‘Parenthood’ – ‘Tough Love’: Mind your own business?

A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I start all my best talks with “Hey, man!”…

There are certain traits that all the native Bravermans – and certain Braverman immigrants like Kristina – have in common. They are loud and willing to talk over one another. They love hanging out together. And they are not the least bit shy about getting all up in other people’s business.

That last trait was especially prevalent in “Tough Love,” as we saw Haddie, and then Kristina, disrupt Amber’s dumb fling with Bob Little; Crosby get nosy about Zeek’s new heart medication(*); and Julia do her best to violate Zoe’s desire for separation. And while the show as a whole is clearly pro-Braverman, and wants us to be, I had mixed feelings about all the nosiness going on this week. Crosby’s was completely understandable and defensible (even if Zeek’s desire for privacy can also be defended), the Amber/Bob intervention(**) was a bit iffier (Kristina’s thinking about the campaign as much as about her niece), and Julia pushing and pushing herself on Zoe(***) was one where my sympathies were not remotely with the local Braverman, even though I suspect they were intended to be. It’s a complicated relationship, and Julia has essentially made herself into a mother figure for Zoe, but Zoe has asked for a clean break and Julia’s pushing, well-intentioned or not, is uncool. Had the show treated it that way, that would be one thing, but that story ends on a note where Zoe is happily doing the GED flash cards with Julia. Feh, says I.

(*) And shouldn’t Camille have been concerned that Zeek hasn’t picked up his meds in over a week? I figured that was going to be part of the story – that Zeek was acting in denial of the condition – but that detail was ignored after the opening scene at the drugstore.

(**) Which included Kristina driving 3 hours round trip from Berkeley to Sacramento late at night to fetch Amber, all on a hunch from Haddie. I wish they had laid the groundwork a bit more about Kristina noticing Bob/Amber things at the office, but there have only been a couple of brief moments that she might have recognized in hindsight.

(***) Including hooking her up with a magical job as a paralegal with a $48,000 starting salary, even though Zoe (with or without that high school diploma) is woefully unqualified for the job, from what little I know about the field. Just trying to wave it away as Julia calling in a favor and talking up Zoe’s intelligence doesn’t make it work. Then again, Jason Katims shows often have less-then-realistic views of how different jobs work. On this show, see the enormous campaign machinery in place for Bob Little, or look at Tami Taylor’s career arc on “Friday Night Lights.”

To me, the most interesting stories of the hour were the two that had little or nothing to do with the nosiness theme: Max stumbling into his first real friendship, and, especially, Drew lashing out at the news that his mom and Mr. Cyr are trying to make a baby together.

The Max story was nice and simple and a rare example of a 100% happy ending for him and his parents. It doesn’t solve the problem of getting Max to participate in gym class or being teased by the other kids, but Max is never going to be the most popular kid, and having a potentially close friend at that age is huge.

As for Drew, I’m glad that Sarah and the show remembered that she has kids who might be affected by the baby decision. It’s a big cast, they have to juggle everyone’s stories, etc., etc., and Drew’s marginal presence in recent episodes played out well here with Sarah and Mark realizing how badly they had screwed up at leaving him out of the loop. And of course he would feel hurt by this. He’s always been the one, going back to the pilot, who can’t let go of the idea of his dad and his mom being together, and instead she’s going to be with this other, younger guy, and the fear of being replaced by the new family felt very real and understandable. Good work by all involved, including John Corbett in his cameo at the end – a scene reminding us that Sarah’s feelings for Seth have never exactly gone away, either. This could get messy.

Two episodes to go (but hopefully only until September). What did everybody else think?