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The Problems With This Week’s ‘Parenthood’

NBC is currently airing the final season of Parenthood, a show I love. It’s the sixth season, and will be thirteen episodes long. So, we’re in the home stretch.

Jason Katims has made great final seasons before.

I adore the final season of Friday Night Lights. But we’re in the home stretch now (this week’s “Aaron Brownstein Must Be Stopped” was episode eight) and I have some concerns.

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The biggest concern is the school storyline. It has always required too much suspension of disbelief, and the problems I had with this week’s episode mostly centered around it.

It was bad enough that Adam and Kristina Braverman received a magic donation to open up a dream school for their kid, when they have an independent business to sustain and a kid to put through Ivy League college. That was bad enough. But seeing the school in action is much worse than the pipe dream of it coming true.

Where are all the teachers? It often seems like Kristina is the only adult on campus, and she has, to my knowledge, no background in education. She is unqualified to be an administrator, a disciplinarian, or an educator.

When Max started showing an interest in a girl at school, Dylan, it was natural that Adam and Kristina would be thrilled. I’ve had concerns with their parenting technique when it comes to helping Max handle his crush. They focused too much on this “sliding scale of affection”, let him search the Internet and read books filling his head with the misogynistic idea that women can be won through sheer perseverance, and didn’t correct him when he used terms like “friend zone”. They let Max think that Dylan is a person who only exists as the object of his affection and that, with the right techniques and persistence, she would eventually have to like him back.

Of course, that’s just at home. At school it was even worse. Max freaked out when he saw Dylan kissing a guy at school – the titular Aaron Brownstein – and waged a propaganda war against the kid. It was completely inappropriate, and the two kids ended up getting into a scuffle in the hallway. What did Kristina do? She said “No, honey, you’re not in trouble.” Because she felt sad about her son’s broken heart. That’s totally understandable as a mother. But as an administrator, Max should have been punished.

Later, Max publicly declared his love for Dylan and ran out of the school when he was embarrassed. Kristina followed him, and told him how proud she was. Proud! Again, that’s an acceptable feeling to have as a mother but not as a person in charge of a school. She almost behaved as though the situation was Dylan’s fault. Max was embarrassed in front of his peers, but so was Dylan. Max made Dylan uncomfortable, and all Kristina did was tell him that she was proud of him.

Kristina’s total lack of concern for Dylan and Aaron in this situation really just makes it seem as though she opened this whole place as a safe haven for her kid and couldn’t give a crap about the other students involved.

Meanwhile…

I’ve really liked Jasmine and Crosby’s storyline in the last couple episodes. Crosby is struggling between wanting to pursue his dream at the Luncheonette, and wanting to do a good job supporting his family. Jasmine has been sweet and supportive, and it’s a good reminder of how the writers finally figured out how to write for her character. They’ve made her more sympathetic without completely ignoring some of the struggles they’ve had in the past. The dinner scene showed how Jasmine’s mom is still an occasional source of tension for them.

It was really nice to see Amber and Crosby together a lot, because Amber is so much like her uncle. She wants him to try and save the Luncheonette with her, but now Crosby is older and wiser. He knows it might not be possible, and he knows that soon Amber will have to face that reality, too.

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I want to be onboard with Amber having this baby, but man she is just not ready for life as a single mom. It seems like Drew would do a better job raising a baby.

This season of Parenthood is happening because the show agreed to budget cuts, which is why each episode only features some of the characters. That has worked out OK for the most part, but was problematic with the Hank and Ruby storyline this week. Hank has fit into the Parenthood world well because of his relationship with Sarah and his connection with Max. Ruby coming back into his life has worked when it’s about how her and Sandy affect Hank and Sarah’s world. It worked well when Amber was giving Ruby advice, because they might be step-sisters one day.

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But having a storyline with Hank, Ruby and Sandy without Sarah just feels like a waste of precious time. I don’t want these strangers on TV, I want Bravermans!

This blog makes me sound really down on Parenthood, but I’m not – just this episode. Otherwise, I’ve been enjoying the season. I’m anxious to find out what happens with Joel and Julia, and whether Zeek Braverman will ever get to hold his great-grandchild. What do you think?

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