PARENTHOOD: Perchance to Dream - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

PARENTHOOD: Perchance to Dream

May 3, 2010 by  

Sorry folks. I went away on a mini-vacation and wasn’t able to post Erik’s review of “Parenthood” until now. It’s a fantastic read so don’t miss out. — Kath

“Once you unleash the fever, it doesn’t stop.”

If this warning were splashed across bulletin boards and city centers in an undeveloped country, residents would fear a pandemic sweeping across their homeland. In the Braverman family, it means that Adam has to dance, and he will not be denied!

Parenthood has been acutely consistent over the past three weeks. Each sibling in the Braverman clan has been handed a distinct story to carry, and each cast member has injected a different energy into his/her character. The result has been a series of authentic and creative examples of family life.

Since there is so much ground to cover, I’ll separate this review into a household by household breakdown. If you skip past one of the siblings’ arcs on your DVR, feel free to pass them by here. Sound fair? I thought so!

Quick writer’s tangent before we head to Berkeley. Years ago, a close friend said something that I have always envied. After experiencing the highs and lows of early adulthood, then working to accept her surroundings, she said, “I’m very much at home in my psyche.” As an early adopter of procrastination techniques and self-loathing, I wondered how she could possess such clarity over her emotions. Jason Katims, the remarkable show runner of Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, also has this gift. The endearing qualities and fatal flaws of his characters are well-balanced, expertly written, and brought to the screen with immaculate precision.

Adam, Kristina, Haddie, Max: If happiness is sometimes about perception, then Adam & Kristina’s house is probably the most aesthetically pleasing on the show. Underneath the caring smiles and helpful gestures, however, their family proves that even with all the right ingredients, the recipe for raising children will always include trial and error.

Adam Braverman is the centerpiece of this show, the first son who is trusted to be a father figure to his nephew, lock away family secrets, and be a crisis manager for his siblings at a moment’s notice. There is nothing false about Adam’s effort, but even he needs a break. I am sure that any parent reading this has felt trapped by their parental responsibilities. It does not mean that you love your sons or daughters any less. Just the opposite, it means that you want a few hours to be yourself.

Adam & Kristina’s current challenge, to keep communication lines open with Haddie as she explores her sexual impulses, is rarely handled with such delicacy. There is nothing sinister about Haddie’s infatuation with her first real boyfriend. On the flip side, her parents are within their rights to caution her against growing up too fast. Sarah Ramos, the young actress who portrays Haddie, has been remarkable in lending authenticity to some very petulant scenes. Like most smart teenagers, Haddie is carefully toeing the line between getting her way and respecting her parents’ ultimate authority.

Finally, Kristina’s opportunity to go back to work in politics was an ideal bookmark to Haddie’s “Career Day” visit to Aunt Julia’s office. Watching Monica Potter attempt to impress her own daughter, knowing full well that her stories could not match the pizzazz of Julia’s wardrobe and corporate card, put a lump in my throat. Kids are rarely told that parents want their approval, too. It’s a dirty little secret, and one that we should all be told sooner. This week, as Kristina realized that a return to the workforce could threaten her family’s lifestyle, she quickly put her own ambitions aside, including the chance to make her own daughter a little bit prouder of her. This is anything but a fictional story, and I am sure it resonated in living rooms across America.

Sarah, Amber, Drew: With all due respect to young Drew, who has stepped up his game with a Bieberific haircut and a humbling attempt to catch “the fever,” this batch of episodes has been all about Sarah and Amber. Is Lauren Graham relying on muscle memory to forge an onscreen bond with her teenage daughter? Probably. However, even fans of Gilmore Girls seem to be impressed by Graham’s efforts to make big mistakes in Sarah’s shoes, not always destined to be in the right. Mae Whitman did not capture my attention early in the season, but her take on the Mr. Cyr arc was young, vulnerable, and (for lack of a better term) more feminine than Amber’s steely facade.

With Amber’s boyfriend back in Fresno, and Sarah taking steps to provide for her daughter’s academic future, they were thrown into the most uncomfortable scene in recent memory. Their looks of shock and awe as Jim read his “revealing” poetry samples were irreplaceable. If you think about it, there are good reasons for Parenthood to be a 10pm show. I would be flabbergasted to hear these poems or discussions about landing strips in an earlier time period. If NBC decides to shake up their schedule next season, can we agree that this should remain the last program before the late local news?

Crosby, Jasmine, Jabbar: I owe Joy Bryant, who plays Jasmine, a huge apology for not singing her praises in earlier reviews. Bryant is a beautiful woman, but she has added genuine depth and complexity to Jasmine. Bryant’s performance in the Birthday Party sequence last week, along with her cautious acceptance of Crosby’s advances in this episode, have been pitch perfect. Jasmine is a single Mom, who is trying to unravel the truth behind her baby daddy’s eagerness to be part of her and Jabbar’s life. Yet, in admiring one another as parents, Crosby and Jasmine made me root for them.

If any skeptics remain over Dax Shepard’s place in this ensemble, I trust they will disappear soon. Crosby is goofy, unreliable, and scattered when dealing with everyone in his life. But not to his son, and not to the woman who he is falling in love with. Did anyone else notice the look of concern on Jasmine’s face as Crosby raced out of bed to go pick up Jabbar? She’s seen this behavior from him once before, and it will take time for Jasmine to accept that they could become one family. I’m hoping that they do, if for no other reason than for Jabbar to conquer his fear of strangers’ toilets throughout Northern California.

Julia, Joel, Sydney: Erika Christensen is my new TV girlfriend, eclipsing my previous devotion to all things Jenna Fischer. It’s not you, Jenna. It’s me! With pop culture outlets saturating us with images of the Kardashians and Lady Gaga, I am happy to go against the grain. Julia Braverman-Graham is a complicated woman, armed with bold opinions and a first rate collection of business suits. Like most young, ambitious lawyers, she is hypervigilant about the importance of what she does for a living. Whether it comes from a true sense of justice or the will to work long enough to retire her law school debt, Julia’s passion is her most attractive quality and her most obvious defense mechanism.

Over the past three weeks, the writers have injected a middle-class narrative into the Graham’s white collar world. Julia is a bit lost in her career, and is sensitive to what her family thinks of her calling. At the same time, Joel is trying to point out the similarities in Julia and Sydney’s dispositions, so that his wife doesn’t feel like an absentee parent. We spend less time in Julia & Joel’s house than any other, so there are many more stories to be shared. I hope that we find out more about Joel’s day-to-day routine and how these two interact once Sydney is asleep. We’ve had a window into that part of Adam & Kristina’s day, including this week, and I think it would help connect the audience with Julia & Joel’s marriage.

I love this show. The writing makes me laugh, the actors make me think, and the family elements often bring me to tears. I already surrendered my man card for seeing a matinee show of “Dear John” by myself, but I would argue that Parenthood is the kind of program that could help us all feel a little better about our surroundings.

Where does this show rank on your weekly list of favorites? Which stories have not kept your attention as the show evolves? What do you think of “The Fever?” Which scenes have reflected your experiences most closely? Let’s share…


8 Responses to “PARENTHOOD: Perchance to Dream”

  1. Todd on May 3rd, 2010 12:13 pm

    Excellent review! I love this show, it has become me and my wifes date night. We can relate to Max’s storyline so there is hardly and episode that one of us is not in tears.

  2. Erik on May 3rd, 2010 1:32 pm

    Todd: Welcome to the discussion! Since I started writing about Parenthood and linking to it from my Facebook page, several friends have contacted me with stories that echo your sentiments. Though I am not lucky enough to have a family of my own, it does seem like a perfect “date night in” for busy Moms and Dads who want to laugh together after the kids go to bed. Thanks for leaving your comments, and please come back to discuss the next episode.

  3. Shelby on May 3rd, 2010 2:22 pm

    I haven’t seen the most recent episode, but I am in love with this show. I’m often in tears. I think its a very honest approach to family life. A new favourite show for sure!

  4. Erik on May 3rd, 2010 2:28 pm

    Shelby: If you ever have problems with your DVR or alternate plans, every new episode of Parenthood can be found on or I have found streaming on those sites to be easily accessible using a variety of internet connections. I’m so happy to see another new face enter the discussion!

  5. Mere on May 3rd, 2010 3:11 pm

    Erik another great review. This show is so realistic it is almost like watching (classy/good) reality television (as if classy reality tv exists). I am still routing for Julia to have an epic win over the rival hippie mother. The story line with Crosby and Jasmine is almost society’s wish of making this estranged couple with a child fall in love and make their wrongs, right. I am skeptical of fast Crosby “changed” for his son. Maybe there is a relapse looming in the near future.

    However my criticisms on the story lines, I am still in love with the show and watch every week!

  6. Lisa on May 3rd, 2010 4:08 pm


    Thank you for this wonderful and thoughtful review. I sat up in my chair a little higher when Kristina showed what she could do in front of the young tweeters and my heart broke a little when she so willingly gave it up for her family. I love her and Adam most but I love the show and the rest of the Braverman clan as well.

  7. Erik on May 4th, 2010 5:17 pm

    Mere: I’m with you on the Julia/Racquel rivalry. When Julia took the high road at the conclusion of “The Big O,” I understood that the writers wanted us to admire her for putting Sydney’s best interests ahead of her own jealousy or frustration. It should NOT, however, keep Julia from getting a dusting of revenge, right? Being petty is absolutely acceptable under heightened circumstances. Putting the moves on someone else’s spouse is grounds for karmic justice. I’m hoping Racquel still has that coming…

    As for Crosby & Jasmine, I agree that their budding relationship has to endure more bumps in the road to be authentic. If either of them took comfort in the affection of a third party, would that really be a betrayal? I would argue that Jabbar is in a better place with a supportive set of parents. However, those two people don’t necessarily have to share an address.

  8. Erik on May 4th, 2010 5:20 pm

    Lisa: Thanks for the kind words. Monica Potter has been the most pleasant surprise of the cast. She wears Kristina’s emotional wardrobe with vivid style and versatility. I feel for her at every beat in these stories, and I think Potter will be highly sought-after in Parenthood’s hiatus for interesting female roles.