Parenthood: Spoiled Spoil Sport

Another week of Parenthood another fantastic episode. Almost every week I write about how much I love Parenthood, how they never air a bad episode, and other glowing things about the show. And it’s all true – Parenthood is one of my favorite shows on TV and I think it’s spectacular. I really liked this week’s episode, “Sore Loser”, but I had two issues with a couple of the storylines. So let’s get to the review.

The Luncheonette

OK, let’s talk some more about this Adam/Rachel thing. Rachel is doing a great job working at The Luncheonette, so Adam likes her. He values her intelligence and work ethic, and he wants to keep her around. But she also dresses like a slut. The conversation Adam had with Rachel about how she shouldn’t feel pressure to dress a certain way just because it’s the music industry was perfect. It was so awkward and seemed like such an Adam thing to do. Part of it was probably because her scant clothing makes him feel uncomfortable (though he wouldn’t want to admit that) and part of it was because he’s the dad of a teenage girl. It’s in Adam’s nature to get to know a girl like Rachel and worry about her.

After a rough recording session with an obnoxious kids’ musician, Adam and Crosby got good news when they found out an important music manager had booked the studio for a whole month. Crosby, being Crosby, pulled Adam away from Kristina and down to the studio for an “emergency” only to reveal that it was time to celebrate, but it was still good news. And it was thanks in large part to Rachel, who’d caught the eye of the manager. Of course, Adam was uncomfortable with this.

Later, Adam insisted on driving Rachel home. It was late and raining, and that’s totally a dad thing to do. Actually, it’s just a decent guy thing to do. As they pulled up and Adam chatted away about how it was a bad neighborhood, and did Rachel know about a recent shooting nearby, and did her parents know she lived there, all I could think was “Oh god, she’s going to be attracted to him in a protective father-figure kind of way.”

And then Adam made a mistake – he insisted on walking Rachel to her door. I want to believe that Adam was still being overprotective, over-polite and dad-like, but part of my has to agree with my boyfriend, who insisted that being a decent guy ends with driving a girl home and watching her walk safely into her apartment from the car. He said Adam should have known better, that running up to the door with her in the rain was NOT a good move for a married guy, and I unfortunately have to agree. As they talked in the doorway about their previous conversation about Rachel’s clothes and Adam told her that she was a smart girl, and he’d hate to see her think she needs to ride solely on her looks or sell herself short, we all knew it was coming. Pretty girls love to be told they’re smart because they hardly ever hear it, just like nerdy girls love to be told they’re pretty because they’re constantly being told they’re smart. So we all saw it coming, when Rachel kissed Adam.

My problem is that Adam didn’t pull away fast enough. He shouldn’t have walked her to the door, but maybe he really is that naive. But he should have pulled away faster. The next day, Adam told Rachel he loves his wife, she said she knows, and that was that.

I knew the hot receptionist character would go one of two ways – she’d either sleep with Crosby or develop a crush on Adam. The writers have gone the Adam route, though there’s still time to go the Crosby route as well. After all, Crosby was definitely flirting with Rachel. (Also, someone really needs to tell Crosby to remove kicking from his dance move repertoire.)

I’m worried that this will lead Adam down a path that seems too out of character. I’ve seen every episode of this show, I truly love this show, and I think based on what we’ve been told that Adam cheating on his wife would be out of character for him. I don’t think it’s what Parenthood or Jason Katims will do. So I’m not worried about that. But I’m still worried about what this storyline will do to the show. Will Adam tell Kristina what happened? I don’t think he needs to, and I don’t think he should. But it would create drama, so I think he might.

I can see this causing some tension in Adam and Kristina’s marriage, but more so in Adam’s working relationship with Crosby. If Kristina insists that Adam fire Rachel, Crosby won’t want that. After all, she’s an asset to The Luncheonette in more than one way. So that will be drama, but I’m concerned it will feel unnecessary and contrived since I don’t think Adam should tell Kristina. He made things clear to Rachel, now he should just let it go.

Making Fun of Max

Meanwhile, Kristina was having a hard time as she realized Max’s new math club “friends” were actually making fun of him. This was such an interesting storyline, and a tough situation. Kristina was hurt, as anyone would be. But as Adam pointed out, it didn’t seem like Max knew they were making fun of him. What do you do, tell him? You can’t do that. Max was having such a good time in the math club, where he excelled, so it was heartbreaking to watch him completely misinterpret the taunting. But that wouldn’t be as heartbreaking as watching him realize he was being taunted.

The scene where Kristina got out of the car and chastised one of the bullies for making fun of Max, calling him out on his “Justin Bieber hair and Invisalign braces” was just hilarious. Kristina has never been my favorite character, but like the scene where she left her family on the side of the road to go mini-golfing with Nora, this was one of those scenes that makes me love her.  

D is for Drew

So often Amber steals the spotlight on this show because she’s so fantastic in every scene she gets, so it’s nice to see Drew getting a chance to shine as well. His storyline with Sarah this week was simple, sweet, and very well executed.

I’m so glad the show didn’t go the route of Sarah hating Drew’s girlfriend, or her being a bad influence. That would feel too Amber 2.0. Early in the series, Drew didn’t seem to have any identity or personality. He was just sort of there. But the writers have done a great job of taking the fact that he wasn’t given any material and turning it into his personality. He’s a shy kid, a wallflower, who is finally starting to emerge. He has a girlfriend who he (thinks he) loves, and that’s a huge step for a kid like Drew. And his girlfriend is pretty, and cool, and nice.

But then Sarah finds out that Drew got a D in one of his classes on his quarterly report, and she freaks out. She tells him he can’t see Amy on weeknights and, of course, he rebels. (Thanks for the advice, Amber!) It takes Mark to talk some sense into Sarah and help her see that she overreacted, and I really loved that whole conversation between them. It felt like such a real argument that two people would have – that Sarah would think Mark doesn’t know what he’s talking about since he’s not a parent, and that he would have to remind her that as a teacher, his advice holds some weight. I also loved the conversation between Sarah and Camille when Sarah came home. Sarah had enlisted Camille to keep Drew in the house, a job Camille did not want. Their conversation, about how not only does Camille not work at the house, but that Sarah can’t continue to ask for help but reject advice or opinions, again felt like such a  real conversation. Sarah is likable, but she has flaws.

I love that this is a show that allows characters to be flawed, because it means they’re free to make mistakes and redeem themselves. Sarah realized she’d been too hard on Drew, and that he’s old enough to be responsible for his own choices now. Of the four Bravermans, Sarah’s children are the oldest and it’s interesting to watch her go through the process of learning to let go of them a little.

Sore Loser

I loved the Julia and Joel storyline this week for so many reasons. It was one of those simple but powerful parenting storylines that I always love on this show, and it was really nice to see Julia and Joel get a storyline that doesn’t involve purchasing a baby. A lot of other TV critics often complain that Julia and Joel are the least sympathetic characters on the show, but I’ve always liked them. Maybe it’s because they’re a young couple, and in some ways are the easiest characters for me to relate to, but I think a lot of people could relate to this storyline.

After Sydney threw a tantrum over losing at Braverman charades, Zeek marched over to Julia and Joel’s house to tell them their daughter is a sore loser. So often Zeek pokes his nose in where it doesn’t belong and so often he’s wrong, but here he was right. Julia and Joel always let Sydney win, and it had turned her into someone who didn’t know how to lose.

It’s funny, because I recently had a conversation on this topic. I am a strong proponent of beating your kids in games. When I was a kid my mom never let me win, and while it turned me into a fiercely (and often obnoxiously) competitive person obsessed with following the rules of the game (so basically I’m Zeek in this situation…great) I’m not a sore loser. The only person I’m mad at if I lose a game is myself, for not playing better. And I’ve seen this go the other route too. I used to babysit for three kids, around the ages of 10, 7 and 3. The family had always let the seven year-old win, and his very sweet older sister was fine with that. When I played games with them I’d play “on a team” with the toddler, and he’d throw a tantrum when he lost. But I kept playing by the rules, and I wouldn’t let his older sister cheat to let him win, either. Why? Because his baby sister was getting older, and she deserved the chance to win as well. Over the course of a couple years, he eventually learned to accept defeat and relish a legitimate win, and by the time his younger sister was capable of playing on her own he wasn’t such a brat that he’d throw a fit if she beat him. (Because in a game like Candyland, toddlers and babysitters have equal opportunity to win.)

When Joel beat Sydney in Candyland she threw a colossal tantrum, and the scene just played out perfectly. She actually hit her father, and Joel was just seething with rage. I think this was Sam Jaeger’s best scene ever. He carried Sydney up to her room and locked her in there to learn her lesson. When Julia came home he was angry, frustrated and hurt and left her there to oversee the punishment. Julia polished off a bottle of red wine outside Sydney’s door, and when Joel came home Julia was drunk and Sydney was passed out on the floor of her room. “We killed her,” Joel joked. Ha! Also hilarious? When he told Julia that they were getting a new baby and could start over (“This one’s a bust”) after she worried that they’d ruined Sydney. It was so funny, but such a real concern. Every time I watch a show like this I mentally take notes, worried that I’ll ruin my future kids. I honestly can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this storyline.

That said, I have an issue with it. As you can see from my babysitting story, I know firsthand how hard it is to change a kid’s attitude about losing. I just don’t think Sydney would have learned her lesson about being a sore loser as quickly as she seemed to, shaking her grandfather’s hand after he creamed her in a game of chess. Parenthood has done a good job of slowly developing what kind of a kid Sydney is. She’s smart and funny, but spoiled. Julia wanted to raise her differently than she herself was raised, as we saw in the episode where she indulged Sydney’s request to be a vegetarian so as not to crush her spirit. Julia has also acknowledged spoiling Sydney because she feels guilty about working so much. I liked how this storyline, of Sydney being a sore loser, fit into the bigger picture. But it also meant that seeing Sydney immediately see the light felt unrealistic, and usually Parenthood is good at capturing the realism of parenting and being part of a family.

All in all, I loved this episode. It was one of those episodes that makes me feel like I could so easily fit into the Braverman family – I’d be so good at such an intense game of charades! I want to exist in a world where my intense competitive nature is considered an asset instead of a reason to unfriend me on Facebook! What did you guys think of “Sore Loser”?

Sidenote: We’re officially at the halfway point of Parenthood. Why? Because, I’ve read, NBC only ordered eighteen episodes for this season, which means the finale will air on February 28. What the hell, NBC? First you bench Community and now I find out about THIS? It’s officially, I am all about the #OccupyNBC movement. I’ll be camped out in my living room until these problems are rectified!


New Girl: An Open Letter To Justin Long

You don’t want no pie in the sky when you die. You want something here on the ground while you’re still around.