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October 10, 2015

'Parenthood' - 'Man Vs. Possum' Recap

by Danny Gallagher, posted Mar 10th 2010 5:23AM
(S01E02) "I can deal with anything: disease, illness, broken bone. Give me something I can fix, but I don't know how to deal with this. This is for life." - Adam to Kristina after learning that Max has Asperger's Syndrome

Ferris Bueller once said, "Life moves by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

And while that bit of movie trivia is actually true (unlike say "Stupid is as stupid does" or "Pain don't hurt"), if actual life went at the speed that 'Parenthood' does, stopping to look at it would require some kind of anti-lock braking system.

The episode moved so fast from one scene to the next that it felt physically tiring to watch. Trying to cram in as many scenes and plotlines as possible isn't new. In fact, it can give a show more depth as long as it doesn't go overboard. You reading this, creators of 'Big Love'?

The problem lies in its execution. The scenes move at such a fast, breakneck speed that reacting to them requires quick emotional ticks. And this is supposed to be a dramedy, a show that cries, nay, craves some kind of a reaction from its audience, the least of which is a laugh. Can someone up at NBC HQ just put the tape on a slower frame speed? It's hard to soak something in when it's being blasted at you out of a fire hose.

Needless to say, this week required more than a few viewings and a nap between them. The drama angle is definitely there, but it tries to balance it with some comedy that's extremely hit or miss and heavy on the miss. It relies more on trying to make the drama and realness of the situation the comedy, but it doesn't always work in the awkward uncomfortable way, because you're either already connected to the characters thanks to the drama or they just aren't funny.

It does do a good job of showing the emotional weight these people have to go through, but it doesn't stay on it nearly long enough to appreciate the humor of it. It's like bench pressing a rack of steel without a spotter: all press and very little lift.

Adam and Kristina have to carry more of the emotional baggage, especially now that they have confirmed their son Max has Asperger's Syndrome. Anyone who gives a crap about kids would, and it does a better than average job of showing the plight these and countless other parents have to endure to help their children grow, from the constant fights to their own struggle to understand the nature of their child's condition. It's hard to draw humor in and around that, but the portrayal of their struggle is still commendable.

Sarah, played by Lauren Graham, feels a lot looser than the others, and she mines a lot of humor out of her situation in the fractions of a second that the show gives her. Her job interview had some fun moments of Lauren simply being Lauren and the interaction with her father, played by Craig T. Nelson. He tries to push her back into the office working world and it made for some good back and forth, even if my eyes were still rolling around at the end of the scene, thanks to inertia.

Crosby also had some fun moments, but Dax Shepard feels like he's on an even shorter leash than the one he suggested Adam give to Kristina when she took a hit of their daughters' pot. It's always fun to let a guy like Dex run loose and see what sticks.

Julia's battle with her stay-at-home mom rival started out fun when the brunette bitch pulls the ultimate mommy no-no in the opening scenes (yeah, I wanted to claw her eyes out with my middle finger too), but just descends into uncomfortableness that really didn't feel very funny. The auction scene wasn't predictable, but didn't have me laugh at their awkward squirming the way that it should.

The endings also felt too wrapped up and nicely bound together. These are problems that are bound to follow them through their lives and even though they've learned to deal with them for now, it just felt too happy and syrupy for their situations. No one wants a downer ending, but it would have been nice to see all of them grow and evolve and adapt instead of just live and deal with one episode, only to face all new conflicts next week.

Besides, it would have been nice to know that next week would turn into a steady jog instead of another full blown sprint to the finish.

Other observations:

- Can't we just show people smoking pot on television now? Are we that touchy-feely about the devil reefer infecting our minds that we can't even watch grown-ups smoking it?

- Why is it such a big deal that Adam helped Sarah score the job interview? Better yet, why should I, the viewer, care?

- I miss Cowboy Dan. Is he coming or not?

[Check out 'Parenthood' on SlashControl.]

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I didn't find the pacing to be too fast at all - but then, I'm used to shows like Scrubs, which packs about ten plotlines into each half hour, or How I Met Your Mother, which jumps back and forth both temporally and spatially about once every thirty seconds on average.

I like that the characters are extremely believable and the acting is terrific (Erika Christensen is the only person who doesn't quite seem to be up to par, but that might also be the writing - her character is the only one that feels a bit more like a stereotype than a person). I do wish the plotlines had left us hanging a bit more at the end of this episode, I agree that things were tied up a bit too neatly.

March 13 2010 at 5:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm done with this show. I really like Nelson and Graham but this show is dreadful.

March 10 2010 at 9:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, were you and I watching the same show? I thought if anything that these typically overwrought scenes (in any other drama not called LOST) were extremely well handled. The acting was pretty much top shelf across the board too. I loved the scene between Adam and his Dad, where he admitted that getting the possum was personal; because I've been that person before. The way that Lauren Graham's character was all upset for herself until she learned her daughter was being relegated to 10th not 11th grade; how honest to life was that? Comedy? No but certainly it had it's funny moments. This was the first time that I checked the show out; but if it's consistently this well done then I can certainly forgive it's missteps and enjoy the ride.

March 10 2010 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Loved this episode. I didn't think it was too fast paced, laughed out loud when Dax lied to his girlfriend about leaving this weekend. Used the Asperger's excuse instead of the truth. It's awful but believable. Love all the characters. The scene at the end with the pirate costumes was priceless.

March 10 2010 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If the pace of this show is too fast for you then you must truely be lost watching Mad Men and Rescue Me.

March 10 2010 at 9:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's not that hard to keep up with. It's a great show, however I do admit to the scenes are really short..

March 10 2010 at 8:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
charles melrose III

Pacing was too fast for you to follow? Remarkable. But haven't you also admitted that the dialogue in Frasier was over your head? One more and we have a pattern.

This show's not yet distinguished itself at all from its ensemble peers. The stories and the characters seem very familiar. Two hours isn't an adequate body of work to conclude that the talent won't eventually prevail, but they need to step it up. Big mismatch between the quality of the performers and the quality of the writing. Just like Brothers and Sisters with far less self-indulgent whining.

March 10 2010 at 7:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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