‘Parenthood’ – ‘Taking the Leap’: Safety schools

Senior Television Writer
03.30.11 25 Comments


I’ve been traveling the last couple of days and have largely been limited to pre-written reviews of stuff I’d seen before the trip. (And will be zonked enough when I get home that you shouldn’t bank on, say, a “Top Chef” finale review anytime soon on Thursday.)

But I did get to watch last night’s “Parenthood” while sitting in an airport departure lounge (thanks, cheap and legal downloads!), and I have a few brief, belated thoughts coming up just as soon as I get a raincheck…

“Taking the Leap” was pretty evenly split between stories the show has been hitting hard lately (Max’s life post-Gaby, Sarah’s writing ambitions, Crosby trying to win Jasmine back) and ones the series has dealt with off-and-on of late (Amber’s college anxiety, Joel and Julia’s fertility struggles). With a cast this big, it’s always tough to balance this stuff. Try to service every story every week and none of them has any impact; pick and choose, and you risk a big emotional moment (so well played by Mae Whitman) like Amber’s freak-out over not getting into college get mixed in with the audience going, “Oh, right, I vaguely remember that…” Mostly, I thought it worked – and other than Gaby and Kristina’s conversation, the episode’s most resonant emotional moments came from the Amber and Joel/Julia stories – but it’s an ongoing balance the show will have to be careful about. Heck, even the idea that Max is ready to go back to a mainstream class felt a bit out of the blue, and that’s a story the show tends to follow as closely as anything else.

This was an episode in which the lives of the Bravermans were being heavily pushed by outside guest stars: Rebecca Creskoff giving Amber the bad news about Berkeley, Richard Dreyfuss showing up as the potential facilitator of Sarah’s dreams, and Minka Kelly coming back one more time (for now, at least) to give Kristina the necessary pep talk to decide that Max’s future should be built on hope and not fear. Even the big development in the Joel/Julia story came from an outside (albeit unseen) character in Julia’s obstetrician. But the guest performances were good(*), the performances by regulars like Mae Whitman, Sam Jaeger and Erika Christensen terrific, and the one wholly internal story with Crosby and Jasmine ended the only honest way that it could, I think.

(*) I have to say: I was never incredibly fond of Kelly on “Friday Night Lights,” but she’s been quite good in her recent “Parenthood” appearances. If the new “Charlie’s Angels” series gets picked up, she won’t exactly have a chance to keep growing as an actress, but at least she’ll look good chasing bad guys, I guess.

So while I go fly the friendly skies – and ponder just why Jason Katims shows time and again delve into age-inappropriate relationships involving teens (here with Amber flirting with Cappie from “Greek”) – what did everybody else think?

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