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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 1: Be My Asperger's Blanket

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Christina and Adam prepare for Haddie's first year of college. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NBC.COM
  • Photo courtesy of NBC.com
  • Christina and Adam prepare for Haddie's first year of college.

This week we said goodbye to summer filler programming from broadcast TV (the networks probably just conceded that you were watching Breaking Bad anyway) and last night saw the return of NBC's Parenthood, kicking off its fourth lovably inoffensive season. SF Weekly covered the show's Bay Area setting and their scripts' unnatural references to it ("We're on the cover of the San Francisco Weekly!") last year, and I'll be following the Bravermans of Berkeley through this fall season as they cry, yell, hug, and then cry some more each week.

We open the season premiere with Braverman Portrait week and we learn that Camille had long ago implemented a rule not allowing any non-legal Bravermans into their family photos, which means that Sarah cannot invite her ridiculously adorable fiancé Mark (the ever-likable Jason Ritter) until they are officially hitched. Don't let her artsy, gardening Berkeley retiree façade fool you: Camille is channeling a hard-ass Asian grandma right here. If that ain't your guaranteed future spouse, get to stepping. Mark is nursing some serious emotional wounds over not being allowed in this photo -- which, for a less personable guy would seem completely creepy -- and he shows up to Camille and Zeek's house to deliver an earnest speech about being proud to be part of the Bravermans and his love for Sarah. Unable to resist his charm, Camille eventually lifts the ban.

Over at Crosby and Jasmine's house, Crosby has noticed that his son Jabbar has started praying. I bet he's asking God how in the hell Jasmine agreed to marry Crosby, the dude who cheated on the mother of his child with his autistic nephew's behavioral counselor. But he may also be thanking God that he got mostly Jasmine's genes. This kicks off a pretty tepid subplot of Crosby wondering how to explain spirituality to his son -- who has already been partially indoctrinated by his Christian maternal grandmother -- when he doesn't have a belief system of his own. It's easy, Crosby. You belong to the Church of Bad Decisions. And luckily, in the Bay Area, you can simply say that you're "spiritual" just because you go to Bikram yoga and no one asks you for clarification. At the end, Crosby tells Jabbar that he believes in his family and just knows that he's blessed.

Meanwhile, Julia and Joel are having a hard time getting their adopted son Victor to engage with them or speak to them in full sentences. If you watched last season, you know that J & J took a young pregnant Latina woman named Zoe into their home so she could give them her baby. Only, Zoe decided to retain her legal right to crush their parenting dreams (Well, not really since they already have a biological daughter, Sydney. Did you guys forget all about her?) and raise the baby herself. But as the old saying goes, when the universe takes away one Latino child from a rich white couple, it gives them another, this time in the form of grade-school aged Victor who literally popped out of a social services van right after they learn of Zoe's decision last season. But it's not surprising that Victor is uneasy at the prospect of being a Braverman, particularly after cousin Max denies him access to his prized pet lizard Guacamole because he's "not really" family, as he's adopted. When Guacamole goes missing, fingers get pointed at Victor but Julia is too hesitant to confront him because he's already meh on the family as is. Joel suggests that they treat him like any other Braverman (i.e., yell at him) and Julia admits that she feels like she's still waiting to fall in with their new son. He's not exactly crazy about you guys, either.

At Adam and Kristina's house, Haddie is inundated with family events as she's set to leave for her first year at Cornell. This particular faction of the Braverman family has the unattractive habit of all talking at once, at very high volume, all the time. It's just pure noise. They all go out to Burger 'n Pie (Sadly, a fictional restaurant. Good name choice, though) and again, their cacophony takes over the entire space, their poor waitress having to be on the receiving end of Max's rant that the Torpedo burger has been taken off the menu. In Max's defense, it does sound like an awesome burger.

Later, Haddie tries to have a tender moment with her little brother, giving him a gift of a weighted blanket which apparently a lot of people with Asperger's tend to like. I assume it feels like a constant hug? That's sweet. Haddie tells Max that she loves him and he responds with something akin to "Yeah, I know." I think I've dated Max before. Haddie later freaks out about the insanity of the Braverman house (prompted after Max tears through her packed suitcases looking for his lizard) but when it comes time for Adam and Kristina to drop her off at the airport, Haddie finally breaks down and realizes that she's actually leaving home. She gets out of her place in the security line to get one final sobbing hug in with her parents. It's one of those signature Jason Katims moments that remind us that maybe we all need someone to be our weighted Asperger's blanket.

Over at the Braverman-led recording studio, The Luncheonette, American Idol alum Paul McDonald plays a musician named Nick who hooks up with Amber, now working as the receptionist. She was formerly an assistant for a City Council candidate but left after Christina interrupted them in the bedroom. Amber then replaced the former Luncheonette receptionist who was fired for kissing Adam. This show is creating such a stigma for women in entry-level administrative jobs. Some of us don't have bosses that look like Peter Krause and are forced to simply answer the phone and make copies, per our job descriptions. Anyway, if you don't remember Paul McDonald, he looks like Bradley Cooper's scraggly little brother, has a set of blindingly white teeth, sounds like Kim Carnes, and used to dance on the AI stage in a manner that inspired my boyfriend to nickname him "The Raptor." Amber and Nick lay in bed in her dungeon of an apartment, singing silly songs on an acoustic guitar together which sounds like every sane person's worst post-coital nightmare. But the honeymoon is soon over when Nick's girlfriend arrives at The Luncheonette to surprise him with anniversary muffins. When Adam finds out, he interrupts the band's recording session and kicks them out, despite Crosby's reasonable protests in the name of earning some kind of income and that Amber will learn from her own mistakes and experiences. Amber echoes this same sentiment later, asking Adam to treat her like an adult and a real employee.

Sarah is in charge of dropping off the portrait deposit at the photographer's studio and meets the surly owner Hank, played by guest star Ray Romano. Perpetually underemployed Sarah sees a "help wanted" sign in the window and lies about having photography experience in order to get hired. For what she lacks in any photography knowledge whatsoever, she makes up with her ability to interact warmly with clients, which Hank clearly cannot do. However, when she fumbles with her assistant duties during a family portrait session, Hank fires her. That makes things awkward when he later shows up to take the Bravermans' photo, especially when he visibly bristles at learning that Sarah is 1) engaged and 2) engaged to a young stud. He re-hires her because he knows that he is physically incapable of schmoozing with clients and because he is likely already in love with her.

And finally, Sarah's son Drew -- who finally got a story line and some speaking parts last season -- starts a weight-lifting regimen in anticipation of his girlfriend Amy's return to town, which has been mysteriously postponed a few times. When she arrives, Drew -- in a sleeveless shirt, straight from the weight bench we presume -- greets her enthusiastically but she clearly has her break-up face on. The only upshot to this is that perhaps we get to hear Drew speak more next episode. And see him wear sleeves.

Parenthood airs on Tuesdays at 10:00 pm on NBC.

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Sylvie Kim

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