‘Parenthood’ – ‘In-Between’: Don’t you want somebody to love?

Senior Television Writer
11.09.11 49 Comments


A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I bore you with a story about Jefferson Airplane…

Continuing our occasional discussion of the “Parenthood” struggle to balance what seems realistic with what’s dramatically interesting, “In-Between” was an episode continuing three stories the show has dealt with a lot the last few weeks: 1)Crosby’s jealousy of Dr. Joe’s increasing presence in Jabbar’s life; 2)Sarah’s feelings for Seth and the way they complicate her relationship with Mark; and 3)Kristina battling the various stresses that come with caring for a newborn.

In all three cases, these are stories that would realistically play out over a very long period of time for these characters, with them having the same arguments, the same internal conflicts, time and again. That’s just the way adult life works. Crosby isn’t suddenly going to be okay with Dr. Joe, and Jasmine isn’t going to kick him to the curb because she feels bad for Crosby. There’s not a pat solution here, and “Parenthood” tends to ring falsest when it wraps up problems too easily and quickly.

But at the same time, certain stories begin to feel repetitive after a while. Seth’s only been back for a handful of episodes, but it feels like this particular triangle has been going on forever. The Crosby story was pretty much a mirror of last week’s, only with Crosby having roughly the same conversation with Dr. Joe that he had last time with Jasmine.

That’s why the Kristina story was the most wholly successful of the three, because it wasn’t simply a rehash of Kristina’s specific feelings from last week. There’s a whole host of burdens a mother of a newborn deals with; last week, it was feeling disconnected from and unsupported by the rest of the family, and here it was feeling unsexy (especially in comparison to Adam’s nubile 20something new receptionist). Same overall conflict, but enough details changed to not feel like a rerun.

Similarly, the parts of the Sarah storyline that worked best last night had almost nothing to do with Sarah (though Lauren Graham continues to do fine work), but in seeing Amber’s reaction to all of this. Mae Whitman’s one of the best actors the show has, and she placed this storyline across her narrow shoulders and carried it splendidly this week. The disadvantage of having this huge cast is that certain characters can get lost in the shuffle for long stretches.(*) The potential advantage is that you can take a story that seems exhausted and extend it a little longer by showing how another member of the family feels about it.

(*) When Adam caught Haddie flirting with the older musician at the party, it was the first time I’d thought about her break-up with Alex since he left. Given that they split before Nora was born, and that many weeks passed in between Nora’s birth and the next episode, enough time has passed that I buy her having a stress-free flirtation with a guy at a party, but I had a definite, “Oh, right: Haddie is a person on this show” reaction for a half-second.

Drew and Amy felt like filler this week, and the Zeek/Camille stuff was mild comic relief (with the highlight being Adam’s eagerness to get the hell out of the room once he realized an argument was brewing), adding up to an episode that wasn’t particularly bad, but also not one of the more memorable outings so far from season 3.

What did everybody else think?

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