Review: ‘Parenthood’ – ‘Trouble in Candyland’: Once and again

A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I tow a troubador’s Camry…

I’ll say this for “Parenthood,” particularly in this superb season: even the stories I don’t like inevitably head into interesting territory.

Keeping Mark around (in part because the Jason Katims hospital show Jason Ritter was going to star in didn’t get picked up) has felt like a mistake, not because it doesn’t seem plausible that Sarah would screw it up, but because we knew that she would (especially once Hank was introduced), and it’s been something of a car wreck played out over 10 episodes, not really tonally in place on a show that ultimately wants you to like and root for Team Braverman.

That said, Ritter, Lauren Graham and Ray Romano (with an assist from a non-purple-wearing Betsy Brandt as Hank’s ex) played the hell out of this episode, whether it was Mark seeming utterly defeated as he said he believed Sarah about the drunken scene he witnessed, or Hank trying to stay composed after Sarah says she’s not here to fix him, or Sarah struggling to accept the truth of what Mark is saying to her in the break-up scene. It took much longer to get to this inevitable moment than it needed to, but the end was excellent.

The rest of “Trouble in Candyland” was enough of a mixed bag that I’m going to talk about it in simple pros and cons:

PRO: Glen Hansard. Glen Hansard makes everything better, and I would not object to every episode concluding with a Hansard-accompanied montage. Not just every “Parenthood” episode, but possibly every show that does episode-ending montages.

CON: Marlize remained an incredibly one-note villain, and the “Miracle on 34th Street”-style conclusion to the story seemed as contrived as any other plot about the financial ups and downs of the Luncheonette have been. I’m not saying I don’t believe that Crosby and Adam and Amber are awesome neighbors to everyone but Marlize, but it came out of nowhere.

PRO: A stoned Kristina giving Julia parenting advice was not only a great comic scene for Monica Potter, but a great way to involve Kristina in the show without making it all about the cancer.

CON: There are just so many emotional minefields in the Julia/Victor situation (not just the homework issue, but their relationship in general) that it feels the story isn’t being well-served by the structure of “Parenthood.” (And that’s even with the show being more flexible the last few years and not feeling the need to service every character every week.) Each story involving them feels like a rough outline of what the story should really be like, and while the actors carry it quite well most of the time, there’s still a sense of incompleteness.

PRO: Julia plus Kristina and Amber plus Joel gave us a couple of Braverman combinations the show hasn’t used much (or at all, in the case of Amber and Joel).

CON: Good as Matt Lauria is, the Ryan story is starting to become very predictable. From the moment Amber talked Joel into giving Ryan a job on the crew, you knew that Ryan wouldn’t know what he was doing, would feel like he didn’t fit in, and eventually storm off the job site.

What did everybody else think?