PARENTHOOD: I Hear You, I See You
September 14, 2010 by Erik Wilkinson
Last year, America joined Team Braverman. Following tonight’s PARENTHOOD Season Premiere, I am pledging my allegiance to Team Joel! In a surprising turn of events, Executive Producer Jason Katims fashioned a script that centered around Joel Graham, the often-seen but rarely heard husband to ambitious attorney Julia Braverman-Graham. Sam Jaeger shined brightly in his scenes with Lauren Graham, Craig T. Nelson, and onscreen spouse Erika Christensen, as we witnessed a new star being born.
Just as Season One tested the resolve of the Bravermans’ commitment to one another, Season Two is shaping up as a battle of externals. New challenges in the professional arena, along with gut-wrenching decisions of the heart, mirror the difficulties being faced in households across the country. Backyard barbecues make for feel-good TV, but those gatherings are not possible without economic resources and personal stability.
Before this week, Joel Graham’s role on Parenthood was quite simple. Make sure Sydney made it to play dates on time, and gaze adoringly while Julia comes undone by her family squabbles. I give Sam Jaeger full credit for broadening his character’s point of view, and interacting so well with his castmates. My favorite scene of the premiere was Jaeger & Lauren Graham discussing Sarah’s ideas, and how he could build a desk for her to foster her sense of creativity. I cannot recall these two actors sharing a scene together in Season One, yet I teared up when Joel agreed to help his sister-in-law challenge herself to be more.
While we are ranking favorite moments, a silver medal to the rooftop showdown between Joel and Zeke. Craig T. Nelson’s gruff, dismissive approach to Zeke was an unappealing aspect to the show’s first season. The veteran actor rarely gave ground to his castmates, particularly the actresses portraying his daughters. However, I could not help but chuckle as Zeke complimented Joel for stepping up and showing his “spunky” side.
I am not blessed with children of my own, yet the sight of Joel & Julia being interrogated about the birds and the bees made me howl with discomfort and delight. Both Sam Jaeger & Erika Christensen were marvelously disheveled and deliberate in handling these scenes, leading to a poignant discussion about finding a new brother or sister for Sydney. The road to bringing child #2 into the world could be bumpy, particularly if Joel embraces the freedom that comes with sharing his point of view.
If there were Emmys for Exceeding Expectations, Dax Shepard would have been a strong contender for his sweet performance as Crosby last season. This year, a long-distance relationship and a keen interest in Max’s tutor Gabby, look to test Crosby’s resolve to become a new, more responsible man. For lack of a better word, Shepard is relentlessly likable in this part. No longer the flaky sibling in the Braverman litter, Crosby is first and foremost Jabbar’s Dad, doing his level best to strengthen that bond. I found Jasmine’s timely disappearance to New York a bit convenient in the Season One Finale, but my hope is that Crosby & Jabbar may share more one-on-one time if Mommy finds a new dance job.
Before I sign off, we must address Billy Baldwin’s presence as Adam’s new boss. If you enjoy the Baldwin family’s penchant for chewing up scenery and speaking in hushed tones, more power to you. Unfortunately, I am already looking past this story arc, hoping that Peter Krause becomes the #1 man at his company again, perhaps with sister Sarah as his #2. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the way Baldwin was introduced into the mix. I simply do not believe that his presence is necessary to showcase the tensions of balancing work and family. Let’s just get the Baldwin/Graham romance over with, and back over to Julia & Joel’s house, shall we?
And if you are not recognizing Monica Potter’s amazing range yet, playing the most lovable neurotic in recent memory, you must watch her scenes again. Never a false moment or gesture, always with her heart in the right place. Kristina & Haddie’s driving lessons were pure frustration and joy. I look forward to more misadventures in Adam’s minivan.
Did you miss the Bravermans as much as you expected? What lies ahead for Crosby, Jasmine, & Jabbar? How many times did you tear up? How true did Julia & Joel’s reactions to Sydney’s questions ring to you? What did you think of Billy Baldwin’s new role? Please chime in…I hear you, I see you!
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