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Community & Cougar Town Get New Seasons (Oh… And A Bunch Of Other Shows, Too)

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With the upfronts coming next week, yesterday saw a HUGE flood of renewals and cancellations, some of which were surprising (and welcomed), some of which were no-brainers, and some of which were head-scratchers. Also, one show got cancelled AND picked up in the same day. Say whaa now? Let’s take a look at each of them bullet-point style:

Community – We did it everyone. We. Did. It. NBC renewed Community for an (as of now) truncated 13-episode season but, by my count, 13 is more than zero so this is goddamned great news. The fly in the ointment? The feud between the superfluous Chevy Chase and showrunner Dan Harmon could possibly lead to Harmon stepping down as Community’s boss – which would really, really suck – but for now, let’s just focus on the fact that Community isn’t going anywhere. And that’s a very, very good thing.
Cougar Town – I was almost as worried about this one as I was Community and it turns out it was for good reason, because it’s not going to be airing on ABC next season. Mainly because it’s moving to TBS. You read that right. The oft-mentioned but rarely-implemented fan dream of a favorite being cancelled and then picked up by another network actually worked in this case, as TBS has purchased the rights to all 63 of Cougar Town’s existing episodes and has ordered a third season with the entire cast still intact – no small feat given the fact that it’s moving from network to cable TV. Any way you look at it, this is a win for quality television and it sounds like Cougar Town is going to finally get the network love (and possibly the new title, finally) that it deserves.
Parenthood – We’re putting this one in the win column, too. Although Parenthood stumbled a bit down the stretch in its third season but there were times in 2012 where it was network television’s best drama. Plus, we’re always gonna support Jason Katims shows here. We’re just built that way.
30 Rock – NBC’s bringing back 30 Rock for a victory lap of sorts, giving it 13 episodes to wrap up its seven seasons on the air. One wonders if Alec Baldwin is itching to move onto other things [resists urge to make a voicemail joke] but we can all admit that there’s no way that the show works without him. Figures… I finally start getting caught up on 30 Rock (midway through season five right now) just in time for it to stop being a living show.
ABC Scripted Shows – ABC picked up a whole host of scripted shows of varying quality. In order from best to… not good, Suburgatory, Revenge, Once Upon A Time, Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle, and The Middle all received new seasons. I’m particularly looking forward to getting caught up on Revenge this summer on Hulu as its had very good buzz (and ratings, for that matter) all season long. You’ll notice that Modern Family is in the middle of that list which is fitting, since it’s the very definition of an average TV show.
ABC Unscripted Shows – ABC also picked up a bunch of unscripted shows as well, including Dancing With The Stars, The Bachelor, and Shark Tank. Insert big collective fart noise here.
• A Gifted Man – No one knew that this show was still on, right? Anyway… CBS cancelled it and I’d venture to say that, outside of those who actually work on A Gifted Man, no one even cares. Hell, I’m sure some of them don’t even care.

Basically, any day where Community and Cougar Town both get new seasons is a good one, so it’ll be interesting to see what other shows that are on the bubble (Parks And Recreation and Happy Endings, I’m looking at you) get picked up ahead of next week’s upfronts in the next couple of days.

EDIT: Parks And Recreation and Happy Endings were both picked up today, making this one helluva week for quality television. This isn’t what normally happens. I’m scared. Hold me.

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TV Diary | Parenthood: “Politics”

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TV Diary | Parenthood – Episode 3.15 – “Politics” – Original Airdate: 2/7/12

Episode Grade: B-

“Politics” was the weakest of Parenthood’s 2012 episodes by a fairly large margin so my thoughts are going to be somewhat brief in part because there really isn’t a whole lot to say about it and also in part because Parenthood has been so good lately that I have no real desire to slag on it too much despite a feeble effort such as this. Torpedoing relationships was the theme that ran though much of “Politics.” From Amber moving forward romantically with her boss, Bob, to Zoe’s living situation with Joel and Julia becoming untenable, to Crosby betraying his feelings for Jasmine to Lily, to Sarah realizing that the age difference between she and Mark may be as insurmountable as the mountains he’d dreamed of one day climbing, “Politics” was marked by these types of difficult decisions/realizations and perhaps it’s the uneasy mood of much of the episode that made it so much lesser than the rest of Parenthood’s 2012 outings. The most prominent of these is Amber’s seemingly inevitable hookup with Bob. From the moment that she’s promoted to be his new assistant early in the episode, it was evident that Parenthood was going to go down the Amber/Bob road after all [1]. Bob tasks her with deciphering and organizing his crazy notetaking system on the people he’s met, a request that gives him the opening to throw out the ultra-cheesy line that she’s not in his notes because his system is only used for people he’d otherwise forget before going into a detailed recollection of the first time they met. A kiss, of course, follows as does no small amount of my concern about where this storyline is headed. While I can appreciate the fact that Sarah ended up getting involved [2] and that Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall points out that Parenthood’s creator Jason Katims has an up-and-down history of pairing teenaged characters such as Amber with older partners, too much of this Amber/Bob coupling feels a little too skeevy to me. While I enjoy the shading it’s given Amber – she wonders whether she got her promotion on merit or whether it’s simply because Bob wants to bump uglies with her – the only way that I see this ultimately playing out is with Amber either screwing up a good situation or with Bob doing a 180 into complete ass-jerk territory. I don’t have a desire to see either of those. True, here Bob plays things expertly when Amber confronts him about her suspicions on the promotion [3] but ultimately I can’t see this ending up anywhere in the neighborhood of good. Maybe I should have more faith since Parenthood seems to have turned a corner from “frequently good” to “frequently excellent” late in this third season but I just can’t shake the feeling that this is going to end in a very bad way. Just as troublesome is the latest development in the “Joel And Julia Buy A Baby” storyline. Zoe has frequently looked like the most human and realistic person in this thread of the show and I’ve praised – and will continue to praise – Rosa Salazar’s work as Zoe. Realistically, the setup at Joel and Julia’s house isn’t ideal for Zoe’s mental health, what with the constant reminders of the child that she’s going to be giving up haunting her at every turn, but having cute/annoying little Sydney ask her about her “baby brother” seems to be the final straw as Zoe abruptly quits her job and bails on the Graham household for her old cramped, roommate-laden apartment. Julia is understandably shaken about what these developments mean for the chances of the adoption going through while Joel attempts to remain more zen about them, although he does ultimately confront Zoe at her apartment for an explanation only to have Zoe (unconvincingly) tell him that she’s just looking for space and emptily reiterates (again) that everything is going to be OK. Much like the Amber/Bob thread, I can’t help but feel this is headed down a bad road. Again, 2012 has been very strong thus far for Parenthood so it’s possible that “Politics” was nothing more than a blip. However, with three episodes left, my hope is that the show is able to shake off this bump in the road so that it can end its season in strong fashion.

[1] Although, I’ve been warning of the wisdom (or lack thereof) of such a move for the past few episodes.
[2] Via an admittedly nice fakeout where she sends flowers to Amber post-Bob kiss (to display her pride in Amber doing well at her job) only to have Kristina see them first and trick Amber by initially saying they were from Bob. There was also a nice phone call scene later between Sarah and Amber, if I recall correctly. Too many of Parenthood‘s storylines have seemed an island unto themselves this season so it was nice to see some logical co-mingling in “Politics.”
[3] And Bob’s measured and understanding response to said suspicions shows that he’s either the world’s greatest guy (doubtful) or he just a really, really good politician (more likely).

Miscellany:
*Another cause for concern? More headway in the ill-advised possibility of Crosby and Jasmine ending up together yet again. Dr. Joe pushes things forward with Jasmine by asking her to move in with him after showing her photos of a house he’s planning to purchase, telling her that he doesn’t intend to move there alone. Beyond proving that perhaps he’s not as self-aware as I first thought during “It Is What It Is” when it appeared he’d noticed Jasmine’s wistful look in Crosby’s direction during the concert in the park, it shows Jasmine as initially reluctant but she later takes the grown-up step of discussing the potential move with Crosby before committing to Joe’s request. Jasmine and Crosby seem to flip-flop fairly regularly between one being the adult and one being the child in their relationship so since Jasmine was the one taking the mature tack, Crosby is left to be the immature one during the talk by pointing out that although she’s “asking” him, there’s already a house picked out which suggests a final decision has already been made regardless of what he says. He later makes the bigger mistake of drunkenly lamenting the development to Lily – dumb move, that – but in the end ends up giving Jasmine the OK by telling her that if things are serious with Joe, he trusts her. However, unable to let it end there, he gives Jasmine a ballet bar which was a remnant from the house that he bought for her last season. Judging by Jasmine’s reaction to the gesture, there’s every chance that these two are back together by the end of the season which would be a huge shame since DB Woodside and Courtney Ford have added so much in such a short time to the show.
*In a plotline telegraphed from a mile away, the final example of sabotaging relationships came as Sarah began to notice the unmistakable age difference between she and Mark after attending a get-together between Mark and some of his high-school friends, including his former (and apparently only other) girlfriend. Not only did the night draw attention to the gap in their ages but also called into question how little Sarah actually knows about Mark after his old girlfriend off-handedly mentions something about Mark’s old dreams of mountain-climbing. On the way home, Sarah has a panic attack thinking that Mark’s never going to want to have a baby when there are still dreams he hasn’t realized and places he’s yet to visit but he calms her by saying that if they need to have a baby now, then they should do it now because he loves her and doesn’t care about anything else. Although she’s initially pacified, methinks the uneasy tone of Mark’s declaration is going to prove to be trouble before too long. Lauren Graham, pro that she is, did what she could to salvage the material but too much of it seemed gimmicky and convenient and, as I mentioned, it was too easy to tell where this was going from the get-go.
*However, Lauren Graham making fun of Jason Ritter’s ridiculous facial hair at one point? Spot. On.
*Peter Krause was busy directing this episode – not to cast stones but since this was his first directorial effort, was that maybe part of the problem with “Politics”? – so Adam was largely sidelined but was around for an embarrassing storyline where Adam and Crosby attempted to land the band Dawes as a client for the Luncheonette. Frankly, it was pathetically obvious that the only reason for this plot thread was for Parenthood to pander in order to seem hip by booking a band with a little indie cache and then beating said band into the ground by mentioning their name over and over and over ad nauseum. Again, the less that’s said about this, the better.
*They have milkshakes at The Luncheonette? This has to be the only recording studio in the country to offer that amenity, right?
*”It’s a shame about her face… it’s not… pretty.”
*”Is she paying for the time?” “In a sense, she’s paying for the time.”
*”And if we have to have a baby now, then let’s do it.”
*Episode below via Hulu as usual.

TV Diary | Parenthood: “It Is What It Is”

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TV Diary | Parenthood – Episode 3.12 – “It Is What It Is” – Original Airdate: 1/17/12

Episode Grade: A-

Parenthood has been on such a great roll of forward momentum lately that it’s a shame that the season finale is just a scant four episodes away [1]. And just as the season is slipping away, so too do some of the Bravermans feel relationships and desires slipping from their grasps [2]. Jasmine watches as Crosby grows ever closer to Lily and is surprised by the feelings it stirs. Haddie sees her dreams of going to Cornell potentially derailed by the financial toll that Max’s condition takes on Adam and Kristina [3]. Julia feels Zoe’s second thoughts over giving up her baby growing by the day. Sarah sees Drew assimilating into his girlfriend’s family and taking college visitations with them instead of her. Zeek feels the weight of his own mortality in the face of a health crisis. Since the season’s end is approaching at a rapid pace, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that some of these situations will be tied up by the finale while others will likely not see their resolution until (hopefully, assuming a new season does happen) the fall. Impressive, right? That’s why I get paid the big bucks. (Checks bank account) Wait… no I don’t. Anyway, let’s start with the storyline that’s working the most for me right now. Crosby and Jasmine navigating the perils of dating other people while trying to remain civil with one another has been impressively played by all the principals thus far, and I’m on record as saying that I think that Courtney Ford’s Lily is a welcomed addition to the series, a feeling that’s reinforced by “It Is What It Is.” Crosby is clearly taken with her and she’s actually quite good with Jabbar, something that doesn’t go unnoticed by Jasmine – or Dr. Joe, for that matter – and that frankly seems to surprise Jasmine. The longing look she gives Crosby when she, Jabbar, and Dr. Joe attend a concert in which Lily is a participant – again, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Dr. Joe – and Jabbar’s assertion that he really likes “Daddy’s new friend” eat at her. She actually almost manages to wrest the title of THE WORST from Kristina this week because any difficulty she experiences as a result of Crosby and Lily’s burgeoning relationship is really the height of hypocrisy in light of the struggles that Crosby had when the situations were reversed. Hopefully, this isn’t a step towards putting Jasmine and Crosby back together because I like what DB Woodside and Ford have added to the show and find the dynamic between Crosby and Jasmine much more interesting when they’re apart. Meanwhile, the news of Haddie’s acceptance to Cornell stirs conflicting emotions in Adam and Kristina [4]. Adam is freaked out because of the tuition costs of an Ivy League school – an interesting angle as I thought that they might go more with the distance aspect, particularly after the events of “Road Trip” – while Kristina pitches harder to get Haddie to Cornell. Adam’s feeling that he doesn’t want Haddie to exit school with mounds of debt makes sense to a point, but when he points out to Kristina about Cornell that, “It just doesn’t make good sense,” well… neither did opening a recording studio with your flaky brother while knowing next to nothing about the recording industry, but that seems to be working out for you, doesn’t it? Ultimately, Adam gives in and tells Haddie that they’re going to do what it takes in order for her to be able to attend Cornell and while that scene was played well by both Peter Krause and Sara Ramos, I can’t help feeling like the storyline did feel a little rushed due to all of the plotlines that “It Is What It Is” had to serve. However, the great thing about “It Is What It Is” – and Parenthood in general, for that matter – is that the problems that its characters face aren’t just TV show problems. They’re problems that are easily relatable for any member of the show’s audience and, as played by an incredibly talented ensemble, they lead to some exceptional television.

[1] And here’s hoping that it’s not the SERIES finale. Parenthood always teeters on the ratings precipice and its 18-49 numbers have been hovering below the 2.0 mark usually needed for renewal. Still, TV By The Numbers’ weekly cancellation index has it as a near-lock to be renewed, but I won’t feel comfortable about that until it’s announced as a part of NBC’s 2012-13 schedule at the upfronts in May.
[2] I’m so sorry for that hackneyed BS. But what are you gonna do? It’s nearly 2AM as I’m writing this.
[3] Who is still THE WORST, in case you were wondering. Although, in fairness, she’s a little less THE WORST this week. But only a little.
[4] But not in Max: “It’s not Harvard or Yale, but Cornell’s not bad.”

Miscellany:
*If I had to wager, I’d say that one of the cliffhangers going into season four is going to be whether Joel and Julia actually end up adopting Zoe’s baby. The seeds of doubt began blooming here via little hints such as Zoe wanting Julia to give the baby her grandfather’s watch and then freaking out after Julia takes her to a birthing class which, frankly, was an idea that was doomed from the start. Then, there was the gigantic red flag when Zoe confesses, “It hurts. It hurts more than I thought it was going to hurt. But it is what it is, right?” before telling Julia not to worry even as she herself is barely keeping things together. This will likely not end well.
*Lauren Graham was on the back burner again, but as usual she played the hell out of the material she was given, this time dealing with the realization that the parents of Drew’s girlfriend, Amy, seem to know more about her own son’s future than she does. Kind of puzzling that an actress as talented as Graham has been shifted into the background as much as she has been in 2012 so far. Hoping that gets fixed sometime in the final four episodes.
*I realize that Cornell’s an Ivy League school, but since when is Berkeley a fallback? Maybe that’s just me, but as both Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall and The AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff pointed out in their reviews, it’s likely that Haddie’s going to end up at Berkeley for logistical reasons unless Ramos is leaving the show for some reason. It’s highly doubtful that they’re going to send her across country away from the entire family to put her on an island like that. Just doesn’t seem like something Parenthood would do.
*Ramos did play Haddie’s understandable (and understanding) frustration with Max’s situation impressively.
*Zeek buys an RV as a result of his being diagnosed with a potentially serious heart condition. Really… that’s basically the entirety of the storyline. And it’s about as interesting as that sentence makes it sound, which is to say not very.
*Really looks like the show’s headed towards a Bob Little/Amber hookup pretty soon. After Amber is tasked with helping to run the show at a campaign fundraiser, Little notices her managing the drunken host of the event in impressive fashion and is clearly taken with her. She then stays late to help Kristina and, after Kristina takes her leave, she and Little are the last two members of the campaign to leave the event. Little invites her to dinner but she declines… this time. I’ve already voiced my concern that this has the potential to turn into another “Amber screws up her job” storyline. Prove me wrong, Parenthood.
*An observation on the three 2012 episodes: It’s entirely possible that the show has fixed its yelling problem. It’s kind of been a running joke over the show’s run that Parenthood’s never better than when two or more of its characters are yelling at each other and, while that hasn’t been COMPLETELY absent from these last three episodes, it’s not been nearly as prevalent as it has in the past and the show’s been on a great run despite that. That’s a very good sign.
*Camille: “I didn’t say a word.” Kind of sums up her entire existence on this show right there.
*”That’s not weird. That’s stupid.”
*”Guys… that’s nasty. That’s gross.”
*”The thing about helping people with no money is that you have to be really good at seducing people with money.”
*”My dad said if I pretend not to be bored, I can get ice cream on the way home!”
*Episode below via Hulu as usual.

Written by jeremylikestv

February 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm

TV Diary | Parenthood: “Just Smile”

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TV Diary | Parenthood – Episode 3.13 – “Just Smile” – Original Airdate: 1/10/12

Episode Grade: B+

Coming off of a very strong kickoff to 2012 with its third season’s 12th episode, “Road Trip,” I was hoping that Parenthood was going to be able to sustain its newfound momentum even as I realized that replicating a one-off episode like “Road Trip” was going to be nearly impossible to pull off. And for the most part? “Just Smile” was successful, bringing to an end some storylines that had been developing for a while at the same time putting into motion some new ones, particularly with regard to some potential new relationships. With the show focusing on so many different members of a large family, it makes sense for the show to stagger its storylines so that one sibling’s arc is coming to a conclusion while another’s may just be beginning or be in the middle of its ongoing story. “Just Smile” brought a resolution to the “Are Joel And Julia Going To Have A Problem With Zoe’s Dickhead Boyfriend” storyline as Zoe – who is now living with them seemingly for the duration of the pregnancy – got her prickish boyfriend to finally sign off on adoption papers thus removing the final obstacle in the way of Joel and Julia having their second child. Though the storyline had its fits and starts, I agree with the critical consensus that Rosa Salazar has done some great work as Zoe [1] and it’s going to be a shame to see her (likely) go. Hopefully she lands on some other show in quick order. While the adoption story seems to be heading to its conclusion, ”Just Smile” also seemed to hint at the beginnings of some new relationships for a couple of Bravermans. Since a good chunk of “Just Smile” was spent at The Luncheonette with Crosby and Adam, let’s handle that first. From the moment that a reporter showed up to do a story for a San Francisco business magazine about the fledgling studio, it was clear that the focus of the piece would shift to Adam’s story about losing his previous job and jumping head-on into a venture in unfamiliar territory with his brother and, indeed, that’s what happened. Crosby – in staying true to the character – acts immaturely and is immediately jealous of the attention given to Adam over him, and the two brothers passive/aggressively bicker for the majority of the episode before coming to an agreement [2], but more than anything else what this plotline did was introduce a potential new love interest for Crosby in the form of Courtney Ford’s (Dexter) driven cellist Lily, who initially clashes with Crosby over his lack of professionalism while he’s sulking over the magazine article [3] only to later come to an understanding with him over how driven and passionate they are for the music industry. When Crosby offers the use of one of the studio’s extra rooms for her practice sessions – after she tells him that her neighbors aren’t too enamored of her constant practicing – and she takes him up on the offer, it’s clear that this is the beginning of… [4] something between the two. I was also impressed by Ford and she’d be a nice addition to the cast for however long she sticks around. While I liked the beginnings of this relationship, I can’t say the same for the other nascent coupling that seems to be developing out of “Just Smile” between Amber and the politician (Jonathan Tucker, The Black Donnellys) that she’s working for. During scenes set at the political office, it’s clear that Bobby Little (the politician) has surrounded himself with interns who are all too willing to play a sycophantic role. Since that’s not the Amber we’ve seen in Parenthood’s two-and-a-half seasons, it’s no surprise that she speaks her mind when Little asks for honest feedback on a campaign advertisement while the other interns suck up to Little by offering empty praise for the ad. When he later shows up at the coffee shop where Amber is also working and commends her for honesty and Amber allows herself a little smile, it’s pretty clear where this storyline is headed and it’s nowhere good. Amber screwing up despite her best efforts is something we’ve seen too often on Parenthood. Let’s not do it again guys. Still, “Just Smile” had some nice forward momentum, even if it wasn’t up to the caliber of an all-time great like “Road Trip.”

[1] She was particularly impressive in the scene where she returned from breaking up with her boyfriend and getting him to sign the papers. It was clear that she was wrecked by the situation but didn’t want to betray her feelings to Joel and Julia and was thus barely holding things together. The struggle with her emotions was very nicely played by Salazar.
[2] In fine Parenthood fashion, Crosby informs Adam that he’s angry that Adam hijacked the attention that should have gone to him since opening the studio was his dream and that he’s the one with the passion for the music business, while Adam tells Crosby that he was enjoying the attention the article afforded him, particularly when Max tells him that it’s cool to have his dad on the cover of a magazine. He also tells him that he knows how important the business is to Crosby and that Crosby, in effect, saved his life by getting him to jump into it with him. They’re both right and are able to come to an agreement on it, which just adds to the feel that the characters on this show are actual people and not just two-dimensional television characters.
[3] Which is a small point of contention I have with “Just Smile”: I get that Crosby would be pissed and everything, but to act as childish as he does in front of Lily – one of the few clients we’ve seen for his small start-up business – doesn’t seem to ring true and paints Crosby like an idiot. True, the rest of the storyline saves things but that one scene bothered me more than a little.
[4] Nope. Not gonna do it. Not gonna make some clichéd “beautiful music” pun. Because I’m above that, you see. I mean… clearly.

Miscellany:
*Didn’t get to mention Lauren Graham much this week but she again did some great work in the Sarah/Mark storyline as Sarah began to fear that Mark’s blurting out about having a kid was something that he’d regretted since he avoided any attempt by her to engage him in conversation about the topic. After subtly hinting about kids during a shopping outing and then placing major importance on Mark joining her brothers’ poker game, she finally confronted him – while drunk – and they finally had the conversation the next day with Mark confirming that the baby talk freaked him out, but in a good way. The combination of relief and fear and uncertainty on Graham’s face was a marvel – again – to behold. Plus, drunk Lauren Graham is pretty damned funny.
*Liked how Adam, Crosby, and Joel were initially reluctant to include Mark in their game because of Sarah’s spotty romantic history. It added a sibling dynamic that rang satisfyingly true.
*Random thought that popped into my head as I was watching this episode: Didn’t Amber and Haddie used to be very close? Have they even shared a scene together this year that didn’t include the entire family? Food for thought.
*Not much Kristina this week. But she’s still THE WORST.
*”I thought 40 was the new 30.” “Not for your ovaries, no.”
*”Thank you for coming for eggs. Let’s talk about my eggs.” | Sarah
*”I brought biscotti. Just kidding – they’re Philly cheesesteaks.” *
*Also, no one calls them “Philly cheesesteaks.” I’m from just outside of Philly. They’re “cheesesteaks.” Just… “cheesesteaks.”
*Episode below via Hulu as usual for your viewing pleasure.

TV Diary | Parenthood: “Road Trip”

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TV Diary | Parenthood – Episode 3.12 – “Road Trip” – Original Airdate: 1/3/12

Episode Grade: A

Editor’s note: New feature time here on the blog. I’m kind of shamelessly stealing from The AV Club’s format from their episode reviews, but I’m going to start doing some mini-reviews that I’m calling TV Diary. As we enter the digital age, DVRs have become much more prevalent in the past five years and many people tend to keep up with their favorite shows on their own pace. Many, like myself, rarely watch anything live so the stockpile of shows on the ol’ TiVo can get rather large. TV Diary will give you a look at what I’ve been watching – may be a show that aired months ago, or it could be a show that aired just last night. My hope is that maybe I’ll turn you on to something you haven’t been watching or warn you off of something that’s terrible. Onto the entry.

The road trip as a framing device for television episodes is often a fruitful one. It often forces a series’ characters to examine their relationships with one another due to the close proximity that such a trip provides. They also often make for some of a show’s best installments [1], and Parenthood’s first 2012 episode, “Road Trip” is no different. It was an exceptional episode on all levels that drew from some of the storylines that the show’s been building in this, its third season, but was one that also felt very self-contained and was almost a mini-film unto itself. The titular trip comes from Braverman patriarch Zeek’s (Craig T. Nelson) desire to pack the family up to visit his mother for her 86th birthday. The desire to make a fuss out of the randomness of the birthday [2] seems somewhat odd, but all four of the Braverman siblings and their assorted families agree to pack up and make the trip downstate from Berkeley to Bakersfield on short notice. [3] From the moment that the family assembles, the tension is obvious. Zeek is incredibly controlling and uptight about the trip but, along the way, we learn that the relationship between Zeek and Blanche (Frances Sternhagen) is a tense one, in that she has been very demanding and very unsupportive of him and his choices throughout his life which has lead to a strong need for her approval on his part. Vulnerability is not a shading we’ve often seen out of Nelson’s Zeek in the series’ run, but in “Road Trip” it’s present in abundance and Nelson wears it well. Because of the tension in the relationship with his mother, Zeek can’t help but pass this along to his own children along the way, particularly as it relates to his own eldest son Adam (Peter Krause). When Adam shows up for the jump-off of the trip without his wife, son, and infant daughter [4], Zeek loudly voices his disapproval due to his desire for the entire family to make the journey [5]. The frustration rolls downhill to Adam’s interactions with his own daughter, as he experiences an inability to connect with Haddie on the trip [6] and passive/aggressively makes his frustration apparent at a rest stop gift shop. It’s interesting to watch as the tension trickles down from generation to generation to generation to generation in this way. After Adam confesses to her that he’s just trying to take the opportunity some time with her before she leaves for college the following fall, Haddie realizes what’s happening and tells him that she’s just always taken for granted that she’d be able to talk to him and hasn’t yet given any thought to the distance that college would put between the two of them. This self-actualization eventually makes its way back up to Zeek and his mother by “Road Trip’s” end as Zeek confronts his mother in a heartrending scene over her lack of vocal support for him, telling her that the overriding reason he made the trip is that he wanted to show her how proud he was of how his own children turned out in the hopes of finally gaining some of her approval [7]. The contrast between a parent/child relationship that’s strong (Adam/Haddie) and one that needs work (Zeek/Blanche) is evident and striking. “Road Trip” was one of the few Parenthood episodes that’s put Nelson’s Zeek front and center and Nelson runs with the opportunity. In less skilled hands, the material could have been maudlin and melodramatic but Nelson and Sternhagen are pros and that shows through the pathos that they imbue in Zeek and Blanche. It’s a relationship that’s fractured over the years, but is one that both parties are interested in repairing at their advanced ages. In a season filled with far too many valleys, “Road Trip” may stand as the highest peak yet. This episode – and the raw emotion that it provides – is why I watch this show.

[1] I’m thinking specifically of Big Love’s third season episode, “Come, Ye Saints,” and Louie’s brilliant second season installment, “Country Drive.”
[2] It’s established that visiting Grandma Blanche isn’t something that the family has done on any kind of regular basis.
[3] Which is something that they take care to note to Zeek and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) on several occasions.
[4] Leaving him with just his teenage daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos) as a traveling companion). Adam’s wife Kristina, in an attempt to take a harder disciplinary role with their Asperger’s afflicted son Max, punishes him by making him stay home from the trip. After being called a “bitch” twice, she doesn’t think the punishment through and is forced to stay home with him, angering Adam and then later Zeek. Have I mentioned before that Kristina is the worst? Because she is THE WORST.
[5] Due to her apparently being more interested in texting with her friends instead of conversing with her father in the car-ride to Bakersfield.
[6] In the most touching part of the scene, Zeek expresses his disappointment over the scarcity of hearing Blanche tell him she loved him, noting that he told each of his kids that he loved them every day of their lives. She responds by telling him that of course she loves him. Yeah… it admittedly got a little dusty in the room at that point.

Miscellany

*Someone actually stole the used recliner out of Zeek’s pick-up that he’d purchased for Blanche as a gift? While the truck sat in the parking lot of a diner? Who DOES that?
*”She doesn’t approve of me because she told Dad that she didn’t approve of me. And then he told me.” Sarah, about her grandmother. The way that Lauren Graham delivers this line might have been one of “Road Trip’s” funniest moments.
*There’s another attempt at redeeming Kristina when, after arriving at Blanche’s after all, tells Zeek what a great job he’s done with his family after he expresses how he feels he failed in getting the entire family to make the trip. His demanding nature caused the Braverman children to (temporarily) head home. They do eventually all arrive at Blanche’s home.
*In that same conversation, there were some hints at a hard family life for Kristina. Is this something we’ll be revisiting later in the season?
*Still, Kristina is THE WORST. I’ve mentioned that, I think.
*Drew, in every teenaged boy’s nightmare, walks in on his mother and her boyfriend having sex. Awkwardness abounds for the rest of Drew’s interactions with Sarah in the epsiode.
*”Thank you. My back is killing me.”
*”An intimate union of bodies.”
*”That’s not a good handshake. It’s very limp.”
*Much of the on-the-road scenes are shot with longing looks at the scenery and are accented by pensive acoustic music. It sets the atmosphere nicely.
*The scene with the kids discussing their outrage with Zeek and Camille going on without them was great and seemed almost improv’d. Seeing as much of the creative team behind Friday Night Lights now works on Parenthood, their influence was apparent in that particular scene.
*After going on for 1,300+ words (or about 600 more than I’d intended), you should probably just watch this. Because I’m such a great person, I’ve embedded it below via Hulu. Enjoy.

Written by jeremylikestv

January 10, 2012 at 9:28 pm

TV Diary | Parenthood: “Missing”

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TV Diary | Parenthood – Episode 3.11 – “Missing” – Original Airdate: 11/29/11

Editor’s note: New feature time here on the blog. I’m kind of shamelessly stealing from The AV Club’s format for their episode reviews, but I don’t think they’ll care much. I’m actually going to start doing some mini-reviews that I’m calling TV Diary. As we enter the digital age, DVRs have become much more prevalent over the past five years and many people tend to keep up with their favorite shows on their own pace. Many, like myself, rarely watch anything live so the stockpile of shows on the ol’ TiVo can get rather large. TV Diary will give you a look at what I’ve been watching – it may be a show that aired months ago, or it could be a show that aired just last night. My hope is that maybe I’ll turn you on to something you haven’t been watching or warn you away something that’s terrible. At the very least, it’ll allow me to exercise my writing muscles. Anyway, onto the entry.

One of the problems with Parenthood  is that its sprawling ensemble cast necessitates focus given to one of the four main Braverman siblings on a rotating basis. That, in and of itself, is fine but when a storyline isn’t resonating – such as the recent martial conflict between Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina (Monica Potter) – it tends to drag the entire show down with it. A little backstory: Adam and his brother Crosby (Dax Shepard) started a recording studio earlier in this third season of the show and hired a nubile young assistant named Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) who, in a vulnerable, drunken haze planted a kiss on the very married Adam. Since Parenthood is a fairly nuanced show, Rachel’s mistake was shown for what it was – a mistake. The Rachel character has been drawn as someone who is very good at her job, has an obvious and legitimate skill for the music business, and is simply a decent person who made a mistake. But, as Kristina has proven to be THE WORST over Parenthood’s two and a half seasons, she’s ordered Adam to fire Rachel. Adam, being a decent person himself, can’t bring himself to do that and when Kristina finds out he’s failed to carry out her demand she initiates a cold war between herself and Adam. The Parenthood writers do what they can to redeem Kristina somewhat [1], but the character has become so problematic that it’s difficult to feel any kind of sympathy for her or her situation [2]. Ultimately – after a falsely dramatic scene where Max, unable to cope with the fact that neither of his parents are available to take him on an outing due to being preoccupied with their own crap [3] – Adam and Kristina come to an understanding: Adam capitulates and agrees to fire Rachel, causing Kristina to call Rachel [4] herself and bury the hatchet while warning her that nothing like the kiss had better happen again. Thankfully, this less than expertly-executed storyline seems to have drawn to a close in “Missing,” hopefully giving Parenthood a chance to return to a better version of itself.

[1] She does offer a job to her downtrodden niece Amber (Mae Whitman) and there’s a nice scene where Amber expresses doubt that she’ll be able to avoid disappointing Kristina, leading Kristina to provide her with a nice show of faith in her abilities in callback to Amber’s work with Kristina’s Asperger’s-afflicted son, Max (Max Burkholder) earlier in the season. Big fan of continuity – I like when past storylines pay off in future ones.
[2] It’s also difficult to not yell nasty names at her as I watch the show. Suffice it to say, my wife is not amused by this.
[3] Which, in fairness, does lead to a nice scene where Adam and Kristina’s teenage daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos) expresses her earned frustration with dealing with Max’s condition. As always, Parenthood is never better than when one or more of its characters are yelling at each other.
[4] Never mind that Rachel called Kristina herself earlier in the episode after receiving counsel from Crosby and was shut down icily. Have I mentioned that Kristina is THE WORST?

Miscellany:

*Sarah (Lauren Graham) wasn’t given much to do in this one, but the way that Graham played the combination of fear, shock, acceptance, and excitement when her much younger boyfriend, Mark (Jason Ritter), offhandedly mentioned that he’d like to have children with her after a day of babysitting Adam and Kristina’s infant daughter was a masterful display of wordless acting.
*Just as nice was Crosby’s realization that his ex-girlfriend (and baby mama) Jasmine’s (Joy Bryant) new boyfriend, Dr. Joe (D.B. Woodside) is actually a good guy after the good doctor leaves seats on the 50-yard line at a University Of California football game in order to tend to Crosby and Jasmine’s injured son Jabbar (Tyree Brown). Crosby’s acceptance that Joe isn’t the enemy and the guilt he felt over sleeping with Jasmine in the last episode, “Mr. Wonderful,” put nicely in perspective his own betrayal of Jasmine in season two with Minka Kelly’s Gaby.
*After being extorted by the boyfriend of their surrogate/adoptive mother Zoe in “Mr. Wonderful,” Julia (Erika Christensen) attempts to make a clean break after Zoe confronts the boyfriend over his dickishness. This isn’t entirely surprising because did anyone really think they weren’t going to end up with the baby? Also, this sets up the birth nicely for February sweeps in a month.
*Zeek’s (Craig T. Nelson) dick medicine commercial premieres. And it’s awful.
*I can’t remember… I mentioned that Kristina is THE WORST, right?

Episode Grade: C+

Written by jeremylikestv

January 4, 2012 at 9:49 pm