ve tried to “go home” a few times since I graduated high school.  Once when a short tenure at Kansas State didn’t work out, once after my Dad passed away and once after my “career” in politics ended.  I still refer to the town I grew up in as home.  But it’s not really home anymore.  And that’s what I gathered from Rory in this revival series.  I think she thought of her trip as a stop-through, and that she would be moving on whether it was to London, back to NYC, or wherever.  She wanted to feel the freedom of being “rootless.”  But home always tugs at your heart-strings.  Sometimes going home is the answer, and you will develop a beautiful life there, just another chapter to your upbringing.  And sometimes going home is just a reminder that everything has changed, and while the scenery may still be the same and they still serve the same coffee at Luke’s Diner it just doesn’t feel like home anymore and staying seems like more of a suffocation method than a joyous occasion.

So what do the Gilmores mean for us?

I believe Lorelai, Rory, Emily and even Richard (RIP) are the symbol of home is where the heart is.  It’s not a house, a large one like Richard and Emily’s, or even a smaller one like Lorelai’s, but home is where the people you love are.  For Rory, she came home, but I think more or less she came home because she had not found love in Brooklyn or anywhere else she had been, and she came home to the love of her mother and best friend Lorelai.  She came to where she felt safe to face this next, unknown period of her life. And for me, that’s what the Gilmores mean, a reminder that home is not a structure, it is the safety net of the ones who love you unconditionally.

In the pilot of, “This is Us” Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) and Dr. Nathan Katowsky (Gerald McRaney-hello Major Dad) are sitting on a bench talking.  They don’t care much for each other at this point, or so it seems, and there’s animosity and anger in the air.  And then Dr. K says, “I like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talkin’ a young man’s ear off explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.” [1]  Let me stop and say, if you haven’t started watching “This is Us” please drop what you are doing, I’ll even encourage you to stop reading now, and go find the reruns and get caught up, it’s fantastic.  I’ve been calling it “Parenthood” 2.0.

Now that some of you are back from catching up on the past few episodes and have completely fallen in love with the Pearsons…I’ll carry on.

So many things have happened already in the first nine episodes, I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum if you failed to heed my challenge to go get caught up, I really don’t want to ruin it for you.  But the moral of the story on this series is nothing is as it seems and nothing goes the way it was planned.  How many folks can relate to that?  People die in the show-important people, crucial characters that impact the rest of the cast.  Sort of like those of us who have buried a parent, a child, a loved one, a friend, a spouse, that someone we thought we’d never be able to live without.  People learn more about their pasts than they ever wanted to know.  And people see themselves for what they really are-behind the façade, behind the makeup, behind the scene, behind the weight, they see the raw reality of their existence.  And every bit of the show just slaps you in the face.  The same Braverman-induced tears come through with the Pearsons and you are left on the edge of the couch, drink in hand, just hoping it works out.

We’ve talked about what the Bravermans and the Gilmores mean for us, so what about the Pearsons?

The story is still unraveling, the show is still developing, but today I can tell you the Pearsons exist to remind me that I cannot help someone else, if I cannot help myself.  Discovering who I am, excepting my flaws, celebrating my gifts and challenging myself to be a better version of me than I was yesterday are necessary for my growth.  Randall, Kate and Kevin are finding themselves as adults.  They are going through their pasts and rediscovering the truth behind how they got where they are today.  Jack and Rebecca are reminding us as parents that we don’t always have to have it together, we just have to show up, but that our decisions today will affect someone else tomorrow.

So today, flip on the Netflix and watch a show that reminds you of who you are, where you’ve been and where you are going.  Take a step outside of your own shoes and allow yourself to experience life on the screen instead of just bearing the burdens you carry today.  Put on your Emily Gilmore pearls and have Richard Gilmore’s drink in hand and laugh, everything will be alright.

[1] https://www.tvfanatic.com/quotes/shows/this-is-us/page-6.html