Parenthood: “Forced Family Fun”
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Parenthood: “Forced Family Fun”

Everybody on Parenthood can frequently be a big ol’ dick to their fellow family members. It’s part of what makes them so likably hatable. But what I find interesting is that the women on the show often seem more likably hatable than the men. I don’t know how to account for this. Is it my own feelings on the storylines? Is it the performers? Are the characters just written and directed differently? Or is it the show’s objectively pro-Braverman stance getting in the way of portraying the non-biological Bravermans (and their retinues) as people who have opinions of their own that are sometimes accurate?

Take, for instance, the Crosby and Jasmine storyline. Jasmine is so frequently grating and so frequently all over Crosby’s case about what seems like such minor shit to us in the audience that it’s easy to think she’s being kind of an asshole. But when you look at things from Jasmine’s point of view, when you think about how Crosby wasn’t around all those years and how he’s had a tendency to disappoint her since, her reflexive belief that he’s just the worst makes a lot more sense. Similarly, Sarah’s undying support of Seth is almost certainly the sort of thing that would make a new-ish boyfriend like Mark feel a little iffy in wanting to commit to her fully. But the show’s objectively pro-Braverman stance means that we’re almost always taking the point-of-view of a Braverman, and while the show doesn’t discourage us from getting where the other characters are coming from, it also almost never invites us to consider that point of view. Doing so requires thinking about the show in the exact opposite way in which it is presented to us, and that’s hard to do.

That said, the only character it really hurts is Julia, I think, because I’m pretty sure the show wants us to think that she’s in the right with Zoe—whose name I’ve finally learned—and it’s not like she doesn’t have a point. Eating sushi is harmful to an unborn child. And a working pregnant woman really doesn’t get a chance to keep up with all the latest fetal health information. But at the same time, she’s so condescending about everything she does that my hackles rise and all I want to do is say, “Shut up, Julia,” every time she starts to talk about this stuff. In particular, I thought the scene where she gave Zoe the lunch was badly judged, maybe on a performance level. I think the scene was supposed to make me say, “Julia wanted to do the right thing, but she sure went about it in a poor way,” but instead, I left it thinking that Rosa should eat millions of pounds of raw fish, just to spite her. Which is obviously not what was intended.

But the show, at least, has the intelligence to grasp that even if it’s mainly told through the point-of-view of the four siblings, the other characters’ points-of-view aren’t supposed to be dismissed entirely. Kristina’s had her problems in the past in this regard, to be sure, but I thought her plot tonight was both understandable and really a lot of fun. When she drove off and abandoned her husband and two oldest kids in the middle of the road, it was ridiculous and goofy, but it was also nicely built to throughout the episode. I tend to like Adam and Kristina storylines the most when they walk the line between overtly comedic and overtly dramatic, and this was a good episode for Kristina in that regard. You really got why she was desperate to grasp this little window between when she had Haddie and Nora were both at home, and you also got why she seemed just a touch insane to all of her fellow family members. (The scene where she was trying to get everyone together for breakfast was very funny.)

On the more dramatic side, I thought the Sarah and Seth storyline was pretty interesting, even if I don’t know that we’ve spent enough time with Seth to get why Sarah’s still drawn to him, beyond just knowing that, theoretically, she’s always going to be stuck with the father of her children. She really does seem to be remembering a good time so far before the show ever started that we’ve never even heard about it, and that’s always a tough place to put an audience in. Still, the chemistry between Lauren Graham and John Corbett is solid, and I liked the end of the episode, where the two both ended up watching Vertigo on TV, Seth speaking the lines to himself like a silent prayer. The connection between Seth and Sarah is apparently strong enough to threaten most everything she holds dear—even her daughter has written him off more than her—but it’s a connection we still know too little about. Hopefully, we’ll get more of that in the future, and hopefully, she’ll let poor Mark down easily (as she almost certainly must).

Finally, we’ve got Crosby and Jasmine doing their thing, and while there was some silly stuff here, like Crosby conducting the job interview and asking the prospective secretary about his situation with Jasmine, there was also that wonderful scene where he goes to her to say that she can’t just let Dr. Joe take his place. It’s nice to have the small argument—about her breaking their rule about not introducing Jabbar to significant others until they’ve talked about it—lead to the real issue, which is Crosby’s continued insecurity about his place in the life of Jabbar (one of the great running storylines of the show), and this scene might have been the best in the episode. Everything about it felt perfectly observed, and it was one where the show let both of them express their points of view and a scene where Jasmine admitted she was wrong (with Crosby later apologizing for coming across as such a jackass).

I don’t know exactly what it is about the show that sometimes makes the female cast members seem less reasonable than their male counterparts—aside from the fact that I’m obviously sexist—but it’s certainly something that makes an episode like this, which takes the time to really get into the psyches of some female characters and then doesn’t work as well with another, an interesting case study in how the show approaches its Braverman and non-Braverman characters. It’s always a tough line to walk on a show with characters we’re meant to both like and dislike in equal measure, even as the series wants us to love them on some base level, just like our real families.

Stray observations:

  • Music problems: That scene where Zeek came to Adam to say that he was concerned about Seth and Sarah had an unnecessarily brooding song underneath it. Can’t this show ever just let people, y’know, talk? On the other hand, the cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Case Of You” that closed out the episode was really beautiful.
  • I loved the scene where the Braverman kids apologized to their mom for their behavior. Max, in general, was pretty funny in this episode, particularly when he rejected Kristina’s ideas for celebrating Nora’s five-and-a-half week birthday.
  • Speaking of that, it’s rare for the show to make that big of a time leap without a longer hiatus than the one it had last week. Interesting.
  • "That's not a significant passage of time."
  • "You're right about that. Maybe we should try to reason with him."
  • "Dad says he's sorry that you're losing it."

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