‘Parenthood’ – ‘Forced Family Fun’: Vertigo-go

Senior Television Writer
11.02.11 44 Comments


A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I Google whether you can eat lobster…

One of the things I like about “Parenthood” when it’s clicking – and “Forced Family Fun” certainly qualifies as that – is the way so many characters can simultaneously be right and wrong. These are people who fight a lot, as all family members do, but it’s very rarely one-sided – and the times when it is are when the show is least interesting.

Take this week’s most memorable storyline, in which Crosby gets bent out of shape when Dr. Joe not only spends the night at Jasmine’s but plays with Jabbar. The show has laid the groundwork for this fight already with Fiona Gubelmann: Pancake Waitress showing up unannounced and introducing herself to Jabbar; we know what the ground rules are now for Crosby and Jasmine on this. But it still winds up being a gray area. Crosby does, in fact, show up earlier than planned, and Dr. Joe only plays with Jabbar to distract him from wanting to look in his decidedly non-medical overnight bag. The show is overwhelmingly pro-Braverman (note that only biological members of the family get childhood photos in the opening credits), and as Jasmine is the one adult not currently dating or married to a Braverman, we never get her point of view, which is part of why she unfortunately comes across as unlikable. But that argument between Crosby and Jasmine did a better balancing act than we usually get with them. We see that Crosby’s hurt at the thought of being replaced as the man in Jabbar’s life, and Jasmine sees that as well and backs off, but then she returns later to politely but firmly make it clear that Dr. Joe’s going to be around a while and they need to discuss what that means. I’m glad that this is where the story is going, as opposed to the cliched, easy route of having Crosby and Jasmine reconcile just for storytelling economy. I think things are much more interesting and open-ended if they’re not a couple but have to remain in each other’s lives because of Jabbar, and this was an excellent example of that.

Or take the Sarah/Seth/Mark mess. Sarah knows this is a bad idea. She knows she’s jeopardizing a very good thing with Mark, knows that Seth has let her down so many times in the past and that no good will come of this, and yet… he has a place in her heart with a lifetime lease. She can’t help herself. This will almost certainly end badly for all involved (especially since Jason Ritter’s role on this show tends to be appearing just long enough for him to get a job on another show), but you can see why she’s having these feelings, why she seems to be pushing away from him but then gets that look on her face while watching “Vertigo.”(*)

(*) An excellent choice of film, and not only because it looks so beautiful in HD. I don’t know if the parallels were intentional, but I couldn’t help but think of Sarah as Jimmy Stewart, and Seth as both versions of Kim Novak. Sarah keeps trying to shape this Seth – in her own mind, not by buying him clothes and making him dye his hair – into the one she fell in love with back in the day, even if things were never as great as she wants them to be.

Julia’s story wasn’t so much about being right and wrong at the same time as having the right idea and the wrong presentation. She’s right about the sushi, and about being concerned about what Zoe’s exposing the baby to in general – though it’s her fault, particularly as a hotshot lawyer, to not have gotten a contract at some point that would include details like that, which I understand is often the case with adoption or surrogacy – but because she is Julia Braverman, Worst Person in the World, she comes across as so condescending and irritating even as she’s trying to do the right thing for both the baby and for Zoe. At this point, I don’t know how much of that’s intentional and how much is just a character that the writers still don’t know what to do with two-plus seasons in, but several of those scenes inspired facepalms from me.

Kristina’s freak-out, on the other hand, was just funny. Taking care of a newborn is among the most exhausting jobs there is, and it’s easy to feel like it’s you against the world when everyone else in your family has other things to do and people to see. So I could completely understand her desire to pull the family together – not so much because they needed to bond with each other but because she needed to bond with them and not feel alone in this baby void – even as she got louder and more irrational as it went along. The aborted car ride to the mini-golf place felt startlingly realistic, in addition to being funny, and was one of the better “everyone talks over everyone else” scenes they’ve done in a while.

What did everybody else think?

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