TV Club

Parenthood Episode 14: “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,” recapped.

Is the show all about family too critical of its female characters?

Lauren Graham as Sarah Braverman.
Lauren Graham, now unlikeable as Sarah Braverman

Photo by Colleen Hayes/NBC.

Welcome back to our Parenthood TV Club. Every week, Allison Benedikt IMs with a different fan/regular watcher of the show. Today, please welcome Allison’s longtime friend and Kveller contributing editor Adina Kay-Gross.

Allison Benedikt: Hello Adina! So, after forcing every single TV Club participant to declare his or her allegiance to either Mark or Ray Romano, I am very over the Mark-Sarah-Ray Romano love triangle. Enough.

Adina Kay-Gross: What’s worse is that I think I like Sarah even less because of it. I don’t even know if she cares about Mark anymore, and she’s very laughy.

Benedikt: Yeah, the show has made her unlikeable this season. And I think that’s why the triangle isn’t working on me. It doesn’t work if the tip of the triangle (that’s Sarah, for all of you unfamiliar with geometry lingo) is undesirable and wishy-washy.

Kay-Gross: I do like Ray Romano, though. I do. I like how tired he is of all of it (life).

Benedikt: But would you want to fall in love with someone like that? Someone who is just, like, over it.

Kay-Gross: No. That would make me feel just as sad as he feels all the time.

Benedikt: I think that’s why Sarah is all of a sudden ruined.

Kay-Gross: I think maybe I’m just saying he’s a good actor. But you know who isn’t?

Benedikt: Wait! Don’t say! Let’s type it at the same time.

Kay-Gross: Ryan.

Benedikt: RYAN.

Benedikt: Ha! And what did you think of Dax Shepard versus THE MOTHER-IN-LAW? Who do you side with in that fight?

Kay-Gross: Dax. However, never in a million years would I have the balls to speak that way to my in-laws. Sure, I’d be pissed if my (awesome, terrific, can do no wrong) mother-in-law started voicing her opinion on how my husband and I parent. But I think the tension between me and my husband would build and build until we fought with each other. We’d never lay it out there to the MIL like Crosby did.

Benedikt: We should all learn from Crosby. (Until we ourselves are mothers-in-law, and then we reserve the right to intervene in our children’s lives at all times.) Also, Crosby’s scene with Julia was the tearjerker of the night for me. You?

Kay-Gross: Disagree. Didn’t ring true for me. I choose the dorky it’s-raining-Skittles-on-Max scene.

Benedikt: Oh. Wow.

Kay-Gross: I know. That scene was awful.

Benedikt: I’d like to go back to the Crosby/Julia bit for a sec, though. I thought his advice to her—about not worrying if Victor seems to hate her more than love her because that’s how all pre-teen boys feel about their mothers, biological or otherwise—was really stellar. Or should I say, it was what I had been yelling at the TV earlier in the night. So, I was moved by Dax Shepard bringing a little of me to the screen.

Kay-Gross: I’m not sure we’re supposed to, but I like Julia. I do. I find her intriguing even though she’s also got this weirdly flat affect. Still, I don’t understand why no one, not the social worker or the lawyer or Joel, has turned to her, or even just said at any point, “Let’s think about how scary this must be for Victor.” Instead it’s all about Julia and her struggle to connect. (Though if Joel and Julia want to put me up in Victor’s room and make me pancakes in that kitchen, they can adopt me.)

Benedikt: My TV Club partner last week made me think a lot about how this show really all centers on these supermen characters. The unlikeable ones are always the women. Julia in this circumstance, Sarah, fucking Sydney and Haddie, Jasmine. (Kristina is the exception, though even she exists in Adam’s amazing husband shadow.) So this week when I was sort of hating on Julia’s selfish feelings, I was also thinking: “Huh, why does Parenthood want her to be the bad guy here?” Cause it seems nearly implausible that she would actually be so self-centered as to not consider what a massive life change this is for Victor.

Kay-Gross: But there are imperfect guys on the show! Crosby and Nate from Six Feet Under have both fucked up. Drew is certainly not perfect. Coach had to go to counseling to learn to listen to his wife.

Benedikt: I still think that the men on the show are much more sympathetic than the women. I’m not sure I find this objectionable, but it’s at least notable for a show that is all about family life. The kind of show that would usually be female-centric.

Kay-Gross: If true, it’s not objectionable to me, either. I mean, has there ever been so much co-parenting on TV before? Hooray.

Benedikt: Very current.

Kay-Gross: Can we just talk for a minute about Kristina?

Benedikt: Are you getting used to her conehead?

Kay-Gross: No! Seems like they’re playing around with a few different heads, and it’s distracting.

Benedikt: I love the thought of the director being like, “OK, great take guys, but let’s try it with Head 3.”

Kay-Gross: You know what I loved? That scene when Kristina first approached the PTA moms about the vending machine situation.

Benedikt: You loved it for how awkward it was?

Kay-Gross: Yes, exactly. And for how Kristina was like, “Max is great. I’m great.” Because this is what moms do. Lie.

Benedikt: So true. And despite the Skittles debacle, this was overall another strong episode in a short string of them. I dread next week, though. It’s the season finale, and there will be closure. Or a cancer cliffhanger.

Kay-Gross: Haddie will be back for a hug.

Benedikt: I hope she’s grown out her bangs.

Kay-Gross: No one has bangs at Cornell.