‘Parenthood’ – ‘Qualities and Difficulties’: The play’s the thing

A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as we play hide and seek Israeli army style…

“Will I always have it?” -Max

First thing’s first: I was wrong.

Wrong wrong wrong.

Extremely wrong.

Missed the point by so much that the point and I were on different continents.

I think the last time I so completely misinterpreted a scene of television as I did the final Sarah scene last week was a season 2 episode of “NYPD Blue,” in which I got all worked up about a character whom I thought the show was retconning into a previous episode, only for other fans to gently point that he was, in fact, in that episode.

So, yeah. Sarah was not writing a goodbye note. She was not packing. She was not running off to chase after Seth. She was just exercising her creative muscles for the first time in a while, as virtually all of you said. I screwed the pooch pretty horribly on that.

And as with the “NYPD Blue” thing, I am very relieved to have been proven wrong. I would have hated it if the show really had gone in the direction I thought it was, whereas this seems like a very strong one for Sarah. They even managed to bring back Jason Ritter as Mr. Cyr without turning it into another romantic storyline. Maybe they hook up one day when Amber(*) is off at college and “The Event”(**) has been canceled, and there was still ridiculous chemistry between them, but right now she was only interested in him as a writing critic. He filled his function, putting her on a new path, and now she can go off and do it, rather than try to find fulfillment as a bar manager.(***) A lot of very strong moments for Lauren Graham this week, and this is a story they can do a lot with, because simply saying, “You are a playwright, Sarah” accomplishes very little.

(*) No Amber this week, nor Drew, nor Haddie, as the production decided to save the teens for episodes where they’d be more prominent, but I found the girls’ absence kind of unfortunate. Given the reason Sarah broke up with Cyr in the first place, I’d have liked to see Amber in some way react to her mom reaching out to the guy. And Haddie’s absence from the Max story was particularly glaring. There was absolutely a prominent role she could and should have played in that, even if it was just Max confronting her about what she knew, when she knew it, etc.

(**) God, I watched next week’s two-hour “Event” return earlier yesterday, and after suffering through that, it was so nice to be reminded of how appealing Ritter can be in a show that A)knows how to use his likability best, and B)isn’t terrible. 

(***) Nice to see Jim O’Heir, aka everybody’s favorite punching bag Jerry on “Parks and Recreation,” in a small role as the friendly bar owner.

The Adam and Max storyline, meanwhile, was predictably fantastic. Earlier in the season, there was that episode where Adam was desperate to connect with Max, and they wound up having a nice conversation, and everything seemed to be better much too quickly and easily. But the thing with a kid like Max is that there are always going to be ups and downs, always going to be moments where Adam feels giddy over Max seeming “normal” alternated with ones (like the roller coaster meltdown scene, so well-played by Peter Krause and Max Burkholder) where Adam feels like every minute of every day is going to be a struggle. It was also interesting to compare Adam’s attitude about the roller coaster trip to Zeek’s about the fishing trip a few episodes back; Adam knows Max better than Zeek does, but Adam is still his father’s son and can become just as stubborn and bull-headed about dealing with a kid who requires flexibility at all times.

I also liked seeing Adam remain cold to Crosby. I have issues with the rest of the Crosby/Gaby fallout, which I’ll get to in a moment, but the impact of what he did on Max is something that can’t and shouldn’t be smoothed over with Adam for a very long time. It’s a TV show, and one that’s not a lock for renewal (though I feel reasonably confident), and so I suspect there will be some kind of reconciliation before the end of the season. But it would ring incredibly false, given what we know about Adam Braverman, if he forgave and/or forgot this quickly, and I was right with him in his incredulity at Zeek and Camille’s plea for the brothers to talk.

Again, other Crosby relationships remain more problematic. While I’m glad they’re not playing the whole Ross and Rachel “We were on a break!!!!” note as Crosby’s defense for sleeping with Gaby, things between Crosby and Jasmine were a lot more complicated, with a more even distribution of blame, going into Crosby’s one-night stand. And at the moment the show acts like everything has been Crosby’s fault from the start, that we should be entirely sympathetic to Jasmine after she’s been written so unsympathetically for a long time, etc. I also feel like we skipped over a rather large development in this story by just putting Jabbar on the houseboat with Crosby, when last week Jasmine seemed to not want her son to have any more to do with Crosby than she did. I can fill in the blanks in my head, but as with some kind of Haddie scene, it’s something that should have been in the episode.

Maybe that stuff could have come at the expense of Joel and Julia, who (as they so often do of late) drew the short straw and wound up largely in support of another couple’s story. I’d rather the show do that than try to force an entire Joel/Julia storyline into an episode that was too busy as is, but Joel’s pledge of fidelity seemed out of place in the episode, even though it was well-played by Sam Jaeger.

Overall, though, the Sarah and Adam stories were terrific enough to make for another very strong episode.

What did everybody else think?

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