A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I have piggy bank money for a taxi…
For most of this season, we’ve seen the benefits of “Parenthood” upping the stakes with the Kristina cancer storyline, as it’s rippled through the rest of the Braverman world and elevated the series’ game as a whole. “One More Weekend With You,” on the other hand, was an illustration of the pitfalls of this approach.
The cancer storyline has been going on so long now that, as happens in extended families, the lives of everyone outside Adam and Kristina’s house have stopped being entirely about that. This was a run of fairly traditional “Parenthood” stories, many of them picking up threads from earlier in the season, like Drew’s uneasiness around Mr. Cyr (and vice versa) and Sydney’s resentment of the amount of time her parents are spending on Victor. And in a vacuum, all those stories were fine.(*) I may disagree with the choices the characters make, like Sarah ratting out Mark, but only because I would try not to do it that way; I believe that this is how they would respond in these situations, for good or for ill.
(*) Well, I still consider Crosby and Jasmine’s dynamic to be kind of unpleasant, but that’s largely a lost cause, and I have to hope for episodes where Crosby’s otherwise occupied at the Luncheonette or with other Bravermans.
The problem is that because things are so very serious for Kristina and Adam – and also for Amber and Ryan, in a storyline that so far has been maybe my favorite thing that Mae Whitman has ever gotten to do, here or elsewhere (yes, including eating a mayonegg) – I found myself getting more impatient than usual when we cycled around the dial to check in on what was happening elsewhere in the family. Sydney’s tantrum felt natural (and, as Joel noted, fairly justified) and like something the show was going to have to do sooner or later as part of the Victor story, but I spent most of those scenes wishing we were back in the car with Amber and Ryan, or even in the utter, stifling chaos of Adam’s house on a Murphy’s Law kind of weekend. We’ll see how things balance going forward, and it’s entirely possible that within a week or two, Crosby will suddenly be at the center of my favorite part of the show, or the inevitable Mark/Sarah/Hank triangle (was nice to have Ray Romano back, even for a brief scene), but for now the show feels very heavily weighted towards these two areas for me.
And a few thoughts on each of those. First, I’m impressed that they never try to sugarcoat what life with Max is like. There are definitely moments of sweetness and/or self-awareness, but a lot of the time, Max’s most Asperger-y traits are going to assert themselves and he’s going to be an enormous pain in the rear to deal with, whether you’re his father or his best/only friend, and this story seemed a good time to let all of those flare up at once with no explanation beyond Max’s basic nature. There wasn’t a twist at the end where he cried in his father’s arms and admitted that he was acting out because he was worried about Kristina; he was just being Max.
Second, it’s remarkable how far network TV has come in terms of something like pot use. Judd Apatow used to claim that “Freaks and Geeks” essentially got canceled (it was always going to be canceled, but maybe not this soon) because of the episode “Chokin’ and Tokin’,” where Nick tries to go without weed for a day while Lindsay has a bad reaction to his stash. It’s an episode that couldn’t be more blatant in suggesting that you’re better off not smoking pot, yet Apatow insists the very explicitness of it was enough to outrage several NBC executives. Jump ahead a dozen years, and we’ve had episodes where the Bravermans casually toke up outside a school, and here where Crosby’s secret stash is Kristina’s medicinal salvation.
And third, let me again sing the praises of Mae Whitman – and, for that matter, Matt Lauria. This is such a fragile relationship, Whitman is doing an amazing job of playing Amber’s simultaneous feelings of love for this guy and fear that something could go wrong at any moment and she won’t have the first clue of what to do about it. And Lauria’s been outstanding at playing a character dealing with emotional problems that only occasionally bubble up to the surface the way they did in that parking lot fight. For a relationship that started as a fairly minor thing a few weeks ago, it’s quickly become one of the very best parts of “Parenthood.”
What did everybody else think?