I was up late last night. Couldn’t fall asleep. There are any number of reasons why this could be, not least of which was listening to a public radio report about insomnia yesterday. The most likely candidate, though, is something my mother said.
‘They f*ck you up, your mum and dad/They may not mean to but they do” goes the poem, and I love that no matter what changes, some things stay the same. Which means it’s time to check in with our favourite family, the Bravermans. Think of it like checking in with family at the holidays….
(Lainey: thanks for all of you who’ve been writing in requesting Parenthood analysis!)
If you’ve been watching you likely feel the same way I do: frustrated with Adam and Kristina - largely for being Adam and Kristina - and yet, as you look at the choices they’ve made this year, acknowledging that, with the possible exception of Kristina bitching at Crosby for not being a more organized businessman, they’ve not done anything too ridiculous. You understand why they chose what they did.
If you’re like me, you feel deeply encouraged that Julia and Joel are having an actual storyline with choices and decisions in it, (and, I should point out, utterly consumed by Zoe’s performance) and yet, still hurt that they’re going to get the shaft somehow; frustrated that Sarah’s involvement with her children is on a ‘when-she-has-to’ basis – and also loving it. Because it’s so real. I bet that a truculent teenage boy is the very last person who is in any way fulfilling to have a conversation with, particularly if it’s not about anything in particular. I know some of you with teens are going to tell me it’s true. So should she keep trying? Give up?
What I have loved about Parenthood settling into its third season is that, even as we accept that all of these parents really do want the best for their children, there is a wild card. And the wild card is that, largely, who your parents are determines who you are. You can be different from them but the whiff of them is still all around, and always will be.
Because Kristina and Adam are anxious people who agonize over doing the right thing, Haddie will remember that they didn’t discipline her brother in ways they could have. That the job fell to her. Because Sarah is intrinsically a dreamer, her kids believe in love (and thank you, Parenthood, for not giving Amber a romance this season – it’s unnecessary so far) but aren’t panicked about school – which may be to their detriment. Because Crosby and Jasmine are both people who like to keep doors open for every possibility, their son will continue to be confused about their relationship, as it gets awkward again because we know they still love each other after swearing to him that they didn’t. Because Julia is awesome, her daughter will be resentful, saying she never measured up to her mother’s expectations. Fine, okay, this one is speculative. But Julia is awesome.
Everyone says that parents will make mistakes but it’s not just ‘things you’d do differently next time’, it’s that you, yourself, your unique flaws, will have an impact on your kid specifically because of something you choose to do. Like, unequivocally, something is going to wind up being your fault.
And yet people keep going. And this is what makes this show so great. As the kids get older and less cute (sorry, Sydney and Jabbar, I think this is what being seven is all about), the parents are less honorable 100% of the time. They act like….people.
Ask me again why people get so emotional about a show that’s just about people and their kids and their parents.
A few specifics, to tide us over. While I think Max Braverman has always been a frustration and a kid who is arguably smart enough about manipulating his parents to be getting away with increasingly bad behavior, I think Max Burkholder probably lacks an Emmy that is rightfully his. He never makes me doubt for a second that Max is anyone other than the self-involved kid he’s protecting himself at being. It’s incredible.
It’s also a testament to Mae Whitman that she’s luminous even though she’s not being given meat relative to last year. Not every cast member in an ensemble can shine at the same time, and all of them know this, but she’s really had less to do. But she brings light and authenticity to all she does.
You’re not all parents, but you are all children, right? You know what this feels like, to be a part of something that you had no say in until after you got there. I’m not going to evangelize, you guys who are there know what the goods are.
But it’s really, really good.