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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Parenthood: "No Good Deed"

Illustration for article titled Parenthood: "No Good Deed"
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Last week in comments, Joey Brisc said something very smart about Parenthood that I'm going to repeat here. In fact, I'm going to quote it directly because that will take up words in the word count: "I feel like Parenthood is (Jason) Katims saying to everyone in TV land 'You fucked it up, now I'm doing it right.' It's like any recycled storyline you can think of that has ever happened in a TV show was shit and Katims just decided to fix it. There isn't anything original about this show, but it's the best unoriginal thing to happen to TV." I don't know who Joey is, but I'd like to shake his hand. This gets at the appeal of Parenthood as well as anything else I've seen. It doesn't aspire to do much, but it does what it does very well. It is, perhaps, not especially "creative" - how could it be, being based on a movie with a very generic premise and all? - but it doesn't need to be.

Honestly, I've always felt that originality is slightly overrated. Sure, a truly original and cool idea is awesome, especially when it's executed well, but how many original and cool ideas are there anymore? A storyline that's long ago passed into cliche can be interesting if it's executed well. There's a reason that this sort of stuff becomes cliche, usually, and it's often because it's relatable on some level. It holds a mirror up to the way people actually live their lives, the small sorts of drama that we all put up with in our workplaces or our homes. Parenthood, as Joey mentioned, often seems to be clearing out the barn of all of the small-scale storylines Katims can get his hands on. Sometimes, it doesn't work. Sometimes, it does. In this episode, I'd say most of the stuff worked quite well.

I'm often impressed by how well the show does at giving all four of the main "kids" plotlines and then having them dovetail and loop around each other until all of the plots are mixed up in each other. In "No Good Deed," the four Braverman kids again take center stage, rather than the Braverman parents or the Braverman grandkids. I do miss hanging out with Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia, but I'm going to assume that we'll get some sort of awesome, "Everything takes place in marriage counseling and we get lots of flashbacks" episode later this season because that's totally the kind of old TV plot device that Katims would love to rehabilitate. In typical TV fashion, all of these plots revolved around the same basic theme: respect. Who's got it, who has it, and who needs it. Let's take a look at what was going on, plot by plot, shall we?

Adam and Sarah: Really, I should split this into two parts, because the both of them seemed to be in the same storyline but had their own stuff going on. But in the interest of space, let's talk about them together. Adam offered Sarah a job last episode, and now she car pools with him every day. (Her car is in the shop, but this works well enough as a plot device that I hope the show keeps it up.) She makes him coffee that's disgusting. She makes him turn off his Ray LaMontagne! (And what is it with TV dads and their Ray LaMontagne?) And, worst of all, she flirts with his evil boss, William Baldwin, an inexplicable character that continues to exist for no discernible reason. Anyway, Adam is so disgusted by how long she spends on a lunch hour with Baldwin that he fires her. And then, of course, he rehires her by episode's end. Because c'mon! This is Parenthood! There's some good business here about Sarah trying to take control of her life and stuff (I particularly liked her walking in on her parents joking around with her kids), but the plotline is more Adam's, honestly.

I was unsure about the kid that hangs out at Adam's house while his parents separate (and was his name Noah or Noel? Inquiring minds with muffled screeners want to know). He seemed like the second needlessly broad character in as many episodes, and if the series keeps adding one more character like this per week while slowly stiffing the time the main characters get, it's going to get enervating (though I do want to see the annoying kid and Baldwin have a scene together). Still, I liked that scene where Adam came home and looked between the kids yelling in the living room and his wife and daughter in the kitchen and finally just gave up. I feel that way, too, sometimes, man. And I just sit at home all day long. Adam just wants people to respect him, but he's too nice of a guy to demand it. Once he starts doing so, people will probably sit up and pay attention, but he'll lose his nice guy cred.

Julia: This plotline was largely a throwaway. The writers often seem to have no idea what to do with Julia, since they backed off of the whole, "She's a mom who has trouble balancing work and a family!" thing (and bully on them for doing that). She now just regularly seems kind of inept at parenting, less because she's a working mom and more because she lets her ego get in the way. Anyway, the drama with her mentioning something about the snippiness between the little girls to another mother was just kind of there, not really doing much of anything. I'm much more intrigued by the notion of her wanting to have another baby that was raised last week. Bring that back, show!


Crosby: As so often happens, Crosby gets best in show. The scenes with Jasmine's mother on his houseboat were funny. The scene where he finally gave in and told Jasmine that maybe it wasn't the best idea for Jabbar to stay with him on a boat was a good one. And the look of delight on his face when he saw his girlfriend and son again was terrific. Now, of course, Jasmine is off for four weeks in Europe, which means the Crosby and Minka Kelly have awkward sex countdown clock can really begin. Oh, well. All of this was fun while it lasted. But what I'm most impressed with by the Crosby storyline is how it takes an utterly generic idea - the manchild becoming a man because he has a child - and somehow makes it compelling each and every week. That's the thing about cliches. If you lean on them too heavily, you eventually get bit, but if you can pull them off, they can feel weirdly fresh and invigorating.

Stray observations:

  • Prurience alert: Joy Bryant is very, very, very, very, very attractive.
  • Hipster alert: Mae Whitman is now wearing giant hipster glasses. Soon, she'll be drinking PBR and listening to indie rock and reading The A.V. Club and whatever else it is hipsters do! (Seriously, I don't know exactly how the taxonomy works.)
  • If Craig T. Nelson actually owned a Wii, what do you think his favorite game would be? I'll bet it would have Cooking Mama in the title.
  • I watched this on screener, and I got a pretty good idea of just how hard it must be to build all of that overlapping dialogue in post. There's stuff scattered throughout the episode where certain tracks pop out with unfinished ADR (dialogue provided by a producer, in most cases), and it happened often enough to make me realize just how good the guys handling the sound mix on this show are.
  • This week in Parenthood dialogue that's fitfully amusing when taken out of context: "It can't just all be crossword puzzles and Pac-man."