Review: ‘Parenthood’ – ‘Let’s Be Mad Together’

A quick review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I want the lute to almost drown out the Marvin Gaye sample…

I’m a bit jammed schedule-wise today, so I really only have time to write about one of the stories from “Let’s Be Mad Together” – the one that provided its title – but I wanted to say that Joel’s drunken adventures with Crosby and cake were both fun and a character combination the show might want to explore more, and that I really wish the Joel/Julia conflict was only about her difficulty with the professional role reversal, rather than that plus the marital threat posed by the lovely Sonya Walger. Also, the Ryan/Sarah scene at the end was excellent up until he talked about wanting to be worthy of her family; I love the Bravermans or else I wouldn’t want to watch the show, but every now and then they are presented less as a family and more as a cult.

But the most interesting story this week involved Max and Kristina, and not just because the silly mayoral campaign wasn’t mentioned even once. Not only was the scene in Max’s bedroom some of the best work Max Burkholder has done on the show – vulnerable in a way we don’t usually see Max while still feeling like the character we know – but I thought the whole subplot did a nice job of balancing Kristina’s viewpoint as protective, loving (and, yes, pushy) mom and the larger realities of the situation. Max was out of line taking picture after picture of the crying girl, and we saw last season what a chore it was to work with him on the student council. Max should be given opportunities to grow, and to do things he loves and is good at like photography, but he’s also not the only kid at that school, and there are situations where the needs of the many have to outweigh the needs of the one. There are times on “Parenthood” where the POV is so wildly pro-Braverman that anyone who opposes something they want is presented as an unreasonable cartoon villain (like Adam and Crosby’s neighbor at the Luncheonette, or even Bob Little). This wasn’t that; it let us empathize with Max and Kristina, and also provided an ending that wasn’t feel-good, while still letting us (if not Kristina) see why it’s not a travesty of justice for Max to be reassigned to do layout.

It’s a much smaller story than Kristina running for mayor, or Adam and Crosby trying to reinvent their business, or Joel and Julia each getting emotionally intimate with other people. But “Parenthood” is often much better at small than big.

What did everybody else think? Are you enjoying Crosby’s hijinks with Ashes of Rome, or is Adam being too unreasonable? How do you feel about the state of the Camille/Zeek union? Did you learn anything about plumbing? And how big of a pushover was Joel with Peet?