My biggest problem with Parenthood is that episodes take a long time to get going. There's a whole lotta exposition that mainly involves talking about the drama each sect of the Braverman clan is about to face (which exemplifies my second biggest problem, which is that the show does a whole lot of "telling" and not much "showing," or demonstrating its dynamics with action). Then when it all comes to head, the results are uneven—at best we get an "Aw, isn't that nice" moment, at worst some confusion over what just happened. Tonight, the series' second episode, exemplified it all, neatly divided into four(-ish) storylines for the four children of the family.
One of the only things I flat-out enjoyed about the pilot was Kristina and Adam's discovery that their son Max might have Asperger syndrome. It was an unexpected wrench to throw into what had been a cliche ride up until that point. Tonight finds Adam dealing with it by, well, not dealing with it: Sure, he Googles (or whatever that fake search engine was on the show) every little detail about the disease, but he refuses to believe it's true until he uses every connection known to man to get the best damn behavioral therapist in town to give him a real diagnosis. Meanwhile, he thinks Max just needs some boundaries, a lot of bargaining, and he takes out his anger on an innocent possum. By the end, he's jumping right in with Max, swinging his tennis racket like it's an awesome scimitar, donning his pirate costume right along with his son. It was a sweet moment, sure. I wasn't quite sure why the whole plot with the pot—their quote-unquote "good" kid falling off the wagon, and lying about it—wasn't really addressed; I'd think that storyline would have something to contribute to the Max drama. But sadly, twas not the case. It came and went.
So, too, did Crosby's time in the spotlight this week. Last time around, he found out he'd sired a son five years ago, and said son really wants to get to know his father. This directly cockblocks his plans to give it to Katie from Wet Hot American Summer (conveniently named Katie here, too), but he's willing to give it a go, awkward dad-jokes and all. It's not a ton of fun—he misreads his son's love of starchy breakfast food to mean he likes pancakes, when it's waffles he fancies—and he's ready to just let it go, but it seems Jasmine and her son are moving to town for good. So Crosby decides to ditch Katie's weekend plans, blame it on his nephew Max, and spend time with his boy. Dax Shepard wasn't half bad in the pilot, but he was robbed of some great chances to act this time around; he mostly just played "confused," and the scene where he decided to stay back—with Katie in the lingerie—felt rushed.
I guess this gets at another problem I have with Parenthood: It's a really crowded show. And again Julia's storyline was a casualty of the cluster. There was once more an uncomfortable tension between her career and her family, which is more than a little head-scratching. The other moms passive-aggressively make comments about Julia regarding how little time she gets to spend with her daughter, and Julia makes repeated comments about how "late" she is going to be for a "meeting." It's not just towards her: Later, during the auction, Julia makes an off-handed comment about how she resents Racquel because she has all this disposable income and doesn't work. Is it time yet for a show to demonstrate that there are many things moms can do when they raise kids, and all of them are, simply, accepted? Apparently not, and the repeated bringing up of the nonexistent elephant in the room, coupled with the short screen time, had me hoping the show'd put someone else on screen.
By far the most interesting story of the night was Sarah's, mostly because I felt it moved her character forward in a big way. After bartending for 10 years (or maybe 15, different characters have conflicting opinions on the matter), she is ready to start things over with a career in graphic design; it makes perfect sense too, as it turns out she's really savvy with that stuff, despite not having a college degree. It takes a lot of bravery to apply for a job when you're almost certain your boss will be significantly younger than you, and I can understand her frustration after-the-fact that Adam had put in a call to get her the interview. She wants to do this on her own. And when things don't work out in her favor, she gives her kid Amber—who's more of a good egg than she thought (see what I did there?)—the second chance she was denied at the job interview. That's one nice parenting moment, right there.
I just wish there were more. I love Jason Katims and worship Friday Night Lights as one of my favorite shows ever. That show successfully juggles multiple characters, and I think it's because its characters are allowed to have small moments to themselves. Not everything is a huge deal to everyone every single week, and those little scenes tell a bigger story without, you know, shouting it. Parenthood needs a little subtlety. Or, at the very least, a quick run-in with Coach Taylor.
- This is week two, an experiment. If you like it, Todd will be back next week to unfold more of the Braverman saga.
- For a bunch of kids wanting to experiment with pot, they sure did buy a lot.
- Oh hey, what's up…from before.