‘Parenthood’ – ‘Sore Loser’: You’re the one that I want

Senior Television Writer
11.16.11 58 Comments

A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I hate all puns…

I think “Parenthood” went 3-for-4 on storylines last night, although all of the successful stories seemed to resolve themselves fairly easily. Sydney turned into a good sport after a single extended, difficult time out, Kristina appears to have scared Max’s bully into leaving him alone, and Sarah sees the error of her parenting ways and heals things with Drew.

But sometimes stories that seem to wrap up neatly on this show don’t. I can easily see, for instance, Kristina’s approach horribly backfiring and giving Louis an entirely new arsenal of things to tease Max about. Drew may not be able to magically turn his grades around. Sydney has been very spoiled in a whole lot of ways besides playing games. And all those stories felt very true to the characters, funny at times (Julia getting drunk while listening to Sydney’s tantrum), painful at others (Kristina watching the boys tease an oblivious Max, Joel trying to control his temper in the face of Sydney’s violent tantrum), and nicely observed all around. The Joel/Julia plot in particular was a reminder of how much better “Parenthood” is when it’s about behavior and little moments and not elaborate, contrived story arcs like buying Zoe’s baby.

And Rachel kissing Adam definitely falls into the category of the show trying to contrive drama, and/or a promotional moment for NBC(*) “Parenthood” doesn’t need this. The Adam and Kristina relationship doesn’t need this. This is not a show, and a couple, lacking for potential drama and storylines. Between the new business, the new baby, Max’s problems, Haddie being a mess of hormones, Adam’s relationship with his siblings and parents, Kristina’s complicated feelings about the overwhelming Braverman-ness of it all, etc., there are YEARS of good stories you can tell about these two without going to this stupid, cliched well.

(*) Seriously, NBC promo monkeys? Seriously? You put the shocking moment from the VERY LAST SCENE OF THE EPISODE in the promo? I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this. They’ve been doing it for close to 20 years now. (I remember back in my Usenet days, one of the “Frasier” producers would write about how hard they had to fight to keep the promo department from ruining every big joke and/or surprise.) But still. I have no one but myself to blame for not changing the channel the second the episode ended – and I’ll remind you once again that talking about what was in the previews for the next episode is a no-no, and will get your comment deleted – but there’s a difference between trying desperately to bring new viewers to a show and going out of your way to anger the few people who are actually watching.

We talk a lot about how perfectly Jason Katims and the “Friday Night Lights” writers handled the Taylor marriage, and how they were able to generate so much story without ever doing the inevitable, lazy thing about thoughts of infidelity. (When Mrs. Coach got kissed by a co-worker, the show treated it entirely as a joke, not as a threat to what we knew was a rock-solid foundation.) I don’t think this is going to lead to Adam and Kristina splitting up or anything, but I don’t especially need to see the arguments that I know are coming.

When I talk about the challenges of creating drama for a show like this without it veering into melodrama, this is the exact kind of scenario I dread. Unnecessary and silly, and I hope it’s dispensed with as quickly as humanly possible.

What did everybody else think?

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