A review of tonight’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I retire with a .147 batting average…
This has been a really strong season of “Parenthood” so far, with the breast cancer storyline raising the stakes without feeling overwrought. There are a lot of tears, but they don’t feel out of proportion to the situation, and many of the story’s best moments involves Adam and/or Kristina working very hard to keep their emotions in check, whether they’re telling Haddie the bad news over Skype or Adam is declining to play the cancer card(*) when Crosby keeps complaining about his paycheck. The tears are never far away – Mae Whitman spent the entire episode on the verge of crying, even as she was proving again that Amber and Max are one of the show’s more unexpectedly potent combinations – but lots of interesting things are happening before they start flowing again.
(*) One card Adam could have played – if “Parenthood” didn’t seem determined to pretend like the story hadn’t happened in the same way that Santiago ceased to exist on “Friday Night Lights” – would be to note that Crosby wouldn’t be so concerned about money if he hadn’t insisted on rejecting Dwayne Wayne’s offer for The Luncheonette.
Perhaps because of the weight of that story, it feels like the rest of the show has had to step up its dramatic game to match. Zeek befriending Ryan could be a fairly light subplot about Zeek trying to find a purpose (and/or Amber getting a new boyfriend), but there’s always an undercurrent of darkness in terms of how Ryan feels about his time in Afghanistan and Zeek and Camille’s memories of his own return from Vietnam.
And the Julia story was flat-out terrific in its own right: a familiar story of a mom struggling to balance work and home given terrifying specificity, and a great performance from Erika Christensen. I like that the story from a few episodes back about Julia taking a day off from work to be there for Victor had actual consequences, and this episode took us so far down a path of darkness that I felt we all deserved the otherwise predictable and corny sequence where Victor gets his big “hit”(**) to win the game.
(**) A few people on Twitter complained to me that Max knows enough about baseball to understand slugging percentage but not enough to recognize that an official scorer would likely mark that down as an error, not a hit. You can chalk this up as one of two things: it’s another Jason Katims show that deals with sports without actually understanding the nuances of the game, or it’s Max who doesn’t understand the nuances of the game, and can understand how to compute stats, but not when something would be scored an error rather than a hit.
Not every story was able to rise to that level, unfortunately. Sarah getting involved in yet another love triangle – Adam and Kristina are the Bravermans who suffer above all else, while Sarah is the Braverman whose complicated love life takes precedence over any other story about her – and wildly overcompensating for her feelings about Hank’s kiss might be eye-rolling under normal circumstances. In the context of this episode, it felt particularly silly. Ray Romano has been so good on the show so far that I wish the writers had had time to reconsider going down this path, as opposed to just dealing with Sarah’s new job, her friendship with this weird, anti-social guy, etc. I expect Romano, Lauren Graham and Jason Ritter will all do well with the material given them, but at this point, it feels like another Sarah story that seems like the least interesting use of the available resources.
What did everybody else think?