‘Parenthood’ – ‘Missing’: The Max on the bus goes round and round

Senior Television Writer
11.30.11 87 Comments


A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I like a jean jacket on a baby…

One of the great, and yet at times frustrating, things about the deep roster of rich characters on “Parenthood” is that you could realistically tell the same stories many times over from different points of view. There were times when Sarah and Seth’s flirtation was a Sarah story, and other times about how Amber was reacting to it, but it could just as easily have been dominated by Drew (who’s more invested in seeing his parents reunite) or Zeek (who’s been down this road a lot). We’ve mainly dealt with the impact Nora’s birth has had on Kristina and Adam, but there’s absolutely an episode (if not a whole arc) about how Max feels about this new arrival whose behavior completely defies the logic and order and sense of fairness that are so important to him.

And while I’d love to see all those different versions of things, I recognize that there simply isn’t time for them, and feel like the writers mostly make the right choices about whose perspective to focus on. Still, I couldn’t help thinking about this while watching “Missing.” The title plot was primarily about the impact Kristina’s return to work, and her bitterness towards Adam and Rachel, was having on their marriage, yet the scene that had the hour’s biggest emotional impact by far was built around Haddie, and how hard it is to be Max’s sister – and the one who has to carry too heavy a load when her parents are under stress. Her outburst on the lawn was a great scene (Max only caring about whether she’d be punished for yelling drove the point home while also being darkly funny), and wound up feeling more earned than all the Kristina/Adam conflict this week. (Not to mention more compelling than a lot of her relationship storyline with Alex.) I’m glad that the episode didn’t end with Kristina realizing that she can’t go back to work right now(*), but so much of their argument – and then the tension about Kristina not answering her phone – was spinning out of a story I don’t think the show has done a good job of telling so far. Everyone was able to be an adult in the end, and the family even got to take Max to the museum(**), but I think the show in general tends to do better when the conflicts are internally driven rather than coming from outside the family dynamics.

(*) Though that would have had an interesting side effect on Amber, who seemed so excited (if also nervous) about the job opportunity Kristina was providing. I did like how Kristina had such happy, generous interactions with Sarah and Amber, whom once upon a time she disliked almost as much as she currently can’t stand Rachel, as an unspoken but clear reminder that she can let go of grudges after a time.

(**) What day did they go, by the way? Max goes missing on a Saturday. A few scenes after Max comes home, Kristina calls Rachel at work, which implies it’s a weekday (since Adam having to work on a Saturday was considered unusual), and then some time after that, they go to the museum. So just sticking with Amber for a moment, did the show skip past her first day of work? Or will we get that in the next new episode as part of a funky timeline?

That said, I liked Crosby recognizing what a good guy Dr. Joe(***) is, for both Jasmine and Jabbar, and reversing field from what he and Jasmine did last week. As I’ve said, I think the more interesting story direction is if Jasmine and Crosby aren’t a couple but have to be in each other’s lives because of Jabbar, and this takes us back to that, while also acknowledging that these two still have strong feelings for each other. (And, for the first time, it seemed like Jasmine was the one who felt more strongly than Crosby.)

(***) Todd VanDerWerff pointed out to me a few weeks ago that the character is listed as “Dr. Joe Prestige” – which is, like, the perfect superhero alter ego name – in NBC’s press materials, but I believe this was the first episode where anyone (in this case Adam) referred to him on camera as “Dr. Prestige.” And now it is part of the show’s official canon. Excellent.

As for Julia and Zoe, I still dislike the story on the whole, but Erika Christensen did a very good job of showing Julia struggling to be mature and logical and put Zoe at a distance once it became clear that the adoption wasn’t going to happen. Still, these scenes are just begging for Steve Van Zandt to wander in and do his Michael Corleone impression: “Everytime I think I’m out, they pull me back in!” There have been so many different opportunities for the show to cut the cord on this idea, including this week, but Zoe and Julia keep reconnecting, this time with the shadow of Troy maybe hovering over them in perpetuity. Oh, well. You take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both, and there you have this entire arc.

Finally, not a ton of screen time for Sarah and Mr. Cyr this week, but I did love the look on Lauren Graham’s face – part horror, part amusement, part excitement – when Mark mentioned the idea of having babies with Sarah. Because Jason Ritter’s just a guest star – and because Sarah is much more prominent on the show than Jasmine (if DB Woodside gets another job, the show can go months without us seeing Dr. Joe Prestige without having to break them up) – I do spend more time than I think the show would like me to wondering when/if/how these two are going to break up. Though that scene ended happily, it would be pretty easy for the writers to hit the eject button on the relationship by having Sarah decide she doesn’t want to go through pregnancy, childbirth, diapers, etc., all over again.(****)

(****) This is driving me nuts: I feel like I’ve seen that exact conflict (woman who had kids young doesn’t want to start over with her new man) on another show. I don’t think it was “Gilmore Girls,” but I could be wrong. Any ideas?

What did everybody else think?

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