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Parenthood: "Date Night"

Illustration for article titled Parenthood: "Date Night"
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I don't watch Parenthood for the cringe moments, but, man, when Renee called up Crosby and asked him to go pick up Jabbar and he was drunk? That was some gut-churning stuff right there. I don't know why Crosby, week in and week out, is my favorite part of this show. Maybe it's the fact that he's relatively close to my age. (Well, I think I'm closer to Julia, but it's often harder to put myself in the shoes of a workaholic power mom. Just sayin'.) Maybe it's the fact that his attempts to reboot his life and get it on track often resonate with me. And maybe it's the fact that he's having to grow up very, very fast. But, man, I expected the fallout from that moment to be a lot worse than it ended up being. Crosby's learning how to stand up for himself, and that makes all the difference.

Really, everybody in this episode is learning how to stand up for themselves. It's another strong episode in what's shaping up to be a solid, if not stellar, first third of the season. You had Haddie figuring out how to run her presidential campaign on her own terms. You had Kristina getting the date night she so wanted with Adam. You had Sarah getting her kid - the one whose name is basically unmemorable because he's the least developed character on the show - to kiss the girl he liked (played by her old boyfriend's surprise daughter from ANOTHER UNIVERSE). You had Joel … well, Joel just had to find a hobby and didn't really stand up for himself in the process of that, per se, but he found a way to just be himself and make the kids love him anyway. And isn't that worth something?

This was likely the funniest episode of Parenthood so far this season. The show has been adopting a lighter vibe throughout, probably because it feels like things got too dour heading into the end of last season. I don't know if I necessarily agree with that. Jason Katims and his writers have a real talent for melodrama. But if they think the show's more accessible as a heartwarming family show with funny moments, well, they'll do that well too. Back in the premiere, the show hadn't yet figured out quite how to do that, and everything came off as way, way too zany. But in this episode, the series is more relaxed and better at balancing the laughs with the heartfelt stuff. The show can reel off funny lines, like much of Joel and Zeek's conversation about what Joel could have as a hobby, but it can just as quickly turn into something that gives good warm and fuzzy, like Sarah sitting down with her son to tell him that there will be other girls, even if it doesn't feel like it at present. (Besides. Who wants to get with Luke's daughter? She kinda came out of nowhere.)

I think it's safe to say that our watch for Crosby and TV's Minka Kelly to hook up is probably safely over at this point. She provides some good advice for him in dealing with Jabbar (and I liked her intense confusion as to just why Crosby was turning to her, exactly), and the way that he convinces her to give him a ride to pick up Jabbar is not what I was expecting. And yet, the series seemed to be leading us down the path toward him cheating on Jasmine with her, then mostly just ignored it, except for a couple of head fakes here and there. The two formed something that looked more like a friendship than anything else, and the central conflict of the episode hinged more on whether Crosby and Jasmine would be able to build a stable life for Jabbar with both of them pursuing bigger dreams or if Renee would have to take over care of the kid full time. I'm impressed with how Parenthood played me in this regard, and it makes me think that even if the show is sort of predictable, it knows just when to change things up so it doesn't get TOO predictable.

I also like how this season has been building the character of Joel. Last season, he was too often reduced to just the guy that waited at home while Julia was working, as if this sole notion was enough characterization for him. This season, though, the show has been better at showing how he relates to his in-laws and how he relates to his daughter and wife. It's also suggested the life he wishes he were leading, even though he's perfectly fine staying home and taking care of Sydney and, indeed, can see just how that's a better solution than Julia doing the same. He's a good man, but he's also a man who's feeling a little trapped and a little stir crazy. And, yeah, that's just the writers flipping the traditional housewife arc with a gender reversal (hell, the show did pretty much the same thing last season with Kristina), but the actors are making it all seem fresh.

Adam and Kristina wanting to get some time together feels like something the show has done before, perhaps because every show with this setup has done something like this before, but at least Kristina's concerns came from an interesting place. Her friend points out that a huge percentage of marriages with an autistic child involved end in divorce, and that Kristina needs to figure out a way to spend time with Adam … or else (basically). Naturally, the two have busy schedules, and Haddie can't always babysit Max, and etc. There were some good moments in this storyline, but for the most part, it felt simply like reheated leftovers. Parenthood usually adds a few new spices, and in this case, it didn't bother doing anything like that at all.


Still, the episode ended in such a great place - with the family all gathered to watch Zeek set off the rocket after Haddie celebrates her election victory (which she seems to have pulled off pretty much just by being Haddie) - that it's hard to begrudge it some of the stuff that didn't work as well. There's something so comforting about watching this show, something very like putting on a pair of warm socks or hanging out with old friends, that there's really no reason to get upset when one storyline or another doesn't work as well. There will always be another that rolls along to make viewers feel at home, and in this one, those storylines all came together in a moment that was both heartwarming and - literally - explosive.

Stray observations:

  • I don't think I've heard a music group at Crosby's workplace I would buy the album of. But I may be forgetting one or two from season one.
  • I really like all of the actors the show has added in around the edges, even if they're not in the most prominent parts. It's nice to have Minka Kelly or Amanda Foreman or Kevin Alejandro turn up, even if it's just for a scene or two, and it gives the series a sense of a growing and detailed world.
  • "There was a lot less judgment when I did my laundry at mom and dad's."
  • "The girl last night? That's my autistic nephew's behavioral aide."
  • "These kids are kindergarteners. You could light your own fart, and they'd think you were Einstein."
  • "Do you guys like wood?"