Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Parenthood, "The Deep End of the Pool": Sir mix-a-lot

A review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as I remember that I'm lactose intolerant...

"The Deep End of the Pool" was the first episode of the series that I didn't get to see in advance, and the first episode where my attention kept wandering. Those two might be related (staying up to write those Lost reviews kinda wears me out on Wednesdays), or it may be that the show has already fallen into some familiar rhythms, and I know which stories I want to tune in on (Asperger's, Crosby and Jabbar), where I'd rather avert my gaze (Julia making a fool of herself at the swim class), and where my interest comes more from previous affection for the performer than what's happening on screen (Sarah's car/boyfriend troubles, whatever is going on in Coach and Holly McClane's marriage).

Still, "The Deep End of the Pool" did some interesting things with the various stories. When I interviewed Jason Katims for the Asperger's story, he said he wanted to show how tough that situation is not only on the parents, but on the siblings who get less attention because their problems aren't as big or obvious. Max doesn't want to be the squeaky wheel, but he is and he gets the grease as a result. And the scene where Haddie first vented to her dad about it, then asked if Max got into the private school, was a really nice one.

And while the Julia plot was cringe-worthy at times, and still feels like a rehash of too many other shows, I did like the scene where her husband complained about her parachuting in and trying to run the show when she doesn't know anything about the situation. Even if he later softened and tried to make her feel better about her effort, the angry scene by the pool rang true.

Was expecting more fallout from Jabbar messing with the mixing board, given the band's earlier apprehension, but one of the problems with a show this crowded is that corners have to be cut to give everybody their moment. (Which is why, again, I hope we get some episodes down the road that don't try to be as balanced with the ensemble.)

Also, I know this will sound odd coming from someone who spent half this TV season complaining that the three groups on "Modern Family" don't interact enough, but it feels like the Bravermans have waaay too much free time to get together for each other's plays, and school interviews, and impromptu free swims. I know that's kind of the wish-fulfillment aspect of things: we sit through the tougher parts of the show because we can all enjoy the fantasy of having so much time to hang with our loved ones and help each other. But given how much the show likes to deal with the messy realities of parenthood, you would think they'd be more comfortable dealing with all the scheduling problems that would come with this many adults, children and personal issues. I like seeing the characters cross paths in smaller ways (Julia swinging by Adam's office, or Crosby asking Adam for help cleaning the puke off the upholstery), but I think the huge family get-togethers should be treated as more of a special occasion, rather than routine.

What did everybody else think?


John Sturgeon said...

I'm enjoying the show due to the great acting and most of the plots but do agree that the family gatherings need to be a more infrequent to make the show more realistic.

Mark S. said...

I understand that Julia's husband doesn't like her jumping in without knowing the situation. But he seemed mad that she was even trying in the pool. And he'd have to be a complete idiot to not know how much his little Mommy friend is annoying his wife.

LA said...

I'm really digging this show. Yeah, it's crowded, but I noticed that they use a lot of short scenes that really move the story without sacrificing characterization. Compare this with Brothers & Sisters that engages in onerous scenes with treacly monologues (often delivered by Sally Field), I'll take Parenthood any day. I still can't get over what a talented little actor the kid who plays Max is.

MC said...

All I know is that if my sister came knocking on my door at 7:30 in the morning on the weekend, I'd be pissed.

Agree on most points Alan. I hope for more regarding Sarah's dysfunctional side in the future.

I like all the different stories going on except for the Julia stuff. I kind of find myself, like you said, cringing during it, and I find that a storyline where there is blatant flirting, and condesendment from an outside party/PLI, to not be enjoyable and rather appauling. I wish that Julia's husband would just put the "Worst Week" lady in her place, sorry I can't remember her name.

I found it interesting that Coach told Sarah he and her mother were having problems. Did I miss something from the previous eps? Or are they just setting up a future storyline?

Alyson said...

Intersting that you felt less engaged with this episode, because it was actually my favorite so far. I found the Julia plotline much less cringeworthy than in previous weeks, and also making some sense, given how driven we know Julia to be, and that swimming was an important part of her childhood. Of COURSE she'd want her daughter to be the best. And while I disagree with her method of teaching, I thought her plotline was more authentic to what we know of her character.

Loved the scene with Adam and his daughter, and am really happy to see Tom Amandes on my TV. Sarah didn't seem to get as much screen time, but I guess she got a lot last week, so I can't complain.

Bill said...

it feels like the Bravermans have waaay too much free time to get together for each other's plays, and school interviews, and impromptu free swims

I thought the same thing as soon as Lauren Graham showed up at the interview. I know it's more dramatic and televisiony to show them in the same room together, but aren't half the texts sent and received by those of us of that age sent in exactly those situations -- where we're crossing our fingers for so-and-so, but can't be there in person for moral support?

And to add some more me-toos: I agree with Mark that Julia's husband seems too oblivious (particularly since this is such a cliched situation to begin with, common in both television and real life), and with Alyson that this is nevertheless my favorite episode so far. The Peter Krause storyline is definitely the most fleshed out and real-seeming, but the cast is good enough that I don't mind chalking the relative weakness of the other scenes up to the show getting its sea legs. The swimming scene at least gave Erika Christensen something to do other than talk.

Kianna said...

I want to like this show more than I do, and I'm still watching for the actors I really like. But overall I'm starting to have zero sympathy for clan Braverman. Their problems are too easily solved - no way Max should have gotten into that school as quick as he did - and some of the subplots are beyond tired. (I have nothing good to say about anything Julia-related this week.)

The best moment for me was Zeke saying, "I don't want to talk about this with you." I understand why Sarah asked about the condoms, and it makes sense for her character, but it's absolutely none of her business.

There's an icky undertone of classism to me re: Jim. Sarah was dismayed in the first ep when she found out he was "just" a barista. His coworkers throwing coffee on her car seemed like the kind of overreaction that is often associated with working-class folks - we're so free with our emotions, we're impulsive, etc. I could put up with this if I thought the show would ever honestly deal with the fact that Sarah's family has a lot more money than Jim does... but I don't see that happening.

Elena said...

I turned the show off mid way, just couldn't take some of the made for TV shortcuts they were taking. Max would not have gotten kicked out of school for breaking the fish tank. Public schools have a mandate to teach ALL kids. Max would have been referred the the school psych and there would have been a meeting with the special ed teachers, parents etc. Of course, they should have told the school he had Asperger's when they found out. And I think Peter Krause's character is way too hard ass about his brother's situation with the "instant child". Maybe a little empathy for the total upheaval in his life, but no, its "man up" you're a dad now.

Anonymous said...

Nail on the head re: Julia; I just don't care about her in any way, and she seems about 10 years younger than everyone else ( 1) why on earth isn't she the kid sister 2) her daughter's interaction with her is always awful) ). I do enjoy Peter Krause and Monica Potter - the "wanna make out" when they waiting for the call was awesome, and I can't believe that Dax Sheppard is someone I actually want to watch. But yes, less stories, more depth.

Hannah Lee said...

All I know is that if my sister came knocking on my door at 7:30 in the morning on the weekend, I'd be pissed

But she brought coffee. My sister's an early riser, and will sometimes pop by way too early, but she always says "I brought coffee" to get me to open the door.

I'm liking the show more. It still feels a little jam packed, but I think that's to be expected in a new show with so many characters. I think it might have been better if they had slowed down some of the storytelling (introduce Crosby, but don't introduce his son for a couple of episodes, or have Sarah be home for a few episodes before she starts dating)

There are some real moments in each episode (more than I can say for many scripted shows) and I'm finding the characters interesting to watch.

Ian C. said...

This is piling on a bit, but this episode had me until the family get-together at the pool. Total fantasy world stuff. I don't know of another family that would (or could) do this. It's the aspect of the show that threatens to lose me the most.

That said, I actually liked this week's storyline with Julia. It's the most interesting she's been.

floretbroccoli said...

I did wish that, in the scene where Peter Krause apologizes to his daughter, he would have added at the end, "tell me about your game."

It's not really enough, is it, to apologize, but STILL not pay her much attention?

They could have ended the scene on that, without adding more than a few seconds.

blinky said...

Very formulaic with recurring elements like the sappy tearjerker music at the end of each episode.
Also where the hell is this giant rural estate in Berkeley? Out behind Cal stadium?

The Waltons in Berkeley. That is pretty much it. Goodnight John boy.

Anonymous said...

Paint-by-numbers. With the introduction of every storyline -- not many; not most; all -- the pat way in which it will play out is immediately obvious.

andcap said...

My biggest problem is with the casting and writing of the Julia character. As a working lawyer mom whose husband is a stay home dad and whose kids go to school with a lot of stay home moms, I can obviously relate to some of her issues, but I can't relate to them coming out of a 27 year old. Peter Krause is 43 or 44, as is Lauren Graham (Maura Tierney, the original Sarah, is 45). Dax Sheppard is 35. Erika Christensen is 27 and looks it. Every time I look at her, it throws me right out of the story. One of the biggest issue for a lot of career moms (particularly lawyers) is that many of us wait a bit longer to have kids while climbing the ladder or trying for law firm partnership, so to have a 5 year old daughter (which I do), the mom is typically in her mid-to-late 30s. Julia would have had to have had Sydney while in school or immediately upon graduation, which just doesn't make sense for her character. I know that I shouldn't confuse reality with a tv show, but since this hits so close to home for me, it's hard not to look at her and say "no, just no -- this wouldn't be you."

Plus, it's one thing to address the fact that whether you're a working mom or a stay-home mom, you always FEEL like you're screwing something up with your kids, but the show makes Julia just look like she's actually always screwing up with her daughter. It seems to be pretty heavy-handed in saying that as a successful lawyer, she can't possibly also be a decent mom. I'll admit that I could be projecting (gee, ya think?), but it would be nice to show that she has some competence with her kid. If they don't even out the tone of this storyline, I'm going to have to turn off this show.

galhy said...

I honestly love a show that portrays families that living in the same town/area don't wait until the holidays to get together.

Some people might not believe it, but close families do exist.

I come from a very tight family, I have 9 aunts and uncles, my youngest aunt is only 5 years older than me. And when I was growing up, we all live in the same town (some of my uncles didn't move out of the paternal house until after their mid-twenties), so we were always seeing each other and supporting all the kids after school activities. I do not remember a Sunday of my childhood that wasn't spend at the grandparents house.

Paul Allor said...

Can anyone else not see Erika Christensen near a pool without automatically thinking of Swim Fan?

No? Just me? Carry on, then.

Ian C. said...

Following up on the "family always gets together" point, how is it that no one else was able to attend the teenager's soccer (field hockey?) game when the parents couldn't make it?

NYC-Buc said...

The whole Jabbar -- lactose intolerance bit was totally unrealistic. If Jabbar is so smart, he would not have willingly (and apparently happily) taken the glass of chocolate milk from Crosby's girlfriend. Also, there's no way the mother would have dropped Jabbar off without advising Crosby of his intolerance (I am a parent of a food allergic child, so I know from where I speak). Also, no way that the instructor at the swim class would have allowed Julia to take over as she did. Maybe nitpicking -- but this isn't supposed to be a slapstick comedy where the writers can be as outrageous as they please. This is supposed to be a realistic slice of life.

Brandy said...

We all got together at least once a month and often once a week when I was growing up and my sibs were married with kids. Less so when said kids became teenagers but some of that togetherness I get. But others of it? The pool? Oddness. Serious oddness.

I sort of hate Sarah a lot and it makes it hard to watch. But I like Crosby far more than I expected and the Krause storyline has a lot of heart.... but I agree that there should have been some interest in the daughter's soccer game or anything else in her life after the confrontation in her bedroom... which was a good scene up until then.

Kris said...

I know the extended family togetherness is not ringing true for some viewers, but it is for me. l come from a family that all stayed in the same geographic area. Things like unplanned and impromptu events can and do happen. (Shopping, Zoo with nieces and nephews, weeknight dinners even.) The only people that are missing are usually teenagers who would rather be with friends. Which reminds me, did we see Sarah's kids at the pool?

Coach and the grandma are retired, and Sarah is unemployed, so it isn't weird that they have a lot of free time. It has also been established that this family's pattern is to hang out with each other, so I don't see why it is weird that on a weekend morning we see them together.

As far as Sarah at the school goes, unemployed people really do have the luxury of hanging out with family and showing up at times like that.

And I second the earlier female attorney. As a 28 year old female lawyer myself, no one has a five year old, with one exception of a woman who had a child in college. I don't think that is what Julia's story is, though I could be wrong. Probably just a crazy miscast.

Hutch said...

I agree with Blinky that the storylines are formulaic. Peter Krause and Monica Potter are perhaps the most condescending and anxious parents I have come across (and that is saying a lot as I'm a therapist}. Many of the scenes feel forced and situations such as Max being expelled as well as the totally unrealistic way he was accepted into the new school actually had me laughing. The parents came across as manipulative narcissists who couldn't take no for an answer. I do like Dax Shephard's character as well as Max. This show has potential but they really have to clean up their act.

Anonymous said...

I really want to like this show a lot more than I do. I agree about Erika Christensen seeming miscast and about the Julia character in general. I actually groaned when she came on screen. My big problem with the show is that I just don't feel invested in any of the charcters or storylines. Plus, I disagree about the little scenes like Julia stopping by Adam's office. Granted in this case she had to drop off Raquel's stone, but in general the show has the characters getting together for conversations that could easily be had over the phone. I actually think that, despite the characters on Brothers & Sisters seeing each other too much in person, they do a good job of having characters keep in touch by talking on the phone all the time. Speaking of B&S, while that show can get much more melodramatic than Parenthood has been so far, I also think it makes better use of comedy than Parenthood has so far. The best episodes of B&S usually have some pretty funny scenes in them. So far I don't think I've cracked a smile at Parenthood even once.

DonBoy said...

I will say one thing: this show is really ambivalent about coffee.

Hannah Lee said...

I did wish that, in the scene where Peter Krause apologizes to his daughter, he would have added at the end, "tell me about your game."

It's not really enough, is it, to apologize, but STILL not pay her much attention?

Maybe, but after Adam apologized, Haddie started asking about Max, whether he got into the school. And instead of going off on a tangent about Max, Adam picked up her trophy and said how proud he was of her. So, maybe he didn't ask about the game (that we saw) but he did keep the focus on her. I thought that was a nice moment.

Anonymous said...

I like the show as far as it goes. I come a family that got together a lot but all of us at the same time all the time except for special occasions or holidays.

I'm not digging the comparisons to Brothers and Sisters because the Braverman's still seem more working classish than the clan on B & S.

I also thought of The Walton's - self contained tidy stories each week with some "a very special..." shows thrown in. Don't mind it all after OD'ing on serial style stories for so many years.

For a family that likes to stick their noses in each others business they sure hate it when it is done to them (Coach and Sarah come to mind).

I laughed when Alan called the parents Coach and Mrs. McClain - that should be a sitcom that takes place in Star's Hollow and where Adam works at a funeral home, Crosby is an obnoxious cashier at the local Walmart, Julia is a flight attendent by day and Swim Fan by night, and Sarah is forced to eat dinner with the Coach and Mrs. McClain every Friday night.


Carolyn said...

huge family get togethers happening like every day = similar problem on Brothers & Sisters.

how often are you with ALL members of your family?

always seems more unlikely than any other event on the show.

Anonymous said...

Following up on the "family always gets together" point, how is it that no one else was able to attend the teenager's soccer (field hockey?) game when the parents couldn't make it?

Thank you, Ian C! My thoughts exactly. It was inconsistent with the way the family has been depicted. They all went to an elementary school recital but not to a tournament high school game?

steph said...

"by the way, you look JUST like oprah!!"

total spit-take!

Anonymous said...

Quote: "Following up on the "family always gets together" point, how is it that no one else was able to attend the teenager's soccer (field hockey?) game when the parents couldn't make it?"

My take on that was that the parents not only forgot to go to her game, but also forgot to mention it to any of the others. Just another sign that it's all about Max for them. Poor Haddie. I did really like the scene with her and her dad though.

Also, someone above mentioned that they stopped watching because Max was kicked out and he never would have been kicked out of public school. I believe he was attending private school and that was why they were able to expel him. They also mentioned that the new school would be twice the price of private school, hinting that that was what they were already paying.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add more anecdotal evidence that some families (my own and others I know) do see quite a lot of one another. I found the spontaneous pool gathering (at which not every single member of the family was necessarily present) quite believable.

What bothered me was Max getting into the school. I'm a teacher at a private school, and when a class is fully enrolled, it isn't a matter of whether the administrator particularly likes a child. Not that exceptions would never be made, but there was no convincing reason given for it. Having told the parents so decisively that there was no room for Max, I can't see the administrator changing her mind based on meeting him.

Julia Mathias said...

Well, I actually don't get together with my family nearly as much as the Braverman do, but I kind of have this relationship with people form my church (and I don't even live so close to them, as it seems do be the Braverman's case), so I can actually believe in that.