Review: ‘Parenthood’ – ‘The Talk’

A review of tonight’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I report you to the House Un-American Activities Committee…

“The Talk” was a terrific episode of “Parenthood,” and not just because it put the spotlight on several underused and/or misused members of the ensemble.

We talk all the time about the deep “Parenthood” roster, and how we wish certain actors would get more to do. “The Talk” spent the requisite amount of time on Adam and Kristina, and on Sarah, but it also made room to show us how the perpetually-ignored Joel is trying to bond with Victor, to give Zeek a solo story that played off of one of the less-explored parts of his biography, and to put Jasmine in a story where she’s not just there as the unpleasant buzzkill for whatever Crosby wants to do.

None of these stories were all that surprising – you knew Zeek would find some kind of unexpected purpose hanging out at the VFW(*), for instance, and that Victor’s first baseball practice would end badly(**) but that Joel would find a way to reach him – but they were played exceptionally well by a group of underutilized actors. Julia may be the Braverman, but Joel should be just as much a part of the Victor story as she is, and it was nice for her to take a backseat for a week and to see him be proud, then embarrassed, then sad and then radiant at having a son who wants to play catch with him.

(*) Courtesy of Matt Lauria, the latest “Friday Night Lights” alum to stop by Jason Katims’ current show. Anyone want to set the over/under on who’s next to take the Dillon–>Berkeley shuttle? Smash, Street, Riggins, Saracen, Lance, Mrs. Coach and Mindy all have other employment, to varying degrees. Maybe Madison Burge as a new friend for Amber? Adrianne Palicki to complete the inevitable love rhombus with Sarah, Mark and Hank? Brad Leland as Julia’s inappropriate new boss?

(**) In fairness to Victor, every single one of those pitches was waaaaay high, and his only mistake was attempting to swing at all. I wonder if Xolo Mariduena is in real life a great athlete and the only way to make him look bad at the plate was to keep throwing him pitches way out of the strike zone, or if, like Eric Taylor’s horrible clock management, it’s something we’re just meant to ignore. (This team is even called the Panthers.)

My only real complaint about any of those stories is that the eponymous talk got drowned out (at least in the audio mix on my review screener) by the chosen song. I know wall-to-wall indie rock is a part of the show, and I usually love the soundtrack, but when you name your episode “The Talk,” and when it’s such an important, delicate subject, it not only doesn’t need the accompaniment, but would be better off without it. When Mrs. Coach and Julie had a very serious talk on a different subject, it was presented without score or song, just as an opportunity to watch the two actors work. I know Tyree Brown is little and limited in what he can do, acting-wise, but I wanted to just hear what Jasmine was saying and watch her face and Crosby’s, without distraction. Still, it’s a subject I’m glad the show dealt with, since Jasmine’s race has barely been an issue at all, but is one that Crosby has to be prepared to deal with. Nice work from Joy Bryant and Dax Shepard throughout.

The Sarah and Adam/Kristina stories also worked, with Sarah and Hank’s daughter providing some lightness in contrast to the heaviness happening with both Kristina’s cancer and the conflict about whether Max should be allowed to run for student council. I don’t see any way the latter idea ends anything but badly, but I also can see where Kristina is coming from, and the way Monica Potter played Kristina’s reaction to the news that Max approached 29 strangers told that side of the story beautifully. I don’t know why the two of them have yet to tell anyone but Amber about what’s going on – what good is the whole Braverman clan for, if not for rallying in a crisis like this and taking some of the load off Kristina’s plate? – but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far within that specific family unit.

What did everybody else think?