Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Small Victories

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 13 – “Small Victories” [Original air date: Jan. 8, 2013]

Last week NBC announced the show Parenthood had been picked up for a fifth season. This time around the Braverman’s get a full 22-episodes; unlike the 15-episode season viewers had to deal with during season four. Our favorite family drama is coming back; now there is a reason to celebrate.

Season four of Parenthood has been dominated by Kristina’s cancer storyline, and rightfully so; when cancer strikes it effects everyone the cancer patient interacts with, and just like the decision to have a child makes all future decisions somehow related to that child, cancer does the same thing, but cancer is never a decision, but rather an unwanted and unwelcomed visitor. Regardless, it was nice to pause and take a break from the cancer storyline and have an episode focused on some of the other Braverman’s. This episode had overarching themes of dealing with others’ decisions and working through major life changes.

The Braverman writers are pretty brave, willing to tackle large and often heated topics such as puberty, teenage pregnancy, job search, and child behavioral problems. Max is hitting puberty, which can be a scary and confusing time period. Words and phrases like menstruating, ejaculation, public hair, and wet dreams, which could cause some to get awkward and embarrassed, are used as if it is no big deal (Well, is it a big deal?). There is definitely a time and place to talk about this stuff, but it is healthy for parents and children to be able to discuss these topics openly. Not looking to preach, but from personal experience I would say it is better to be educated than to be naïve, especially when it comes to your body and sexual related changes and issues you may face. Max’s refusal to shower more than twice a week causes Adam to have the “the talk” with him. Adam attempts to start a conversation about emotional versus sexual feelings. Max’s response: “Dad, I’m not ready to talk about this yet.” Not the typical answer one would expect from a kid, but then again it could be argued Max is not your “typical” kid. Getting max to shower was considered a “small victory” according to Kristina, and Max’s post-shower scene in slow motion to the song “Feeling Good” was just the right amount of comic relief needed to get viewers to laugh out loud.

Amy tells Drew she’s pregnant. Amy wants an abortion: “If I have this baby my life is over.” Drew wants to talk about other options: “There are plenty of people that would be willing to help us. I love you and that’s all that matters.” This seems to be the teenage pregnancy dilemma: keep it or abort it, and if we keep do we put it up for adoption? How realistic is it for a teenager to have a baby in today’s world and still live a “normal” life? Not really realistic at all – you can no longer live your life the way you were or the way you want to, as your life must not revolve around the life of your child. This debate reminds me of an actual debate that took place at Fordham University two years ago: “Pro Life versus Pro Lives,” regarding not saying “no” to life, but saying “yes” to the lives already in existence. It’s almost odd that Drew is against the abortion, as stereotypically it is often the girl in the relationship who wants to discuss other options. This makes me feel that Drew is more into Amy than Amy is into Drew. “I’m going to support you no matter what. I don’t want you to think I’m not here for you if you decide to keep it,” Drew tells Amy. It’s a little strange how conversations between Drew and Amy seem to only take place in Drew’s car, and there is usually much more awkward silence than there is talking. But perhaps this is realistic, as many high school hookups and sexual relations tend to take place in vehicles outside the house where the parents are usually to be found.

It was nice to see Drew’s storyline take center stage in this episode. Drew finally showed some character development, going from being somewhat of an emotionless cardboard box to showing he is a real person with thoughts and feelings. Yet, he is still a teenage boy and he embodies all the awkwardness and disinterest most teenage boys embody. I found it odd that Drew went to Amber for advice, money, and comfort since I have not gotten the close sibling vibe from Drew and Amber; the two do not usually interact much. Maybe this situation will bring about more sibling love down the road. Talking to a sibling about these kinds of situations can be less intimidating that talking to a parent. Is there a correct or easy way for teenagers to talk to their parents about being pregnant? “You may not believe it, but no matter what happens it’s all going to be fine,” Sarah tells Drew. Though Sarah was referring to Drew supposedly stressing over college applications, her words can really be applied to just about any life situation.

Mark expresses his concern for Drew and Amy on separate occasions, completely unaware of the pregnancy. Mark even visits Sarah at Hank’s photography shop. If Mark and Sarah were really over I would think the writers of Parenthood would have written Mark’s character out of the show the way they did with Ryan (Spoiler Alert: there is talk of Friday Night Lights’ actor Matt Lauria coming back to Parenthood during season five. Perhaps Amber and Ryan can rekindle their love affair). The fact that Mark’s character is still around makes me think there may still be more to come for the love triangle between Sarah, Mark, and Hank. Hank did say a line in this episode about how he still feels threatened by Mark, and Mark and Sarah discuss “fake excuses” for seeing each other. Mark to Sarah: “I feel like I gave up too easily; I should have fought for you.”

Crosby and Jasmine were kind enough to open their home to Jasmine’s mom Renee, but from a third-party point of view I do not know how to feel towards Renee. She’s living in someone else’s house because she lost her job. She landed a job, but turned it down because it was not exactly what she was looking for. Am I supposed to feel bad for her, or am I supposed to side with her? Is Renee being too picky given her situation, or is she justified to act the way she is acting? She tried playing the guilty card towards Crosby which did not settle well with me, but from experience I know job searching is never easy and it is important to be happy and comfortable with your career decisions. The Renee situation leaves me with more questions than answers.

Victor is the epitome of a behavior problem. He is rude, physically violent, unappreciative, disrespectful, and out of line regarding how he acts, what he expects, and the language he uses. I understand he did not have the easiest childhood prior to Joel and Julia deciding to adopt him, but somewhere he has to see that he is loved, wanted, and very fortunate to have what he now has. Victor seems to just be looking for attention with his “hunger-strike,” and his 911 call reporting child abuse was out of line. For some reason which is unclear, Victor is a rebel child, a bit of a wild child as some may call it, and a royal troublemaker. I believe he understands right from wrong, but that he has inner feelings he does not know how to express. Does he need therapy, counseling, or medication? It is unclear what will fix his behavior, but it is clear he most likely needs help. Though her and Joel are doing everything right – they are trying, which is all we can ask of them – it has gotten to the point where Julia admits to the social worker she is thinking of not going through with the adoption. Is Julia just giving up, or is the Victor situation really just a lost cause?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Keep On Rowing

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 12 – “Keep On Rowing” [Original air date: Jan. 1, 2013]

It has been said a picture is worth a thousand words. How many words then would a scene from a television show be worth? Perhaps it depends on the scene. Kristina starts losing her hair in this episode thanks to her chemotherapy, a reality we all knew was coming, and one which many cancer patients are forced to face. Kristina makes a bold move and shaves her head once she starts losing her blonde locks. The scene where Kristina decides to shave her head is pure emotion, as it includes no spoken words. It is said that 93% of our communication is nonverbal, and anyone who watches this scene would have a hard time denying this fact. Happiness, sadness, reflection, empowerment, and anxiety are all expressed as Kristina shows us that bald is beautiful. This wasn’t the message which was first expressed, however: “Everywhere I went today everybody looked at me like I was a freak show,” Kristina told Adam. “I thought this whole thing would be so transforming and liberating and I would feel this sense of freedom.” Kristina and Adam fight throughout the first half of this episode with fighting which seemed almost too real to be scripted television.

I am lead to believe the relationship difficulties between Adam and Kristina is a very real portrayal of what families dealing with cancer must go through: not feeling beautiful, thinking people hate the fact that you look sick, and taking gestures which were intended to be kind the wrong way. Kristina’s apology to Adam seemed to be taken right out of a Hollywood movie, which helpless romantics (myself included) just melt over. It incorporated a rented limo, fancy hotel reservations, and nice clothes: “If you’ll have me, I would like to go on a date with you.” It’s refreshing to think that adults in committed relationships can still ask each other out on dates in cute teenage ways. Comic relief came when 27-year-old salesman Luke tried hitting on Kristina in the hotel lobby. Kristina pretended she was a 27-year-old successful businesswoman named Jennifer working in management. When Adam and Kristina do not make it to “Funky Town,” viewers see that showing you care and love can be expressed in other ways other than having sex; staying by each other’s side and accepting one another are attractive, powerful, and uplifting characters all romantics should learn to embody (Adam and Kristina’s storyline in this episode reminded me of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”).

It’s official: Hank and Sarah are good for each other, at least for the time being. The way they acted during their ‘ask me out on a date’ scene was the perfect combination of cute and uncomfortable, like teenagers coming clean about the fact that they have a crush on one another. That innocence continues after the date is planned through genuine conversation that almost appeared to be going in the wrong direction, but made its way back and practically warmed your heart. Like Adam and Kristina, it is refreshing how open Hank and Sarah are with one another: “People get jealous… that’s human nature.” The date moves from the restaurant to Hank’s place, and includes a bottle of red wine and a card game on the floor. The openness continues: “Eye contact is not one of my favorite things, but with you I find it hard not to look in your eyes.” It is at this point where Hank asks Sarah on a second date, as if the two had just met for the first time and they’re still in the ‘getting to know you’ stage (The interactions between Hank and Sarah seem to be right out of The Script’s “For the First Time”).

Can ‘behavior’ and ‘the person’ be separated, or are they a packaged deal? Joel and Julia have a serious conversation about Victor’s actions after he throws a metal baseball bat through a glass door, almost seriously injuring Sydney. Julia says, “You judge people by their actions.” She tells Joel she is not sure if they can continue to live this way. This all stemmed from victor getting an A on his most recent math exam and asking Julia if he can show it to his “real” mom. It appears Victor does not see Julia as his mother, and he does not understand what he cannot see his “real” mom, which he feels it is not fair. The ‘Victor situation’ which has been going on this whole season has stressed Julia out to the point where she has started to take her aggravation out on Sydney. Sydney is no perfect angel though, as it was her instigator attitude and nagging of Victor over his “real” mother possibly being in jail and not loving him which pushed Victors buttons and caused him to take his anger out in a whole new way. In the end, Julia still struggles. No matter what she tries it seems to not be completely effective, which is hard for a perfectionist like herself to accept. And yet, like many parents, she wants to do everything she can for her children, even if her children are not fully appreciative of her efforts.

Brotherly Advice: “This is family; when you married Jasmine you married her family. Now her problems are your problems whether you like it or not.” Jasmine’s mom is in a bind and needed money, so Adam told Crosby, “Do not rock the boat. This is family; it’s the right thing to do.” Even though I believe a line needs to be drawn somewhere so that family members do not just end up advantage of each other, I do agree with Adam that family is important and family members should always have each other’s backs. It turns out Renee’s situation is larger than Jasmine originally thought, and that in order to rectify the situation Renee must move in to the guest room at Jasmine and Crosby ‘s place (a.k.a. Crosby’s man cave). After some fighting, Jasmine telling Crosby to get over himself, and Crosby thinking he took the weak position which allowed Jasmine to take advantage of the situation, I predict this change may be a blessing in disguise.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What to My Wondering Eyes

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 11 – “What to My Wondering Eyes” [Original air date: Dec. 11, 2012]

Its Christmas time at the Braverman house, but instead of just giving viewers an episode of Santa and gingerbread cookies, Parenthood also brought drama, life reflection, and some really great acting to our television screens.

While Victor and Sydney are snooping for their Christmas gifts, like many kids do leading up to December 25, Victor announces to his sister that Santa isn’t real. Julia and Joel are not sure how to respond. Julia takes the ‘Peter Pan mentality’ when she says, “I want her to have that magical feeling as long as possible.” Joel takes a more realistic approach when he proclaims, “You can’t be innocent forever.” Later in the episode it was Grandpa to the rescue! Zeek steps in when Victor and Max express not believing in Santa. He talks from ‘personal experience,’ and sums up the episode well when he says, “Santa is real, Christmas is magic, Christmas brings miracles.” Victor may still have been skeptical of Santa’s existence after Zeek’s talk, but he believed enough to believe Santa knew what he got for Christmas when the family visits Kristina in the hospital and Santa is there. Seeing is believing, but Victor’s experience proves you don’t have to see it all to truly believe.

Kristina’s white blood cells are down and her immune system is not responding. The doctors at the hospital are not very reassuring to Adam: “We’re going to give her the best care we can, but unfortunately there are no guarantees.” The mother-daughter relationship has long been viewed as a force to be reckoned with, and Hollywood has used this storyline for decades. The father-son relationship however is often placed on the back burner due to society’s view on what it means to be a man. The moment shared between Adam and Zeek at the hospital when Zeek tells Adam, “You need to take cvare of yourself, son,” and Adam breaks down in front of Zeek proclaiming he misses Zeek and needs him now more than ever, is truly a touching moment.

Since Sarah and Mark’s split, Hank and Sarah have rekindled some of their past feelings, some of which Sarah has been trying not to acknowledge. The two of them have a face-off to see which of them are more pathetic; Sarah wins. “I feel good because of you,” Sarah says to Hank, over a poorly made cocktail at the bar at the mall. “I’m not happy. I’m never going to be happy, and I’ve accepted that. But I’m almost happy,” Hank tells Sarah. Hollywood and the media seem to have crafted a sex and hookup mentality for those in their twenties, but the reality is, many people in their thirties have yet to settled down and many people on their forties are divorced and looking to start new. Hank and Sarah end up sleeping together, which is fine, but it makes me question if it is too much too fast. Until this episode, I would not have considered myself a member of the Hank fan club, but Hank is growing on me. I’m still not completely sold on the budding relationship between him and Sarah.

The fight between Amber and Ryan after Ryan comes back drunk from the bar shows some great acting skills from both Matt Lauria and Mae Whitman. However, the award for best acting in this particular episode may have to go to Monica Potter for her portrayal of Kristina. The video Kristina left to her children in the event something happened to her, not allowing her to make it through her battled with breast cancer, was some of the most touching, genuine, and heartfelt moments in Parenthood this season: “I may not always be with you the way that I want to be, but I will never leave your side. I will always be with you.” If anyone doubted Kristina’s love for her children, or Adam’s love for his wife, this scene definitely proved took those doubts away. Perhaps admitting this will make me sound vulnerable, but I could not help but cry while watching this scene.

How many chances should one allow a significant other until it is time to throw in the towel and move on? Baseball fans tend to believe in the ‘three strikes, you’re out’ concept. After Ryan’s drunk episode, Amber is not fully feeling their relationship anymore. It is apparent Amber has bit her tongue in the past and kept things to herself. She has forgiven Ryan’s faults and looked for the positives in their relationship. This time around things might be different. While Ryan may have apologized for feeling ashamed and embarrassed, and he made it clear he wants to fix things, Amber is not ready to just jump back in, and rightfully so. It’ll be interesting to see where the writers of Parenthood take Amber’s and Ryan’s relationship. If Amber and Ryan have taught us anything, it is the importance of open communication. Amber tries to do the right thing when she suggests Ryan should talk to Joel and not let this construction job fiasco go any further than it already has. But as many of us learn in life, even doing the right things doesn’t always work out in our favor.

Jasmine reminds us how short life actually is when thinking about all that Kristina is going through, which makes her realize she would like to have another baby. If Parenthood is picked up for a fifth season (which NBC would be crazy to not give this series another season!), the storyline of Crosby and Jasmine having another baby definitely has the potential to take center stage the way Kristina’s cancer storyline did during season four. Haddie showing up at the hospital at the end of this episode was rather cliché, but it fits the mold of what television/movie goers look for and expect in dramas like Parenthood. Still, “What to My Wondering Eyes” this could be seen as the perfect Parenthood episode, as it included everything one could ask for in a holiday episode (and more). Any good Christmas themed show should make you realize the importance of family, and Parenthood did just that.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Trouble in Candyland

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 10 – “Trouble in Candyland” [Original air date: Dec. 4, 2012]

It makes sense that a show called Parenthood would have something to do with parenting. This is the first episode this season where the quest for parenting advice was made obvious and put out there in an “I need some advice” from you because “you’re such a good parent,” kind of way. While Julia may be able to give her siblings all the legal advice they can ask for, Kristina could teach Parenting 101: “When you’re in the trenches as a parent, do not feel guilty about this, ok? You’ve got to do what you got to do, and you’ve got to go with what works.” Kristina was referring to bribing her children into having good behavior, what she likes to refer to as a type of incentive system. This was rather humorous, but pure honesty.

Parenthood has been able to portray Julia’s struggle with assisting Victor in completing his homework in a way the average parent probably struggles with their kids when it comes to children not understanding their schoolwork. Julia wills Victor to ace his math test; she wants him to succeed. But sometimes it’s not enough for you to want someone else to succeed, as you need that person to also personally want to succeed if success is to be reached. It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; success is no different, as we view and define success in a variety of ways. Victor is frustrated, believes he is stupid, and actually thinks he is unable to do his schoolwork. It’s sad, but I would bet we can almost all relate to a time when we felt the exact same way.

The Hank, Sarah, Mark triangle is troublesome. This odd three-way relationship is similar to real-life relationships where a third party gets in the way of the special bond two people may have, or how work can often put a strain on a romance cooking at home. In the case of Hank, Sarah, and Mark, both these scenarios can be used to sum up some of what is happening. Hank is selfish and emotionally unstable. Sarah appears immature and unfocused. Mark tries to be level-headed, but he wants what he used to have (what once was) and does not understand why he cannot get it back. Both Sarah’s relationship with Mark and Hank’s relationship with his ex-wife shows viewers the importance of finding a work-life balance, as well as the need for open communication in all relationships.

Mark practically embodies the lyrics to Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone” in this episode of Parenthood: “You know that I love you, so I love you enough to let you go… Someone’s gotta go… so I’m already gone.” Mark’s role throughout this episode is almost a play-by-play of the thought process which occurs when someone realizes they can no longer be with the one they are currently dating. Mark to Sarah: “You’re a great, great employee; you’re just a lousy fiancé.” Almost everyone knows someone who forever fails to see when things are good in life, or when there is no reason to continue pushing opportunities aside. In Parenthood, Sarah is this individual. Being around such a person can be stressful and can cast a negative aura over the lives of others, which may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back: “I really love you, but I can’t do this anymore,” Mark said to Sarah before walking out on their dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Mark does not buy the story that there is nothing happening between Sarah and Hank. Perhaps it has just been a series of unfortunate events which Mark has been confronted with, but the average person has a hard time denying what they see with their own two eyes. At first it appeared Mark was overreacting about a hole Sarah dug herself, but in the end Mark was in line with his thoughts and feelings. Perhaps Sarah dug herself a hole which was too deep to get out of. Sarah’s engagement to Mark had been on the rocks for a while now, thanks to her inability to say “no” and her lack of foreseeing the consequences to her actions. When she is confronted by reality and forced to look at her life she realizes she messed up, but what she does now will only be too little, too late. “It’s not my job to fix you,” Sarah tells Hank. Viewers learn a valuable lesson here: if you get to a point where you are so focused on someone else’s life you fail to focus on your own, you may have to take a step back and reevaluate the circumstances.

In a strange way, Mark is like Amber and Sarah is like Ryan. Amber is the girlfriend most guys dream to find; she is cute, intellectual, and affectionate. And like many of the Braverman family members she wants others to succeed, especially her significant other. Ryan is really trying to do well with his new job, but things just do not appear to be working in his favor. His inexperience, abundance of bad luck, and lack of encouragement from his “colleagues” creates a rather hostile work environment. “It’s a learning curve, sir,” Ryan tries to explain to Joel; learning curve or not, your success rate is going to be rather low if those you are working with (in Ryan’s case, the older and “more experienced” construction men), constantly put you down and poke fun at you in an overly negative way. This idea may have been over-emphasized in this episode of Parenthood, but perhaps this was done in order to get the point across. Regardless, Ryan’s job situation just adds more “trouble in candyland.”

While this episode may have largely been about wanting others to succeed, literarily it had to have been titled “Trouble in Candyalnd” for a reason. Hank used this expression to describe Sarah’s and Mark’s relationship, and Kristina and Julia discuss using actual candy as a way to incentivize kids into following orders. The word trouble is arguably synonymous for “problem” or “struggle.” There are many problems in this episode which the Braverman’s are forced to face: the “crazy homeowner lady” who tried shutting down Adam’s and Crosby’s Luncheonette recording studio, Ryan’s post-military depression, Mark calling off his engagement to Sarah, Hank’s daughter moving away, and Joel and Amber trying to help Ryan through a tough transitional time period. Parenthood has a great deal happening at once and this episode, though it could stand on its own, acts like a steppingstone bridging many storylines together while setting up future aspects to the Braverman journey.

Monday, March 25, 2013

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 9 – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” [Original air date: Nov. 27, 2012]

If we always got what we wanted when we wanted it exactly how we wanted it, there would be very little reason for living. It is the fact that we do not always get what we want which allows us to grow both personally and professionally. This episode of Parenthood stands as a reminder that we become better and stronger individuals by not constantly getting what we want, but by working towards our goals and learning how to overcome the challenges and obstacles life may throw our way.

Time is precious, and it is true that anyone’s time can come to an end at any given moment. “I don’t know how much time there is, none of us do. I don’t want to miss out on any milestones,” Kristina says to Adam in regards to Max not wanting to attend the school dance. We do not want to live life being so cautious and worried we fail to enjoy ourselves, nor do we want to live life so on the edge we put ourselves at risk by making questionable and dangerous decisions, but we do want to live life to the fullest. It is cliché and rather unrealistic to say you should live every moment as if it is your last, but it is crucial to find out what in life is important to you and to live life with those aspects in mind.

Do you. We as humans strive to please everyone around us, but it is impossible to make everyone happy even if we wanted to. We may often find we overbook ourselves or stretch ourselves too thin. At some point we have to learn to say no. Sarah feels obligated to her boss Hank and she often gets guilt tripped by him and his messed up personal situations. She has a hard time letting anyone down, and by having that mentality it only seems she hurts others and lets herself down. Her Fiancé Mark accuses her of putting Hank before him. Still, Sarah, played by actress Lauren Graham, tries to get ahead while keeping it all together (a theme we are to see in Graham’s upcoming novel “Someday, Someday, Maybe,” being released April 30, 2013 – this book has been described as “witty, charming, and hilariously relatable” according to Amazon, much like Graham’s character Sarah in Parenthood).

Do not let yourself lose track of the fact that other people have feelings, wants, and desires too. Keeping other people in mind when making decisions can be difficult, but as Adam says, “It’s part of growing up: doing things for someone else; doing things for other people.” This theme is seen all over this particular episode, from Crosby being forced to see eye-to-eye with the “crazy homeowner lady” who moved in next door to the recording studio, to Julia struggling to accept Joel’s new job and he new role as a homemaker: Julia says, I’m ”overwhelmed or bored out of my mind. I’m not cut out for the stay-at-home mom thing and I’m not fulfilled by it.” Julia and Joel remind us how important it is to respect others. The writers of Parenthood left Julia’s storyline open with room for major potential character growth. Not everyone can accept free time, especially those who never had much free time to begin with. Julia does bring up a good point: life should be fulfilling; if it not, perhaps you should make the necessary changes in order to make it fulfilling.

Veterans have a hard time finding jobs after they get back from being overseas. Ryan’s employment situation shows this reality fairly well. There are certain questions applicants cannot be asked during a job interview such as one’s gender, age, religion, or sexuality. When the Ryan’s interviewer saw he had been in Afghanistan, Ryan was asked, “You were in Afghanistan? You ever kill anybody?” Questions like these may not be illegal to ask, but there has to be some kind of interview etiquette where people should know better than to ask such ignorant, personal, and physiologically damaging questions. While some scenes between Ryan and Amber have recently appeared forced and almost unnatural, Amber’s interaction with Zeek over her worry for Ryan came off as rather genuine. Zeek’s attitude towards what war does to those involved may have been the most real line in this episode: “War is a place where you lose who you are… and you are scared to death of what you might become.” This may also be true for situations outside of war, but it does give viewers a taste of what our military men and women are forced to deal with.

As we go through the motions and live life, it is easy to take the little things for granted. For example, at the end of this episode of Parenthood Kristina puts music on in the living room and attempts to teach Max how to dance. If we get so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life we may overlook the little things, or push them away all together. It is the little things that bring so much potential to what life can be; it would be a shame to not give them the time of day. We may not always get what we want, but in the words of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, “If you try, sometimes you just might find, you get what you need."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

One More Weekend With You

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 8 – “One More Weekend With You” [Original air date: Nov. 20, 2012]

No one said life was going to be easy. Actually, if no one has told you before, let me be the first to tell you: life is a challenge, it is frustrating, and it is going to require a great deal of give and take. Just as Parenthood shows us, we often look to blame others for our downfalls. It frequently takes learning to accept people for who they are, and situations for how they are presented to us. The two golden words to keep in your back pocket and never be ashamed use: “I’m sorry.”

Too often people keep emotions bottled up inside. Eventually those emotions are going to surface and want to come out, but we cannot always control when this happens. We are only human, after all; we are far from perfect. Though we may think we can control everything, we cannot. Like mother, like daughter – Julia had a breakdown a few episodes ago, and it was time for Sydney to do the same. While Julia and Joel have been trying to support and encourage Victor ever since adopting him into the family, Sydney has felt rather neglected. Some reasons why prove to be out of Julia’s and Joel’s hands, but other time Sydney may have had a point, just going to show the hardships a family can face when expanding the family and adding new family members: “You are not my brother!” Sydney yelled at Victor as she threw a cup of water in his face at the diner. “In case you forgot, I was here first,” she said to her parents as she went to run away from home. We can almost all remember a time when we were younger and made a plan to run away from home for one reason or another.

There really is no good time for death to grace us with its presence. But when death does knock on our front door and we are forced to deal with it, how we deal with it can teach us a lot about our own character. When Ryan has to go to take a road trip to Bakersfield for his friend’s funeral it is obvious he is shaken up about the whole situation. Still, Amber continues to say all the right things at exactly the right time, as she asks if Ryan would like company: “I’d be nice to be together; if you wanted that I’m here.” We soon learn that Ryan’s friend Evan Williams, Private First Class soldier, someone Ryan considered a brother, did not die at war, but committed suicide after making it back to the states alive. Another one of Ryan’s service buddies called Evan’s actions the “coward’s way out,” causing Ryan and him to get into a physical fight. Viewer’s got a look at the side effects of PTSD and how real it actually is. It may be hard, but we need to remember that physical violence is never the answer. The beach scene at sunset between Ryan and Amber was a little cliché, but it gave a good message: life is worth living, so surround yourself with those you love and create your own happiness.

People have sex; it is simply a fact of life. It is usually during our teenage years when we first experiment with sex. This is usually a personal choice and everyone has different views when it comes it such topics. Abstinence can make us naive, so it is probably best to get educated before making any major life decisions. Though Mark was fairly awkward when he caught Drew and Amy in the act, he dealt with the situation like a professional: are you being smart? Are you wearing condoms? Is she on the pill? Do you know about STD’s? Let’s talk about responsibility. Though teenagers experimenting with sex can be scary, it is important to keep open communication about such life choices both with your partner, as well as with those who always have your back (i.e. parents). Sarah feels shut out of her son’s life, and that is a natural feeling, especially given the circumstances. Yet the conversation Mark and Sarah have about opportunity to get closer to Drew, trying to figure out their place in this family, and having a lack of experience, are healthy conversations for anyone to have, ones which should be seem more as a work in progress rather than a find the answers and move on kind of situation.

It has been said, if there were no rainy days we would fail to appreciate the sunny days. In similar thinking, we are able to enjoy happiness because we have been able to get through frustration and hardship. Fighting in a relationship is practically inevitable, and believe it or not it is rather healthy to work through problems and disagreements together. For example, Jasmine calls Crosby a freeloader while Crosby calls Jasmine a dictator as they fight over the cocktail and hor d'oeuvres party they were throwing. In the end though, through a little give and take, the two were able to make it through and understand each other’s differences. Being a support system for one another is important, and Adam and Kristina are the epitome of such a team. Adam is willing to try everything he can to help his wife through the hard times chemotherapy is giving their family. While their house becomes somewhat of a zoo, much like Grand Central Station during rush hour, Adam does his best to keep things under control. Kristina learns that you cannot always expect yourself to be the exception to the rule: “Thought I’d be the one person who wouldn’t get sick from chemo.” This mentality can be quite dangerous, especially when it comes to activates such as trying hard drugs, having unprotected sex, or being a reckless driver. Life is too precious to take such chances.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Parenthood Season 4, Episode 7 – “Together” [Original air date: Nov. 13, 2012]

As much as we sometimes want to forget about our pasts and only focus on our futures, every now and then bits of the past come back and collide with the present day. In this episode of Parenthood the time Ryan spent serving in Afghanistan is affecting his drive to find employment, as well as his ability to be open about his feelings in his new relationship with Amber. Victor’s past living arrangements appear to be holding him back from finding new friends and gaining social acceptance among his peers. Drew’s breakup with Amy earlier this season still has Drew in shambles, and his mom’s decision to have them move in with her fiancé, as well as Drew’s aunt being diagnosed with cancer, has only propelled Drew farther out of his comfort zone.

Frustration seems to be a main theme here, especially in regards to Kristina’s feelings about her cancer situation. No one really knows how to respond or react towards Kristina, so everyone wants to help or live in solidarity with her. However, the insistence on assisting is only making things harder and more overwhelming for the very person everyone seems to be trying to keep claim. How do people really deal with cancer, anyways? Cancer affects so many people, yet we all tend to feel some kind of aggravation, paranoia, and/or vulnerability. Kristina’s phone conversation with Adam really hits the head on the nail: “I feel like a prisoner in own home… I don’t like being taken care of… I feel helpless.” Kristina says she wishes things could just be normal again, but what exactly is normal? We don’t always get to choose what frustration or goodness or hardships get thrown our way. How we deal with it all is really a testament to our character. I can’t help but think of lyrics from Martina McBride’s song “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” when watching Kristina’s and Adam’s storyline unfold on screen: “
The doctor just confirmed her fears; Her husband held it in and held her tight; Cancer don’t discriminate or care if you’re just 38 with three kids who need you in their lives; He said, ‘I know that you’re afraid and I am, too. But you’ll never be alone, I promise you.’

This episode really speaks to the heart about not letting the handicaps society places on us keep us feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with life; life is too short not live everyday to the fullest. The writers of Parenthood tend to intertwine situations and ideas people face on a daily basis into the show. For example, in this episode viewers see the difficulty of searching for a job, the agony of feeling marginalized and excluded, and the awkwardness of romantic relationships and how they can wilt and die just as fast as they bud and blossom. In the end it is often the little things in life that mean the most or have the greatest impact. As humans we tend to take risks, want to try new things, and have the drive to learn more about ourselves and others. Watching Victor and Miguel speak Spanish while playing basketball inspires Julia to try and learn Spanish. Kristina is starting chemotherapy treatment in an effort to overcome the cancer which has infected her body. Ryan and Amber take their relationship to the next level, getting physical for the first time, but hint at the fact that sex changes everything. Zeek and Amy find out information they didn’t know earlier, which causes them to rethink the relationships they have with others. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to making it through life. Parenthood makes it clear that cookie cutter life expectations are a characteristic found more often in fairytales than reality.

Monday, February 25, 2013

I’ll Be Right Here - Part IV

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 6 – “I’ll Be Right Here” [Original air date: Oct. 23, 2012]
Part IV

I hope you have enjoyed my ‘live’-blogging. Here is my fourth and final post for this episode:

Why do we do the things we do? Our decisions don’t just affect us, but affect everyone around us. Sometimes we forget that our actions can have consequences beyond those just seen by the decision maker. Sarah forces Drew to move (again), and this time to Mark’s place. When she decided to move up the moving date she really didn’t take Drew’s feelings or thoughts into consideration, making him move in the middle of his senior year of high school, and not discussing it with him beforehand. While Mark tries really hard to reach out and connect with Drew, Drew fails to understand that ‘what Drew does doesn’t just affect Drew.’ In a way Drew is a hypocrite, complaining about the very thing he is also taking part in, but this is rather a realistic concept many families deal with and it’s a situation which causes great personal development. Crosby, a secular individual, immerses himself in the act of prayer with Jasper. Crosby wants to better connect with Jasper, and whether you like or dislike what someone does it is always a good idea to respect and try to understand another person’s decisions. In this case Jasper is more religious and Crosby is a tad intrigued to know how “the whole talking to God thing works.” Similar to the role reversal we saw earlier with Amber and Ryan, we see another role reversal here: Father and son practically switch places – the teacher becomes the student and the student becomes the teacher. And like many non-religious folks out there, Crosby shows that he’s not sure who to turn to during a time of crisis when he has little to no control over the outcome (i.e. sickness). Even though our actions could be wrong, are we doing the right things if we have the good of others as our driving force? Adam and Kristina basically lied to Haddie when they told her Kristina was now cancer-free. Parents are constantly looking out for their children’s future, keeping their children’s best interest at heart. I’m a believer in education and think staying in school is a good idea – it appears Adam and Kristina agree. They did what they did because they want Haddie to stay in school, but once you tell little white lie it could become easier to tell larger lies down the road.

I’ll Be Right Here - Part III

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 6 – “I’ll Be Right Here” [Original air date: Oct. 23, 2012]
Part III
My ‘live’-blogging for this episode continues. Here is post three of four:

Amber and Ryan have become the new ‘it’ couple. Sure, they aren’t officially a couple yet, but it appears they are on their way to becoming one. Call me a helpless romantic, and a sucker for Hollywood love stories and Disneyesqu storylines, but the relationship I see budding between these two lovebirds makes me feel a little giddy. The awkwardness between Amber and Ryan brings me back to my middle school years, but also stands as a reminder to viewers that this awkward time period at the start of almost all relationships is practically inevitable so we should embrace it. Ryan is super nervous to ask Amber out on a date and Amber is sweet and shocked, almost taking on the role of the wallflower (interesting, because actress Mea Whitman was in Stephen Chbosky's 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'). Ryan tells us that life isn’t about winning or losing, but about the journey (Cliché? Maybe. But true? Without a doubt.). This fits in nicely with a phrase Adam told Sarah earlier in this episode: “You should do what feels good; life is short.” For Ryan, what feels good is the getting to know Amber, and taking things slow. While people often rush into things, Ryan shows us that it is alright to take some time to make sure you get it right. It’s as if Amber and Ryan reversed gender roles from what Hollywood and society tell us is the “normal” way of doing things. While Amber may have wanted to physically dive right in, Ryan looks to take the old-school approach to dating and explore his sensitive and emotional side. All guys could probably learn something from how Ryan acts in this episode.

I’ll Be Right Here - part II

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 6 – “I’ll Be Right Here” [Original air date: Oct. 23, 2012]
Part II

I am ‘live’-blogging while watching this episode for the first time. Here is post two of four:

Max Braverman’s view on Asperger’s: “Some people say that having Asperger’s can be a bad thing, but I’m glad I have it, because I think it’s my greatest strength.” Max’s student council presidency speech was truly inspiring, showing charisma, courage, and family love. Whether Max knew it or not, it was in this moment where Haddie felt that she was fulfilling her older sibling duty, knowing she was where she belonged and that she had a purpose, at least for a short while. Finding purpose in life can be one of the most difficult things to do (The writers of the musical Avenue Q made it a main theme of their show, and even titled one of the show’s musical numbers “Purpose.”). It was during Max’s speech where viewers were able to get inside Max’s head for a brief minute and really get a taste of what it is like to be living with Asperger’s Syndrome. Though this show is scripted, an actor shows great skill when he is able to not just recite the memorized words and fulfill his job of being an actor playing a character, but rather becoming that character and taking on the difficult task of being a truth-teller. As Max told us, those with Asperger’s have a difficult time saying hello and looking people in the eye, but they are smart, have great memories, and always keep their promises. Max’s presidential race was rooted in the concept of bringing back the vending machines to Cedar Knoll Middle School, not unlike the way William Henry Harrison’s (hero at the Battle of Tippecanoe) and John Tyler’s political platform in the 1840 United States Presidential Election: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” Yet with Max, we learned all about tenacity and the positive aspects which come with it.

I’ll Be Right Here - Part I

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 6 – “I’ll Be Right Here” [Original air date: Oct. 23, 2012]
Part I

For this particular episode I’ll be ‘live’-blogging over the course of about an hour as I watch the episode for the first time. Here is post one of four:

The way people emotionally and physically react to the situations life throws at them can say a great deal about their character. Still, reactions are often like reflexes and therefore there is little we can do to stop or alter them sometimes. We cannot help ourselves when we are overcome with a certain amount of adrenaline which our body chooses to expend in ways others may have a difficult time dealing with. Our innate reactions to want o help someone through hard times, though it can be bothersome at first, is most certainly appreciated at the end of the day. The desire to assist in any way possible shows a sense of love and caring. In this episode everyone wants to help Adam and Kristina to the point where it almost creates some comic relief for the viewer: Haddie gets caught up in the moment she starts talking about taking a semester or year off from college, Julia crates a spreadsheet with two-hour time blocks to schedule hospital visiting time for individual family members, and Crosby is assigned to take Otis to the dog park and to pick up dinner; you can almost sense something is bound to go wrong.

Monday, February 18, 2013

There’s Something I Need to Tell You…

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 5 – “There’s Something I Need to Tell You…” [Original air date: Oct. 9, 2012]

Somewhere someone is doing something right when it comes to the show Parenthood. I
squealed with excitement, muttered the word “What?” under my breath with shock, smiled with happiness, and cried my eyes out with uncontrollable emotion, all during this single 44-minute episode. Not sure if I should thank Patrick Norris who directed this particular episode, Jason Katims who wrote it, or the cast who brought the story alive; perhaps it was a collective effort. Regardless, this episode of Parenthood is bold, and appears to be both a turning point for the show’s storyline, as well as a major steppingstone for character development among many of the Braverman family members.

Finding a work life-family life balance is nearly impossible, and viewers get a glimpse here at how work can interfere with some of our other priorities. Work can be overwhelming to the point where you literally feel as if you’re being pushed over the edge, causing yourself to reach your breaking point. This seems to be the case with Julia and her job at the law firm. No one is superhuman, though many of us may try to be. Julia’s quest for perfection, along with her “I can do it all” mentality, becomes too much; a feeling many can probably relate to. She misses Sydeny’s recital, leaves Victor’s baseball game early, and hasn’t been able to fully tell Joel what’s been bothering her. Julia’s struggle is a great example of how work can cause us to worry: If I mess up I can lose my job, I need to please “the man,” I have deadlines which must be met, my mistakes could cause this company to fail, I could be the reason this company gets sued, I can’t focus on family because I need to do these assignments for work, etc. Julia’s struggle is also an example of how you have the power to change your own life: if you’re unhappy you can – and should – do something about it.

Work provides us with financial stability. However, when our family life changes our work paychecks don’t always change in the same fashion. Keeping a family together and raising children costs a whole lot of “cheddar,” and making that cheddar or asking for more can be difficult. Crosby understands, like many working individuals, that no one wants to have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Work can also change our romantic relationships, as seen in Sarah’s ordeal with co-worker/boss Hank. When other options knock at your door, particularly options which may intrigue you, you might second guess personal decisions. Vulnerability is seen throughout this episode, and though many people may fear being vulnerable, it is sometimes when we learn the most about ourselves and those around us.

It has been said that “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” but sometimes distance is too much to handle. Haddie, much like Julia, cannot focus on her work because of what is happening at home. In Haddie’s case, it is learning her mother has cancer and feeling helpless because she I so far away from home. Ryan just came back from Afghanistan – he was removed from reality, physically and mentally, and is now struggling to readjust after being distant for some time: “I’m sick of people looking at me like I’m a veteran, like there’s something wrong with me, like its broken or something. I don’t want to be a veteran, I’m just Ryan.” No one is alone in this world, no matter how alone we may feel at times. Parenthood reminds us about caring and love, and how important it is to show you care about and love those who matter most in your life. Whether it is because these people are part of your family or because you want to be there to help these individuals through tough times, everyone deserves to have some kind of support system. Zeek takes Ryan under his wing, and the Braverman family comes together for Victor during his baseball game. The theme of caring through love comes full-circle when Kristina shares about her cancer diagnosis. It is so easy to let other things like work get in the way of being there for your family. Perhaps we just need to practice being present and remind ourselves to say “I love you” a little more often. We are only human, but we cannot lose track of what we value most.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Talk

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 4 – “The Talk” [Original air date: Oct. 2, 2012]

Communication is the key to a successful relationship. When we have trouble properly communicating, or if we fail to effectively communicate – not sharing how we feel, purposely withholding information – relationships which otherwise would flourish, or relationships with great potential, suddenly hit a rough patch. Communication is based off understanding, awareness, and connection. Unless two people are on the same page, they are unlikely to fully understand each other. If one person in a relationship is more or less aware of the other in the relationship, it shows that the two parties are bringing varying levels of effort to the table. No relationship is perfect, because if it were life experience would never allow those in the relationship to learn and grow. Therefore it takes personal desire and natural chemistry to connect two people in a bond that may at times feel like perfection. When understanding, awareness, and connection are aligned communication is a given, but as we see in this episode of Parenthood, finding this alignment is far from easy, especially when trying to communicate with those of a different age level.

The world is quite different today from when our parents grew up, yet a great deal is similar even if people do not always see it this way. Joel and Julia desperately want their son Victor to get out and do something fun and physical where he meets and interacts with others kids, as Victor is quite stubborn, not fully adapted since being adopted, and basically plays videogames all day long, perhaps because he feels very much in his comfort zone while doing so. Technology is a barrier parents all over have to deal with when trying to communicate with their children, and parents may never understand the videogame craze of this generation – Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular even added a technology and videogame component to its famous holiday show this past Christmas season. Joel tries to find common ground with Victor by introducing him to a hobby he grew up loving: baseball. But nothing comes easy, especially when trying something new. Parenthood shows the struggle a child faces while being the odd-ball-out, and it sheds light on the often hard to deal with situation of raising a child which isn’t biologically yours. The line “You’re not my real Dad” is never something a stepfather, foster father, or adoptive father wants to hear, but the reality he probably will hear it as both kids and parents have a hard time finding where they belong and how they define “family.” Until it is realized that family does not have to mean blood-related, tension is bound to get in the way of allowing relationships to fully blossom.

We all know people who constantly put others before themselves. This is great, but these people often lose out and fail to take care of themselves. Physical and mental health is extremely important, and it is not selfish to put yourself first every now and then. Kristina is forever putting her family before herself, as many parents do. However, what good are you to your family and kids if you are no longer there? We are not the Energizer Bunny, and we will eventually breakdown if we do not give ourselves a break and treat ourselves once in a while. Kristina wants to be there for her son Max. Adam is concerned though, as Kristina puts dealing with Max’s Asperger’s in front of trying to beat her breast cancer. As a parent though, there is really only so much you can do before you give up your life and stop fully living. Max needed 25 signatures in order to be eligible to run for student council. What is challenging for one person may seem like nothing to someone else. Max got 25 “signatures,” yet some students didn’t actually sign their name, but wrote inappropriate or offensive slurs instead. One student wrote “Retard” on the signature line, making fun of Max’s handicap. Parenthood arguably joins the “R-Word” Campaign in the episode, and the pledge to Spread the Word to End the Word. Adam and Kristina really can’t talk to Max about this, as he won’t understand, but they struggle to decide on whether or not Max should still run for student council. Getting those signatures, whether they were actual signatures or not, was a huge effort on Max’s part. Would Adam and Kristina be setting their son up for failure by letting him run? Is it wrong to let kids learn to lose? When do we let go of their hands and allow them to fail on their own? Do the answers to these questions change if the child in question has a mental disability? Many questions are raised here. Max’s teacher advises against letting him run, telling Kristina that it’s hard for a “kid like Max,” implying that it’s hard or someone with a disability to be like the other kids, to do what they other kids do, and to be accepted as normal.

Crosby is white and Jasmine is back, making their son Jabbar biracial. This episode of Parenthood dives into the loaded topic of race, the differences between whites and blacks, and playing the race-card. Do blacks and whites not understand each other? Will they, or can they ever understand each other? How we think and speak about race legally versus socially is like oil and vinegar. The conversation of race is brought up thanks to music. Music, especially in today’s world, uses all types of violet, foul, and offensive language. Though this may not be the most ideal way of a child being exposed to these topics, sometimes this is how our children are exposed to more “adult” language. Perhaps we can think of foul language, and the definitions of words, to be like the topic of “sex” – if kids are old enough to ask about it, they are probably old enough to know a little about it. Would this be shattering our children’s innocents? Maybe. But as Jasmines sees it, she’d rather have her kid hear it from her first, before he hears it from someone else. Today’s world almost leads itself to forcing children into growing up faster and leaving their childhoods behind (rather opposite of the Peter Pan and Never Neverland teachings), and it isn’t until later in life where we wish we could get back your carefree childhood mentalities.

Parents cannot possibly understand and relate to everything their children are going to experience. Because of things like race, gender, ability, background, and age differences, no two people are the same. We are all different, and may all feel helpless at times. Crosby mentions that he felt “invisible” when Jasmine spoke to Jabbar about the N-word, saying he could not relate and was scared he would not be able to relate to other aspects of his son’s life in the future. We learn of this after Crosby tells Jasmine he had nothing to add to Jasmine’s talk to Jabbar. This is not unlike Adam’s situation where he had a hard time telling Kristina he didn’t want her to push back her operation; through these two storylines we see the importance of communication in a relationship. Though it is a relationship outside the Braverman family, Hank has to deal with trying to connect with his daughter Ruby even though he and Ruby’s mother are separated. Divorce puts a great deal of strain on a family, and all relationships related to that family. With the help of Sarah, Hank is able to reconnect with Ruby, even if Ruby is entering her teenage years, feeling she needs more independence, and thinking she wants less parental guidance. Not forcing your children to do anything they don’t want to do, and letting them be themselves is a strong message from Joel in this episode of Parenthood. Doing things you’ve never done before takes a sense of courage and bravery; no one likes being “the new kid.” Victor’s baseball storyline and Max’s run for student council president are very similar in this sense. We all strive to be normal, but what is normal anyways? We all look to assimilate in order to fit in and feel accepted. But as Parenthood brings to our attention: maybe we can be something different; something new.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Everything Is Not Okay

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 3 – “Everything Is Not Okay” [Original air date: Sept. 25, 2012

Nothing is forever and life is not fair. These two ideas seem to be an overarching theme in this particular episode of Parenthood. In the midst of unfair lives and coming to terms with the fact the things change over time and unexpectedly come and go, we can all do ourselves a favor if we practice open communication with those around us. “I’m going to be alright – then again, you never know what’s going to happen,” Zeek says to Adam in regards to his newly diagnosed heart condition. Adam’s reply: “I guess not.” We have no control over most things in life, yet it seems we spend the majority of our lives fussing over the aspects of life we cannot change. Sure, we can make certain decisions now which should theoretically set us up for a better, less stressful, more lucrative, happier, and fulfilling life down the road, but it is impossible to know what the future holds since nothing is guaranteed and anything can change at any given moment. As seen with the Braverman family, realizing all of this can be an emotional rollercoaster ride. This realization is not supposed to cause us to give up and leave life completely in the hands of fate, but to make life a little more manageable.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate, your boss at work may take his/her anger out on you even though you have nothing to do with the problem, and vending machines at school can be removed and not replaced no matter how upset you become. Kristina is scared, and rightfully so. She has no idea what the future of her cancer diagnosis may bring, and it takes a lot of effort to tell Adam that she does not want him being so positive all the time. Positive thoughts can only go so far, as sometimes we are forced to face reality. The average breast cancer survival rate is five to ten years; Adam and Kristina help viewers realize that there is no need to sugarcoat our lives. We often fail to see how good we have it until “it” is threatened to be taken away, and then suddenly we’re hit with the rude awakening that we haven’t been living life to the fullest.

Adam is hard on Amber at the recording studio, similar to the way Mark is condescending towards Sarah at the photography shop. Adam and Mark appear to misplace their anger, directing their emotions from their personal lives onto the wrong people: work colleagues. These misplaced emotions come off as rather real and not at all fabricated. Amber and Sarah provide us with different, yet fairly genuine ways of overcoming being caught in such situations. Max seems to have a new obsession each episode (last episode it was about getting a dog, this episode it’s regarding the lack of a vending machine at school), perhaps the way the writers of Parenthood looked to portray Asperger’s Syndrome to viewers. It becomes obvious that those who haven’t been exposed to Asperger's do not know how to respond to someone who has such a condition who often has outbursts others do not understand; Kudos to the Parenthood creative team for shedding light on such a difficult topic.

From family Intervention where the Braverman siblings sit and talk to Zeek about his expired drivers license and “reckless” driving which got him arrested (what looked like an age versus authority issue), to the brief idea that compromise and taking turns can lead to a more fulfilling friendship (as seen with Max and Micah), this episode of Parenthood is flooded with real-life scenarios we often overlook in our everyday lives. This brings us back to the notion of open communication mentioned above, as open communication is importance in every relationship. Kristina’s doctor could learn to be more personable, Zeek and Camille could learn to not hide health issues from their children, and both Adam and Mark could learn to be a little more honest with their coworkers. However, open communication is often based on timing. When is it the right time to share with family members that you have cancer? Perhaps being up front and sharing such devastating news right away is the proper approach, or maybe it’s alright to keep this information to ourselves because it really isn’t anyone else’s business. Once our secret starts getting in the way of other aspects of our life, it might be time to open up and communicate – especially to those who love us the most.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Left Field

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 2 – “Left Field” [Original air date: Sept. 18, 2012]

When playing a game it can sometimes be hard to tell if people are the ones playing the game or if the game is actually playing the people. Let’s face it: incorporating technology into our lives can be somewhat of a game, especially in today’s world with the amount of technology we use and consume on a daily basis. Do we control technology, or is technology controlling us? Sure, we use technology to help make our lives easier, but it may appear that some technology-savvy individuals rely so much on their devices and electronic reminders that life becomes rather fake. It’s arguable that those who are dependent on technology cut themselves short of true life experiences. Rather than getting genuine reality, we have come to accept phoniness and reproduction as being real. This episode of Parenthood is loaded with technology undertones, reminding viewers of both the pros and cons to our vast technology-saturated and completely mediated world.

Texting has practically replaced picking up the phone and calling; email is now the preferred mode of professional communication; we can have virtual online relationships with someone we’ve never actually met in real life. Technology is great, but also scary at the same time; it can become too much too fast if we do not watch ourselves. I would not be surprised if one day we have rehab for techies and Technology Anonymous meetings for tech-addicted individuals. Besides for the few exceptions though, nothing in life is truly bad if consumed in moderation. Still, technology seems to be taking over at such a speed, it is creating somewhat of a generation gap between users. As seen in Parenthood, when taking pictures we sometimes have our phones set to video; calendar applications make it nearly impossible to have business meetings without reminder-noises going off; we practically become slaves to phones, computers, and digital planners in our fast-paced environments.

Adam and Kristina are so scheduled – perhaps even anal regarding schedules – that a third party may become stressed out or even start hyperventilating by simply seeing Adam and Kristina’s phone calendars. (A time management tip: don’t be a slave to technology.) Viewers get a glimpse here of how easy it is to lose track of what is most important to you in life when you get so wrapped up in sticking to a schedule. (Another time management tip: accept the fact that interruptions will occur.) This “happy couple” argues when one of them is not as committed to the schedule as the other, as well as when situations do not go as planned. Like many couples out there, Adam and Kristina schedule “funky town,” a time when they can get a little more intimate with each other (Power to them!). Yet it might be nice, and healthy, to have a little unscheduled “funky town” once in a while, allowing yourself and your partner to be more sexually spontaneous.

Crosby and Jasmine show us what happens when your whole life is go-with-flow, never willing to commit. This “freestyle” mentality may appear to be more relaxed and less stressful, but it is obvious this is not always the case. Crosby and Jasmine do not entirely see eye-to-eye when it comes to scheduling. Each side of this duo is not always willing to give a little in order to please the other, and there is often miscommunication – i.e. who is picking Jabbar up from school? There is yet a third scheduling storyline taking place in this episode, as Joel and Julia show us another side of the scheduling equation: Sometimes what is scheduled needs to change thanks to unforeseen conflicts, family issues, and having/wanting to be there for the ones you love. Though it takes a few days away from the office and a lot of willpower, Julia is able to win over Victor’s trust, strengthening her and Victor’s relationship, as well as helping her and Joel’s marriage.

When necessary it’s important to take a leap of faith: Adam agrees with Kristina in letting Max get a dog, Crosby tries out the whole syncing digital calendars with Jasmine in an effort to foster better marital communication, Julia finds the inner discipline to keep her commitment and show Victor that in their family people keep the promises they make. Getting relationships to work is not easy, and Kristina’s cancer diagnosis reminds us to never take things for granted. Negative aspects of life can bring people together and make us stronger. It’s too bad we get so caught up in the “otherness” of life that we must lose, or learn we may lose, what we care about the most before we force ourselves to step back and reevaluate our priorities.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Family Portrait

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 1 – “Family Portrait” [Original air date: Sept. 11, 2012]

The Braverman’s are arguably the modern-day Brady Bunch: all of those who are “part of the family” are not necessarily blood related, everyone in the show has his or her own storyline, and all of the storylines intertwine and connect through character development and learning-centered life experiences. The average American family no longer fits the picturesque mold of Leave It to Beaver. This may explain why Parenthood tackles issues many modern families face today, in an almost updated and more independent 7th Heaven manner.

Religion has always seemed to be somewhat of a grey area, whether referring to history books, friendly conversation, or families’ belief systems. What is significant and why it is significant when it comes to religion are practically unanswerable questions – or if they are answerable, answers vary depending on who is doing the answering. The notion of religion was subtle in this episode of Parenthood, but was present just enough to make a lasting impression. Crosby and Jasmine struggle with how to talk to their son Jabbar about realign: What is the right or proper way to raise your children when it comes to religion? This episode had its stereotypical grandparent versus parent tension over which religious doctrine(s) should be instilled in a child. Not only does this illustrate a generational gap, but it sheds light on the realistic issue many people face today: traditional versus progressive thinking. In a world obsessed with always being politically correct, perhaps a little tradition can do us some good. Yet a little self-exploration can never hurt; there is a possibility that religious beliefs are meant to be discovered rather than bestowed upon us.

With the state of our economy the way it is today, job hunting might currently be the most stressful and discouraging task out there. Searching for a job may as well be the headlining joke for stand-up comedians from coast-to-coast. Lying about your work experience is never wise, but whose fault is it if you get hired after stating such lies if you are never interviewed and the person hiring you never does a screening or background check before offering you the position? The way Sarah obtains a photography job in this episode is rather unrealistic. Still, it points out that a good work-relationship has one worker handling the managerial aspects of the job while his/her colleague acts as the people-person in charge of schmoozing customers. Also in this episode, and related to the work environment, is the often hard to balance aspects of our personal versus professional lives. Viewers saw how Peter treated the band at the recording studio after the lead singer “used” Amber. Where do we draw the line and choose what in our personal lives can and cannot acceptably affect our professional lives? Though these are supposed to be mutually exclusive categories, our emotions have a way of crossing the line – regardless of where it is drawn – bridging the two sides together, whether for the better or worse.

Parenthood continuously finds a way to bring its messages back to the idea of family. Joel and Julia appear to struggle with integrating their adopted son Victor into their family: you must love and trust people rather than treat them like a guest if you want them to feel accepted. The main family aspect of this episode however, was seen through Haddie’s storyline. Haddie’s character comes off as rather fake and selfish at first, but it is quickly realized that she is dealing with a lot. Her emotional outreach, though it may seem forced at times, is actually quite genuine and real given the circumstances. Haddie manages to turn a negative into a positive, stating that she admires her brother Max’s honesty and ability to say what he thinks and knows even though this is a side effect of his Asperger Syndrome. Parenthood is filled with family hardships, such as having to say goodbye to your oldest child as you send her off to college. However crazy one’s family may seem viewers should all be in agreement that family is irreplaceable.