Thursday, January 2, 2014

REVIEW: 'Parenthood' Gives Ray Romano a Great Showcase Episode in 'Promises'

NBC's Parenthood - Episode 5.11 Promises

Julia gets confronted by Ed and Joel steps in; Zeek makes a new friend while Camille is away; Drew remembers old feelings and Natalie gets jealous; and Sarah attends a fundraiser with Carl and she is pleasantly surprised to learn more about him.

It's 2014 and Parenthood is back! With the mayoral campaign plot in the rear view mirror, I'm very hopeful that this will be a much better year for the family drama than the latter part of 2013. With "Promises," the show does offer a real strong plot in Hank and Max's dynamic and similarities. But honestly, I'm not quite sure how we are suppose to respond to what is happening on the rest of the show.

I'll actually start there with the stuff that doesn't quite work. We have seen this same exact Sarah storyline over and over again. For some reason, the show always feels the need for Sarah to have a romantic interest. That's been her main kind of plot for five seasons now. It does feel redundant. It's nice to learn that Carl really is this amazing guy in his professional career. But why is he better than any of her past love interests? Parenthood hasn't answered that question at all.

Now, I like Drew and Amy a lot. I don't mind spending time on their relationship. Her return in this episode was a nice plot. They have history together which does fuel their interactions here. However, now I'm left thinking what has been the whole point of having Natalie around. Putting Amy up next to her only highlighted how bad she is as a romantic foil for Drew.

Elsewhere, the Julia and Joel having marital issues plot hit a very big turning point. Joel bluntly while drunk asked her if she was having an affair with Ed. That was an inevitable beat. I'm mostly just interested to see what the end game is for this plot. Ed has grown so annoying since the kiss. Face it dude, she just doesn't want to be with you. Give her space. Julia opening up to Adam about the kiss was a great moment. Overall though, it hasn't quite been a story that lends itself to great episodic stakes.

What was a great episodic moment coupled with a fantastic performance was Hank's struggle with Max and contemplating how similar he is. Hank has always been awkward and a bit off but him questioning whether or not he too has Asperger's is the biggest reason why Ray Romano is on this show. But it also was a strong showcase for Max. Max has been sidelined a bit because of Kristina's mayoral campaign. But him learning how to deal with his issues as he is growing up is a strong story that the show would be best to keep exploring during the back half of this season. As is Hank's questioning.

Some more thoughts:
  • The biggest disappointment from this episode? That there was absolutely no Amber! Parenthood, you can't just give her one on-screen reference and expect us not to notice her absence.
  • But there was a dose of Crosby who while not in his own plot had lots of fun making Ed pay for Sarah's photos at the school auction.
  • I also love how even in its fifth season Parenthood can still find new cast combinations. Sarah & Jasmine? Great.
  • Zeek getting a friend was pleasant. But it, too, was another story I'm unsure of what it's suppose to be informing us about Zeke. If he's unhappy, then go be with Camille. It has been well established that he's a stubborn man. The show doesn't need to go this far to prove that point yet again.