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Showing posts with label Jason Ritter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jason Ritter. Show all posts

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Parenthood has its rewards

Article first published as Parenthood has its rewards on TheTVKing

The season finale of NBC's Parenthood, entitled "Because You're My Sister," was very busy. The Braverman clan is a large family, and it takes quite a bit of time to serve each family member in their story. Not every episode makes it around to everyone, but this one did better than most at serving a large number of the cast.

A huge part of the sweetness this week comes when Victor's (Xolo Mariduena) adoption is finalized. The entire family piles into a single courtroom, and many of them get to take turns telling Victor how glad they are that he is a part of their clan, and what they are willing to do for him. Every Parenthood season finale needs an organic group scene like this. We see Julia (Erika Christensen) struggle in previous episode with the decision to accept Victor, and it's great to see her affection grow towards him. But it's also wonderful when everyone else jumps on, and this finally makes Victor seem like one of the Bravermans and not just one of the Grahams.

Of course, the road to the courthouse isn't without incident. I'm not talking about Victor breaking the expensive bowl, because it almost seems like a test of Julia done on purpose. At minimum, it's an accident that scares Victor. It isn't until that moment that Victor knows he is fully welcome in their home. But by that time, the drama of doubt is over, as Julia has already made her decision, and she's not going to go back on it.

No, I'm talking about Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae) telling Victor that he isn't her brother. It's a natural thing for a kid to feel or say, acting out against change. However, that doesn't make it any less cruel. I feel like Victor understands that Sydney is just blowing off steam, because he's had enough practice at doing the same thing himself lately. He's also anxious to be part of the family after Julia accepts him, and so does what he needs to do to win Sydney over. It's gratifying when Sydney comes around, too, even if it doesn't take some big event to move her.

Part of what Parenthood does well is write authentically for the children, and actually give them something to do. Many series with kids running around ignore the youngsters, or use them only as comedic gags against the adults. Parenthood lets Sydney and Victor act their age, and have a bit of real story between them. Very cool.

Victor isn't the only new face joining the Bravermans. Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant) learn they will soon be having a new baby. As the youngest of the Braverman couples, and the most ready for a new addition, this is great news. It might be slightly unexpected, as it hasn't been addressed in the story that they are trying, but at the same time, it just feels like a natural part of life moving on.

The news of a baby makes Crosby take stock of his situation with his mother-in-law, Renee (Tina Lifford). It's not that Crosby is wrong in his argument with Renee, but it's more that he needs to just let his anger go. Renee does overstep with her grandson, but she's family, and Crosby understands that. Renee has done a lot for them, especially Crosby's son, Jabbar (Tyree Brown), so sometimes, one should overlook her faults. I don't know that she will be moving back in with them anytime soon, but it's nice to see peace, and I like what having Renee around does to Crosby, forcing him to mature, eventually anyway.

 A tragedy is averted in "Because You're My Sister" when we learn that Kristina (Monica Potter) has beat her cancer. She's not cured, but she is cancer free. Honestly, I feel like cancer is the go-to crisis in family dramas, and I never cared for the story. It's great to see Kristina healthy, if for no other reason than it puts this arc to rest. Hopefully, the illness with not come back.

Other good news in the episode comes for many other characters. Drew (Miles Heizer) gets into a great school, the first in his immediate family to attend college, even if it takes him far away from Amy (Skyler Day), who things are over with anyway. Amber (Mae Whitman) reunites with Ryan (Matt Lauria), something she is afraid of, with cause, but wants, and maybe he could make her happy.

Lastly, though, after all of this happiness, is the tear jerker story. Sarah (Lauren Graham) has to choose between Mark (Jason Ritter), who makes a play to win her back, and Hank (Ray Romano), who she is currently with. Sarah chooses Hank, who then promptly announces he's moving to Minnesota to be with his daughter.

This is rough, but there's little that could be done to make it better, and it all unfolds very naturally. Some argue that Sarah always chooses the wrong guy, but I think that she is right in picking Hank. After all, she has made several attempts with Mark, and they just don't seem to work for all that long. Hank cares about her, and he's good to her. There is no doubt in my mind that he could make her happy. The twist with his daughter only presents him as a better man. Plus, how much would Hank shake up the dynamics when the whole clan comes together?

So what should Sarah do now? Should she move with Hank to Minnesota? I really want her to, but only if the series follows her, and they find a way to come back at some point next season. I don't think that she can go back to Mark now, not after telling him she chose Hank. It will make him feel like second place, which will only implode their next relationship more quickly. Or she might find someone else, which is a little bit of a shame, given that she already has two amazing actors after her character. It would take someone really, really good to be worthy at this point.

The mostly feel-good plots of "Because You're My Sister" allow Parenthood to end on an uplifting note, even as some sadness is mixed in. All of it tugs at the heart perfectly, and it remains one of the best family dramas in recent memory. Hopefully this won't be a series finale, but if it does turn out to be so, at least the series finished well.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Parenthood keeps on rowing

Parenthood - "Keep on Rowing"
Grade: 88%

NBC's Parenthood returns this week for the final few episodes of the fourth season with "Keep on Rowing." Kristina (Monica Potter) tries to reward her husband, Adam (Peter Krause), for putting up with her behavior lately. Crosby (Dax Shepard) considers helping out his mother-in-law, Renee (Tina Lifford). Julia (Erika Christensen) begins to have second thoughts about adopting Victor (Xolo Mariduena). And Hank (Ray Romano) helps Sarah (Lauren Graham) get over her ex.

Parenthood has gone a little more melodramatic this season, taking the story into areas it doesn't necessarily need to go to keep the drama up, and getting a bit preachy at times. Thank goodness the Bravermans remain the same engaging, lovable characters they always have been, or else this slightly less than stellar storytelling could begin to drag the series down.

The most frustrating arc has been Kristina's cancer. It's a common card pulled out in a family drama after a few years on the air, when the ideas start to run a bit dry. However, without the drama behind the scenes, a la Brothers & Sisters, there seems little chance that Kristina will actually perish, as the sensibilities of the show are lighter than that. Thus, each attempt to make her situation seem dire just comes across as hokey.

That being said, it's sweet to see Adam being a good husband. I mean, we know that Adam is a good husband, but it's nice to be reminded of just how sweet he is. And then for Kristina to not only acknowledge that, but also to try to repay him a bit for his patience and support, well, that gets genuinely moving. Plus, she looks good with the red hair, and the surprise cameo by Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars, 2 Broke Girls), hitting on a vivacious Kristina in the bar, is fun.

The sucky story of "Keep on Rowing" goes to Crosby. Adam has to talk him into agreeing to loan Renee money, and then Jasmine (Joy Bryant) practically bullies her mother into their house. Taking care of family is important, something Crosby ought to understand, given his upbringing, and the people that make up his own relations. Perhaps he may not want Renee in his house, and that's understandable. But that doesn't mean that he can protest and still be a sympathetic character. In the end, Crosby does the right thing, but it feels a bit too little, too late for viewers who have to sit through his selfish whining.

I also am not a fan of Julia turning against Victor. I can see why she'd be upset, with Victor throwing a bat near Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae). I even feel Joel (Sam Jaeger) may have under-reacted at first to the incident. However, stretching this into Julia considering not keeping Victor may just go too far, especially after only one occurrence of this nature, and one that can so clearly be chalked up to an accident.

The thing is, everything about this incident is understandable. From Sydney being a brat and running her mouth, to Victor's response and feeling bad about it later, to Julia's fear for her daughter, it all makes sense, given the characters and the circumstances. I don't like the story because I want to see Julia win Victor over, and Victor to eventually feel like part of the family. Yet, it's done in such an authentic way, and acted well, that it doesn't deserve to be complained about.

I am extremely disappointed to see things between Sarah and Mark (Jason Ritter) come to an end. There is so much working against them, it is satisfying when they finally find a way to be happy as a couple. Still, there are enough issues in the relationship that the fact that it ends isn't entirely surprising, even if there is also real love present.

Now that Mark is gone, though, the door has really opened for Hank, who seems a much better match for the elder Braverman daughter. He relates to Sarah, and it seems like he feels lucky to be with her. This means that he will treat her well, and she is certainly smitten with him, too. They started things way too soon, to be sure, with Sarah and Mark having only recently split, but at the same time, they kind of act like soul mates. Hank also brings a new personality to the series that isn't there until he arrives, which should shake up the dynamics nicely.

Only time will tell if Parenthood can find a way to make Hank a main character, as he deserves to be. That is, should Parenthood get a fifth season, which is not a certainty at this point.

"Keep on Rowing" is a solid episode in a solid season. Even when the plots stray a bit too far away from where I'd like them to go, this show remains compelling, and I look forward to watching each new episode. I think the missteps are just disappointments because I know how amazing Parenthood is at its best, so when it stumbles to only better than average, it feels like a slight let down. If it does go off the air, I will be disappointed and miss it. I consider that the true test for if a show is good or not, and on that scale, Parenthood definitely passes.

Parenthood airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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Article first published on

Friday, September 14, 2012

Parenthood a "Family Portait" of characters

Grade: 89%

NBC’s PARENTHOOD returns this week with “Family Portrait.” Picking up five months after where last season left off, which makes sense, since it ended in late February, the Braverman clan gather to take a picture together. As one might expect, the road to get there is a little rocky, but it all comes together in the end, and there are some fantastic snapshots to show for it. Which doubles as a great summary of the series, too.

Sarah (Lauren Graham) is upset because Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) won’t let Mark (Jason Ritter) into the picture, even though they are engaged. The couple has not set a date yet, and Mark hasn’t even put a ring on her finger yet, so one might understand Camille’s hesitance, especially when there is a cautionary tale involving Crosby (Dax Shepard) already in the family’s history. But engaged means something, right?

Well, maybe not. Ritter is still only a recurring player, and PARENTHOOD quickly introduces someone else with their eye on Sarah, played by Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond, Men of a Certain Age). Ray is a grumpy guy who has been hurt, but may come out of his shell a bit for Sarah. Plus, he has great chemistry with Drew (Miles Heizer), and also more age appropriate, as Mark shows some immaturity when dealing with the picture situation. No one wants to see Ritter leave, but if he does, it’s nice to know someone as fantastic as Romano is waiting in the wings to take his place. He is good in episode one, much, much better in episode two.

Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina (Monica Potter) face their own impending departure as it’s time for Haddie (Sarah Ramos) to leave for college. Interestingly, Ramos continues to be listed as a main character, though she is absent from episode two, and there haven’t been any hints that the series might follow her to school. Whether she comes back a lot or a little, PARENTHOOD handles her leaving, withd all the pressures and mixed emotions that go with it, as wonderfully as one has come to expect from the show. Even better, these things continue for her parents into the second episode of the season in a very cute way.

Julia (Erika Christensen) is in a completely different stage of parenthood, still walking on egg shells around her newly adopted son. While Joel (Sam Jaeger) is ready to start treating the boy normally, as Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae) doesn’t understand the special circumstances so well, Julia is so afraid that he won’t be comfortable with them that she goes overboard in trying to make him feel accepted and welcome. Who is right? The answer may surprise you.

Things are not all peaches for the fourth Braverman offspring, either. Crosby and Jasmine (Joy Bryant) seem like a solid couple now, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still have challenges. Crosby slipped back into less domesticated ways during their time apart, and getting back into the swing of things will not be easy. He may want to be a great husband, and he’ll try, but that doesn’t mean he can do everything that he wants to do. Look for a shifting balance here as the couple figures out what a mature marriage looks like. Frustrating for Crosby, it looks a lot like what Adam and Kristina have, though surely this younger pair will find their own way to do it.

The other story of note in “Family Portrait” belongs to Amber (Mae Whitman). When last we saw her, she made a very adult decision, picking a possible career over a boyfriend. In the first episode back, she makes the mistake of sleeping with a guy who is otherwise involved. Adam rushes to her rescue, his feelings about Haddie possibly clouding his judgment. What is impressive is the way in which Amber deals with the situation, showing how much she has grown. Her maturation has been a true pleasure to watch, and seeing her enter the real world with grace and good decision making skills is terrific.

Overall, “Family Portrait” feels a little long, possibly because it takes time to catch up with the Bravermans, for whom much time has passed. But by episode two, things are flying by again, even if a little forced, somewhat over the top drama is tossed in late in the second episode. Bottom line, television’s favorite, heart warming family is back with the same quality of heart, humor, and realism fans have come to expect. It feels good.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Parenthood ends with tears and a wedding

NBC's Parenthood is always among the first of the network shows to bow out for the season, and with last night's episode, "My Brother's Wedding," it does so again. Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant) rush their wedding into existence in less than a week. This happens despite Crosby's feud with Adam (Peter Krause), which heats up as Adam pressures Crosby into selling their business. Also, Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) struggle with their devastation at not getting the baby they were promised, and consider other options, while other Bravermans fall in and out of love.

Crosby and Jasmine getting married is long overdue. For awhile, it appears that the two are ready to move on, both dating delightful people, who are great additions to the series. But in a cast as full as Parenthood's is, there just isn't any room for too many extras, and they were superfluous. Yes, the idea isn't romantic, but it's realistic for the confines of a network television budget. And so, gone are Dr. Joe (DB Woodside) and Lily (Courtney Ford), as regrettable as that may be.

In some ways, Crosby and Jasmine's nuptials in "My Brother's Wedding" come out of nowhere, as the characters have been separated for quite a bit of time, and only reunite in the penultimate episode of the season. On the other hand, this is a plot thread begun in the very first episodes of Parenthood, and one this has often seemed an inevitable conclusion. Crosby is finally mature enough to handle a family, and so he gets one. It's nice that Parenthood decides to stop playing around and just get them together already, in a hopefully permanent situation, even if it may have been done partially due to fear of cancellation.

The main story of "My Brother's Wedding," more than the wedding itself, is the fight between Crosby and Adam. These two siblings are as close as can be, and their purchase of the Luncheonette earlier this season solidified that. While the two have plenty of stories together prior to this arc, seeing them in business together creates a whole new, welcome, dynamic. To think that they might give it up for money, admittedly, a whole lot of money, is heartbreaking.

That is the crux of the fight. The Luncheonette is Crosby's dream, but Adam only sees it as a business. Worried about his family's financial future, Adam is eager to sell, even before the offer is upped considerably. He doesn't think about what it means to Crosby all that much, and certainly doesn't even consider how the business has brought them closer together.

Crosby, on the other hand, is not only in his dream career, but genuinely seems to enjoy working with Adam. It's this affection that convinces him to let Adam sell, not wanting to deny his elder brother his own dreams. Until Adam sees this, it looks like the partnership might be over. But in a very touching wedding toast, almost coming too late, Adam waxes the truth of the matter, and decides to turn down the offer. It's a prime example of the best that Parenthood has to offer, and a moment that will rank among the series's best, even should the show go on for ten years. As it should.

Joel and Julia are wrecked in "My Brother's Wedding," but not surprised, when Zoe (Rosa Salazar) decides to back out of the adoption. While Zoe does seem sincere when she says she had no inkling that she wants to back out of the adoption prior to her son's birth, it's a fear that haunts Joel and Julia all season long. And with good cause. As parents themselves, they know how the birth of a child can change a person. For Zoe, she is leaving this ordeal enriched and in a much better place, and is rightfully grateful for everything Joel and Julia have done for her. But for the couple, Zoe deciding to be a mother is a painful betrayal, and Zoe is lucky that they handle it with grace, when anger would be perfectly justifiable here.

However, Joel and Julia's plot going forward in "My Brother's Wedding" seems rushed. They immediately go to someone to expand the pool of children they are looking to take in. When they are asked if they would be willing for a last minute placement, and agree, it's highly predictable that they will have a child by the end of the hour. And sure enough, they do, though he's a boy at least as old as their daughter, Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae), rather than a newborn. Only in television, with the threat that Parenthood may not get a fourth season, would a bureaucratic system move so swiftly!

If Joel and Julia thought the risk of losing Zoe's baby was great, wait until they get attached to this boy! His mother is incarcerated, and only gives up her rights to him up to keep him out of "the system," assumedly, foster care. It seems incredibly likely that, should the show return, she will be freed at some point and seek to get custody of her son back. Joe and Julia may be much better caretakers than this unseen criminal mommy, but courts usually side with the biological parents, if that's at all possible. This could end in even more tears, which would not be fair to the characters or the fans of Parenthood, who have suffered along with the couple.

Sarah (Lauren Graham) also has babies on her mind when she dumps Mark (Jason Ritter). Mark is willing to do without children, something he'd really like to have, but Sarah isn't about to let him make that sacrifice for her. She has a point. Mark may think he is making the right decision now, but who's to say that he won't regret it later in life?

To the delight of many a fan, Mark wins her back and proposes, which she accepts, by the end of "My Brother's Wedding." The question is, how successful will this be? Sarah's fear about Mark's potential regrets are real and unresolved. The simplest solution would be to have Sarah get pregnant, then come around to the idea of raising another child. After all, viewers have gone through enough heartbreak with this pair. However, that's also an anti-feminist story, in a way, which could offend a number of women. In that regard, it may seem a little old fashioned should this happen, but compromise is also the key to any successful relationship, and might just need to happen here if the two are destined to stay together. That is, if Ritter doesn't get another series. Budget be damned, lock him in as a series regular Parenthood! It's necessary!

New love blossoms as Drew (Miles Heizer) and Amy (Skyler Day) decide to do the nasty in "My Brother's Wedding." That's a crude description of what has been a sweet, young romance. But how else to talk about it when they sneak upstairs and get it on with their family right below at the wedding? Just because it's a season finale, does not mean that Parenthood should have rushed this along. Their hooking up is actually a great scene for those who like love. But the circumstances surrounding it are this episode's misstep.

In the meantime, Amber (Mae Whitman) must choose between her job and being with Bob Little (Jonathan Tucker). He is her boss, and running for office, so it wouldn't be cool for him to sleep with his assistant. And yet, Bob, who is supposedly a "great politician" doesn't concern himself with this. He is genuinely interested in Amber, and also in need of her capabilities as his assistant. There is no discussion of him considering how it might hurt his standing with the voters. And so the choice falls to Amber and Amber alone.

It's a shame that this is handled clumsily, and the resolution stretched out an episode or two longer than it should be just so it winds up in the season finale. But Amber makes the right choice. Yes, it would be terrific to see her in a sturdy relationship with Bob, who seems like a good fit. However, Amber is only 19, and just starting out in the professional world. She should not give up a chance at a real career doing something that she is good at for any guy. If they are meant to be together, it can still happen down the road. She is smart to not toss out the opportunity at this juncture.

Amber's story channels the classic head versus heart debate. Many people of a romantic notion always root for heart. In reality, head must sometimes be given the preference. Not all the time, mind you, but in certain situations. The one presented in "My Brother's Wedding" for Amber just feels like one of those times. So while Amber and Bob not being together might be sad, it's the right thing for the character and the show.

Lastly, it is worth noting who Crosby's best man is. The character is named Billy, and he is played by Derek Phillips. Phillips played the character of Billy on Jason Katim's other series, Friday Night Lights. This Billy has a different last name, but fans of Katim, who created Parenthood, will not miss the reference, as Parenthood's Billy acts very much like early Friday Night Lights Billy. Also, this could just be coincidence, but the woman in the green dress that Billy dances with at the wedding in "My Brother's Wedding" looks an awful lot like Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, who played Billy's mother-in-law on FNL.

In all, Parenthood delivers a moving, fantastic season finale. If the world is just, the story will continue next fall on NBC.

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Article first published as TV Review: Parenthood - "My Brother's Wedding" on Blogcritics.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Parenthood is "Missing" nothing

     NBC's Parenthood ends their fall run with "Missing," Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina (Monica Potter) both have to work on Saturday, so they cancel a planned trip to the museum for Max (Max Burkholder). The boy is left in Haddie's (Sarah Ramos) care, and sneaks away anyway, sending Haddie and Adam into a panic. They search frantically, and are unable to reach Kristina, because she has her phone on silent since she is mad at Adam. Max is found safe and sound, with Haddie being the only most upset by the whole ordeal. On a positive note, it does help Kristina realize what is really important, and she makes up with Adam.

     As frustrating as it is when Rachel (Alexandra Daddario, White Collar) kisses Adam, everything that comes after it on Parenthood is realistic and well written. It's not Adam's fault that the incident happens, mostly, but Kristina's anger is understandable. It's also totally believable that they would get caught up in their own stuff and forget just how bad Max takes changes of plans. The phone conversations between Kristina and Rachel in "Missing" are weird, but necessary to resolve things between them. And while Parenthood does choose to have Max go "Missing," a big, dramatic move that most shows would do to improve ratings, it is handled with care and an authentic level of emotional reaction, rather than going over the top. All in all, this story shakes out very well, allowing fine acting moments for Krause, Potter, and Ramos.

     Kudos also must go to Parenthood for the handling of Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant). It is not uncommon for exes, especially those sharing a child, to fall back into bed together. Should "Missing" go into sitcom territory, a comedy of errors would ensue, ending with the parents getting back together. Or in a place where neither is happy, but they are on the path to reconnecting. Instead, Crosby realizes just how good a guy Dr. Joe (DB Woodside) is, and steps away, letting Jasmine go. As much as fans want to see Crosby and Jasmine together, it might be wiser for Parenthood to instead make a permanent bond between Jasmine and Joe. They are both good people, despite Jasmine's slip, Woodside is a great actor, and it would be the unexpected thing to do. Surely, viewers cannot hate Dr. Joe, after seeing how he cares for Jabbar (Tyree Brown). Why not go for it?

     Julia (Erika Christensen) faces a tough situation when her potential adopted baby's daddy wants money, something illegal and wrong that she will not cave into. But then, in "Missing," Julia has a difficult time shutting out the mommy-to-be, Zoe (Rosa Salazar). This is because Julia is a kind, caring individual, and she has bonded with Zoe. Zoe, meanwhile, has few people she can go to, and it caught in the middle between her boyfriend and Julia. After a fight with her man, she goes to Julia for comfort, and Julia reluctantly gives it. Julia can't help herself. Whether Zoe is able to give Julia the baby or not, a possibility still very much up in the air, there is something between these two that will not be easily thrown out. Until Zoe gets back on firmer ground, Julia will be there for her.

     Sarah (Lauren Graham) has no such drama with her own baby situation. Babysitting Nora for Kristina and Adam, she is pleased to see Mark (Jason Ritter) take so sqweetly to the infant. Later, relaxing together, Mark blurts out that he could see himself having a baby with her. Again, in other dramas, this would be a break up moment for the couple, with Sarah arguing she is too old to raise another child, since hers are grown. Instead,  Parenthood recognizes that there is some serious, deep love between the two, and lets Sarah not be weirded out. It would be interesting for the two to concieve a child, and suddenly, that seems like a possibility. Either way is fine, but hopefully Parenthood will not let Mark go anywhere, because there needs to be more for this couple.

     Amber (Mae Whitman) is definitely the connection point for many young viewers, a juicy, desirable demographic. She is working as hard as she can, but still finds it difficult to make ends meet. So she has to try to find a better paying job, because minimum wage doesn't cut it to keep a cheap, old car and a crummy apartment. Something is certainly wrong with this picture, but it's the same something felt by young adults all over America. And it doesn't feel preachy or forced to include this arc in "Missing" and other Parenthood episodes.

     Try as one might, it is very, very difficult to find anything wrong with "Missing." It is a supremely wonderful episode, and a great example of when Parenthood gets it right, which is often. The series doesn't get too dramatic, and doesn't make things happen just for drama's sake in "Missing." Sure, they have in the past, as every show does. But the mistakes in Parenthood are fewer and further than between than most. And none are currently in sight.

     Parenthood will return in January to NBC.

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     Click here to purchase streaming episodes and DVDs of Parenthood.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Forced Family Fun" just another part of Parenthood

     In this week's installment of NBC's Parenthood, "Forced Family Fun," Kristina (Monica Potter), saddened by the way her family seems to be growing apart, makes the whole clan plan to spend an evening together. But stressed out by their complaining, she leaves them standing on the side of the road. Also, Crosby (Dax Shepard) is uncomfortable when Jabbar (Tyree Brown) spends time with Dr. Joe (DB Woodside), Julia (Erika Christensen) worries over Zoe's (Rosa Salazar) diet, and Sarah (Lauren Graham) helps Seth (John Corbett) through rehab.

     Kristina is right that a family needs to make time to spend together, and from her perspective, as of "Forced Family Fun," they aren't. Adam (Peter Krause) has the new business he's trying to get off the ground with Crosby, Haddie (Sarah Ramos) is a senior preparing for college, and Max (Max Burkholder) is still adjusting to being in a mainstream class in a public school, so they are justifiably busy. While at home with the new baby by herself all day, Kristina's not being too selfish to ask for a little time with the others. She isn't even trying to get them to help out with the infant, something she probably needs, as being with someone who can't talk all of the time is driving her a little crazy. Who can blame her?

     It's also understandable that Kristina has the reaction that she does, stranding Adam, Haddie, and Max on the side of the road, albeit, not far from where they live. The chastised relations do their best to make it up to their mother and wife, while Kristina apologizes for her rash actions. No one is really in the wrong more than the others, as Kristina does over react, and the others are trying to please her. Just normal, realistic family problems, with a little bit of early empty nest syndrome thrown in for good measure. They will work themselves out in time, per Parenthood's typical trend, and this is not a situation that bears worrying about.

     Unlike, say, Julia's baby issues. Having to watch someone like Zoe carry an unborn child that Julia is adopting is hard for the resident control freak of Parenthood. Joel (Sam Jaeger) tries to calm Julia, but both realize that they can't let Zoe go on eating raw sushi all the time, as she does in "Forced Family Fun." It's just not good for the baby. Julia tries to appeal to Zoe's sense, promising that she isn't just speaking up because she is getting the baby. And she's probably not. Julia is a warm-hearted individual, who cares for Zoe. But that doesn't mean that Zoe isn't offended when confronted.

     Thankfully, Zoe ends up going over to Julia's house for dinner, showing signs of forgiving the intrusion. She realizes Julia has her best interests at heart, and as Julia fears, Zoe has no one else. As such, it's nice that Julia, and Joel, to a lesser extent, can be there to offer their support during Zoe's pregnancy. Zoe may have been a stranger, but now she's becoming quite close.

     The worry here is, Zoe does not want an open adoption, and neither do Joel and Julia. What will happen if the three become very friendly, and one of the parties begins to change their mind? It makes sense for Zoe to have a relationship with her unborn child down the road, even though it will cause plenty of awkwardness and confusion, when she likes the family so much, and there are two mothers. But that could also interfere with the child's development. It's a tricky situation that bares careful consideration before any more major decisions are finalized.

     Another serious event in this week's Parenthood is Seth's rehab. Sarah wants to be there for the father of her children, but her feelings do not just stem from sharing offspring. If they did, she wouldn't have to be as involved as she is. And frankly, the kids are old enough to make up their own minds about their dad, and follow their own direction. In fact, Sarah is more into Seth's recovery than either of their children. The fact of the matter is, Sarah obviously still harbors romantic feelings for Seth. Which may not exactly be healthy.

     That's why Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), shut out by Sarah for voicing his concerns, asks Adam to have a conversation with his sister in "Forced Family Fun." Both men are worried about what getting back with Seth might mean for Sarah. Given Seth's track record of disappointment and hurt, Sarah should definitely guard her heart if she wants to continue to see him. But shutting off emotion isn't easy or natural for Sarah, and it's much more likely that she will be deeply wounded if Seth slips again.

     Furthermore, Sarah is already in a stable, healthy relationship with Mark (Jason Ritter) in Parenthood. Mark may be quite a but younger than Sarah, but they mesh really well. Mark is being supportive of the whole Seth situation, but he is also growing weary of the number of times he is put in second place for Sarah's attentions. Who can blame him? Sarah already put Mark on hold before, and after reuniting, it really isn't fair for her to keep stringing him along, no matter how sympathetic her dilemma is. Mark is the smarter, more mature choice to make, and Sarah needs to commit fully before she loses him. If she chooses Seth, she'll probably end up without either guy.

     Finally, Crosby has some valid beef with Jasmine (Joy Bryant) in "Forced Family Fun." They previously agree to discuss any potential significant other entering their son, Jabbar's, life. She allows Dr. Joe, whom she is dating, to play with Jabbar without consulting Crosby. But Crosby does arrive twenty minutes early, or else Dr. Joe would have been gone. Jabbar just wants to play, as any kid does, and doesn't understand the situation fully, so it's no wonder that Joe and Jasmine allow it. Which means that there is a legitimate problem where no one is clearly or completely in the wrong.

     Dr. Joe is sticking around for at least a little while. Not only is he Jabbar's doc, but he's also been picked up by Kristina for baby Nora. Which is great news, because Woodside is always a pleasure to watch. However, this means no immediate happy reconciliation for fans of Jasmine and Crosby being together. It also means that Jabbar's life is about to get more complicated. If Parenthood chooses to seriously pursue Dr. Joe, the series should consider keeping him permanently, and just letting Crosby move on. Otherwise, adding this much drama puts it as risk of becoming too cheesy, and sends it down the path of so many shows before it.

     Watch Parenthood Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter!

     Click here to purchase streaming episodes and DVDs of Parenthood.

Article first published as TV Review: Parenthood - "Forced Family Fun" on Blogcritics.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"I Don't Want to Do This Without You" Parenthood

     NBC's Parenthood is back for a third season, beginning with "I Don't Want to Do This Without You." Life is never boring for the Bravermans. Adam (Peter Krause) is discouraged by the job market, and is tempted by Crosby's (Dax Shepard) pitch to run a music studio together. But financial concerns make him hesitate. Sarah (Lauren Graham) is hurt when her daughter, Amber (Mae Whitman), moves into her own apartment, and only stops by Sarah's 40th birthday party. Luckily, Sarah reconnects with Mark (Jason Ritter, returning now that The Event is kaput), who makes her feel better. Julia (Erika Christensen) grows desperate for a baby. Alex (Michael B. Jordan) is arrested.

     Adam is undergoing an incredibly relatable plot in today's economy. Out of work, almost out of savings, he begins to grow frustrated at the lack of career opportunities. He starts applying for terrible jobs, well  below his skill level and pay grade, just to have some income coming in. But he is tempted by a dream. For most of us, this would never work out. Because this is television, often an escapist medium, Adam will probably accept Crosby's offer, and they will do well. Even as the rest of the music industry implodes. I don't know if Parenthood is making viewers feel better with the fantasy, or encouraging people to make irrational decisions. Let's hope nobody sues the series.

     For Crosby, who has a steady income, it's also a risk. Being a homeowner now, and with a son, Jabbar (Tyree Brown) to take care of, can he really afford to go out on a limb? True, Crosby already works in the music industry, and may have enough contacts to make a serious go of things. But should he try when the payoff is so uncertain, and staying put guarantees much needed stability? His decision is a little tricky, although if the idea does fail, seeing Adam ruined may hurt Crosby far more than it hurts himself. Which might give him incentive to work even harder at the job.

     Then again, Crosby is dating another woman he isn't serious about (Wilfred's Fiona Gubelmann), so maybe he hasn't grown up very much.

     Julia has a dream of a different kind. Unable to conceive, she begins looking at other options. But like Adam, she finds her prospects bleaker than she would like. So she starts looking for an easy solution. One scheme she has is to ask to buy her coffee vendor's kid. It's an insane idea, as everyone, including her husband, Joel (Sam Jaeger), tells her. Yet, in true Julia fashion, she will not let go of it. Again, because this is television, it will probably work out for her, unlike it would in real life. This is both heartening and depressing at the same time.

     As Parenthood moves into season three, it needs to be careful not to fall under the Brothers & Sisters curse. Both series start as wonderful shows about close, extended families. But as Brothers & Sisters made season after season, five in total, the writers turned to less and less believable plots, forcing drama just to keep the show going. Parenthood needs to remember what makes a family drama magical and special in its early days, and not allow it to show its age. All three siblings in the above paragraphs are treading dangerous ground here, and it could go either way.

     In life, everyone has to grow up. Amber is out of high school, and after making the decision to put college on hold for awhile, she seeks to begin her adult life. This involves getting a new haircut and finding a small, in-need-of-work apartment in a soon-to-be-trendy area of town. Seriously, the place doesn't even have a kitchen! But Amber falls in love with it instantly, and soon signs the lease.

     While Amber is in a dreamer phase of her life, like her uncles and aunt previously discussed, for her, the stakes are much lower. She is just starting out and doesn't have the ties or responsibilities to worry about that the older family members do. If Amber lands on her face because of lack of employment or inability to pay the rent, she still has a safety net: she can move back in with her mother and grandparents. For her, there are few reasons not to take the chance.

     Sarah doesn't see it that way, though. She sees it as Amber abandoning her. Sarah's milestone 40th birthday might have something to do with the increased neurosis, but part of the worrying is also just who she is. Sarah is shocked that Amber would want to move into such a dump, and can't believe her daughter doesn't even care if she picks up her high school diploma or not. Thank goodness Sarah's mom, Camille (Bonnie Bedelia), is there to speak some sense to her.

     While Ritter's Mark re-enters Sarah's life now almost entirely for behind the scenes, practical reasons, it's perfect, story-wise. Sarah needs a pick me up, a distraction, something to make her feel good about herself. She is aging, and while she has accomplished a few things, she has much more that she wants to do. Having the younger Mark around to shower her with affection, and steal Amber's diploma from the school, should give her a needed boost... as long as he doesn't get caught and fired for the theft.

     Alex's arrest is dumb. He goes to a party to pick up Haddie (Sarah Ramos), who is drunk, and ends up hitting a guy who won't let them out the door. Alex makes the smart choice by not hanging around, and the other guy is being a jerk. Hitting isn't so intelligent, but under the circumstance, can be forgiven. Why the police are called on such a minor matter is a puzzle. Also, why the police are not concerned about the underage drinking going on all around them also seems suspicious. Instead, all the blame is tossed on this guy who works so hard to make something good out of his life, after having far fewer opportunities than most people. While this story may showcase the type of man Alex is, and allow some meaty dramatic material for the terrific Jordan to work with, it's weak sauce for the fans, and in the authenticity department.

     Still, love that Max (Max Burkholder) references Friday Night Lights with Michael B. Jordan, former star of that series, in the car! Both FNL and Parenthood share producer Jason Katims, which may be the reason for the shout out.

     Parenthood also stars Craig T. Nelson, Monica Potter, Joy Bryant, Miles Heizer, and Savannah Paige Rae.

     Tune in Tuesdays nights at 10 p.m. ET on NBC to see what happens to the Braverman clan next.
     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter!

     Click here to purchase streaming episodes and DVDs of Parenthood.

Article first published as TV Review: Parenthood - "I Don't Want to Do This Without You" on Blogcritics.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Event - "And Then There Were More; Inostranka"

     NBC's The Event returned last night with a special-two hour episode. The hours had different titles, but it felt like they were always intended to run together. I was worried about forgetting how the series left things when it disappeared months ago, but it was pretty easy to catch up. That is a sure sign we do not have another Lost on our hands, unfortunately. While I do not have a lot to say about the show, (this will be a pretty short review for two full hours of television), as the story can easily be broken into a mere three plots, it was pretty good. Not great.

     First, let's talk about the weakest story. Leila (Sarah Roemer) and Sean (Jason Ritter) quickly discover that Leila's father Michael (Scott Patterson) is an alien. Then they rescue Leila's sister, Samantha (Anna Clark), with very little effort. Michael is with Sophia (Laura Innes), who doesn't want to help him find hisdaughters. But Michael stands up to her, much to her chagrin, and before you know it, Michael is able to get a message to Sean, and they meet up.

     It is all far too easy. Sean and Leila have almost no trouble finding both Samantha and Michael. While Sophia seems majorly perturbed that Michael stands up to her, he gets what he wants, and then she exhibits no ill-will about it. Even the major decision Leila has to make when choosing between Sean and Michael is easily solved by Sean walking away while she sleeps. And, really, who didn't see that coming? This arc was predictable, and doesn't seem very realistic if you spend much time thinking about it.

     Far better is the standoff between Blake Sterling (the brilliant Zeljko Ivanek) and Thomas (Clifton Collins Jr.). Thomas takes over Inostranka prison in Alaska relatively easily, only to discover that Sterling is within the walls. While Thomas and his men have no problems dispatching the guards in the facility, Sterling proves quite the challenge, as one expect from a Ivanek character. As the two struggle for control within Inostranka, we are treated to a supreme battle of wills between two powerful leaders. From Blake changingthe door codes to Thomas torturing poor Blake, some of the finest moments of the episode were between these two.
     Special mention also goes to Maya (Clea DuVall), the shifty alien who kills her own husband to protect Sophia's secrets, but balks at following Thomas. She goes along with him when he takes over Inostranka to bide time, but soon learns her friends who did not want to follow the new leader have been executed. Maya makes a (stupid) heroic sacrifice running for Blake after he is shot, only to be gunned down herself by Thomas, and die. It's too bad, because she is pretty interesting, and I like the idea of Sophia having a mole within Thomas's group. Instead, she exposes herself without any benefit to anyone. Blake survives, not owing to anything she does, and she breathes her last breath.

     Also neat is the new Senator for Alaska, Catherine Lewis, played by the award winning actress Virginia Madsen. Lewis goes through her dead husband's office and discovers secrets about Inostranka. She takes what she finds to President Martinez (Blair Underwood), who not only lies to her face, but has her office ransacked. Talk about underestimation. Martinez's logic may be solid, not expecting a brand new Congresswoman with no experience or credentials to challenge him, but on the flip side, she has nothing to lose by doing so. Lewis proves herself a tough cookie right away, going on Hardball to force Martinez to spill his secrets.

     My only complaint here is that not only does Lewis back off once Martinez promises to talk, but she goes back on Hardball and makes herself look like a fool, burying the major cover up she previously promised to reveal. There is no good reason for Lewis to back down. Martinez doesn't actually tell her anything yet, only says he will in the future. Sure, Hardball is live and coming back from commercial, but I expect her to stand her ground until Martinez actually tells her what is going on. Perhaps she does the politically intelligent thing, but she doesn't display that same learned intelligence earlier in the episode. Plus, she may have just hurt her credibility, and considering she is trying to expose something big, she needs her credibility right now.

     Either way, Martinez looks to be developing a worthy foe in Lewis. Since Martinez is trying to sweep state secrets under the rug, no matter how good his intentions, I am pleased by this development. Martinez is not being open as he should, and needs to be confronted. I can even see Lewis being a possible second president, should the show continue, once she disgraces Martinez by exposing his lies. Of course, that is only one possible avenue the writers may pursue. More likely, Martinez will sadly defeat her.

     The Event airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

Article first published as TV Review: The Event - "And Then There Were More"/"Inostranka" on Blogcritics.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Parenthood has "Qualities and Difficulties"

     How do you tell a child that he or she has Asperger's Syndrome? That is the question NBC's Parenthood is clearly attempting to answer this week (the last new episode for awhile, based on their promos). Did they accomplish that feat? It's debatable, but we get both a good example and a bad example of how to tell a child, and the emotional journey of the parents involved is heart wrenching. So whether or not the episode is educational, at least we get good TV. Which, after all, is the cynical goal of all television production, right? I wish tone transferred better to text...

     If you watch Parenthood, you already know the child at the center of this conundrum is Max (Max Burkholder), young son of Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina (Monica Potter) Braverman. Shortly after the series began a year ago, Adam and Kristina found out that Max had Asperger's. They also decided he was too young to be told, even as they began making accommodations for him in all areas of their lives. Adam is clearly not ready to tell Max when, last week, Max overheard Peter blurt it out in a fit of anger at his brother Crosby, who through his infidelity had driven away Max's special tutor. This week, we pick up as Adam and Kristina sit Max down and try to explain to him what he has.

     The first attempt is a disaster. Kristina cries, Adam calls it a 'disability', and both clearly send the signal to Max that he has something bad wrong with him. Dr. Pelikan (Tom Amandes) recommends they try a do-over and gives them a script to follow. Adam hates the script, which is a listing of "Qualities and Difficulties," as the episode title suggests. He thinks Pelikan is just trying to put a positive spin on something not positive. Instead, Adam pulls Max out of school and takes him to a theme park, where Max has a meltdown after his favorite roller coaster breaks. Chastised, Adam goes back to the script and he and Kristina try again.

     It is impossible to tell what is going on in Max's head. As part of his syndrome, his face gives away less than most people's. As such, I cannot say for sure if they were successful in making Max feel OK about things. But his behavior suggests that they did at least a decent job. I cannot imagine the struggle a parent in that situation goes through, and I'm sure it is hard to unless you experience it yourself. However, I feel the actors do a superb job making a difficult situation very relatable to an audience. I felt their pain. It is a fantastic, moving episode for this branch of the Braverman family.
     Elsewhere, Crosby (Dax Shepard) continues to try to make things up to Jasmine (Joy Bryant) for the aforementioned indiscretion. She will have none of it, refusing to talk at him, and moving his things out of her house. Should she forgive him? All the time on television couples get past being cheated on. It happens in real life, too, I'm sure, but I consider that one of those nearly unforgivable sins. That could be because of my age and inexperience in the matter, but surely Parenthood is smarter than to allow a quick, easy resolution. So far, it has only been a couple of episodes, but I think they're going for the long haul. If Crosby will ever reunite with Jasmine, it will probably be in at least the May season finale, if not longer.

      Luckily, Crosby's family are making sure Jasmine still feels welcome. She is the mother of Crosby's son, Jabbar (Tyree Brown), after all, so she has a deep connection to Crosby's kin. Several of the Braverman characters berate Crosby. Crosby knows he screwed up, and while his family still loves him, they agree with that. Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) even give up their anniversary date to comfort her.

     Again, I love how realistic this show is. Of course Crosby's family isn't going to cut him off, but this is a delicate, complicated situation. Every one of them handles it a little differently, per their personalities, and all hold no ill will towards Jasmine for what happened. Their support for her, as evidenced by Julia and Joel's actions, is sweet. I look forward to Jasmine's continued presence on the show, rather than just being dumped from the cast as some series would do.

     The final story this week saw Sarah (Lauren Graham) becoming a playwright. It seems she is a Renaissance woman, with music, poetry, and shoe design already under her belt. We do not yet get a glimpse of Sarah's passionate writing project, but judging from ex-boyfriend Mark's (Jason Ritter, The Event) reaction, she may finally have found her calling. He is an English teacher, after all, so he should know.

     By the way, is anyone still called an English teacher? Haven't they all become Language Arts teachers by now? The show's writers are letting their age slip in. Or, more likely, they are just putting it in terms the audience, many of them older, can understand. Plus, English teacher just has a better ring to it. But still...

     I can't wait to see Sarah's work performed, hoping that is where the show is going. She is in definite need of a break in her life, and this may be it. When Parenthood returns, it will resume its time slot Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Article first published as TV Review: Parenthood - "Qualities and Difficulties" on Blogcritics.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Event Fall 2010

     NBC's The Event delivered an exciting pilot, though initially it seemed like the first half of what was intended to be a two hour episode. Having now viewed all 10 episodes from the fall run that no longer seems to be the case. Though the first episode was light on explanation, episode two, when combined with the first, doesn't make the story seem any more complete. Instead, it they are the beginning of several much larger arcs, some of which wrapped up in a few weeks, and some of which are still open. The biggest question still is: what is the Event that the title refers to? If network promos can be believed, it hasn't happened yet.

     Overall, this is a pretty cool show. It has elements of Lost, 24, and a little bit of V. Large parts of several episodes have been done in flashback, revealing different things in the main characters' pasts. It's a storytelling method that has not been implemented in every episode, and it has not been overused. Sometimes the backstories are there to inform us about present events, and sometimes they're just about revealing traits of the characters. Very few of those flashbacks are superfluous, the rest of the story has needed them to better illustrate some points. The one that does seem unnecessary, as far as the rest of the episode is concerned, is when Sean (Jason Ritter) met Leila (Sarah Roemer) for the first time. But it was incredibly sweet and completely welcome.

     The cast is excellent, and almost every character is layered nicely. This is best demonstrated by the three Washington D.C.-based main characters. First there is President Martinez (Blair Underwood), who seems so idealistic but has participated in covering up some of the recent events, opening himself up to being blackmailed by his slimy Vice President, Jarvis (Bill Smitrovich). Jarvis fancies himself a patriot despite his having been complicit in the attempted Presidential assassination.  Despite showing a political convention, the show dances around which party each character belongs to, but I think it's pretty clear that Jarvis is GOP and Martinez is Democrat. That does paint the series with a liberal lean, even though a lot of the action and anti-terrorism stuff traditionally appeals to a more conservative audience. An interesting choice.

     Director Sterling (the always perfect Zeljko Ivanek) at first seemed duplicitous, and he sometimes is. But he is the true patriot, willing to do anything reasonable for his country, and not willing to endanger its citizens. He may have disagreed with Martinez's decision in the pilot, but he would never have gone to evil lengths to stop it.

     However, finding out that Jarvis was the mole within the President's circle doesn't make sense. Jarvis all but accused Sterling of being the guilty party early in the season, in private. If he had wanted to remove suspicion from himself, surely that confrontation would have gone down in front of at least the President and some aides. In retrospect, it was only meant to fool the viewers, and doesn't make much sense for it to have happened. There have been a few other moments like that, but this is the most glaring example.

     Obviously, the main story is about the aliens who came to earth in 1944, lead by Sophia (Laura Innes).  Many of them have been in a prison in Alaska for the last 66 years. Their motivations, or even how they ended up here, is still unknown. What has been shown is that there are factions within the group, as there very likely would be in the real world, who don't agree with their leader. The biggest faction is lead by Sophia's son, Thomas (Clifton Collins Jr.), who ended the season deploying a communications satellite to send a message home. This is a twist I didn't see coming, and have no idea what he's really up to.

     Thomas has been the least consistently written character.  He spent a whole episode being berated by his mother for not being a capable enough leader, even though in the rest of the stories, he has shown independence and the ability to command others enough to be a serious threat. However, as he is also my least favorite actor of the group, and he is involved in some of the biggest, action-packed plots, I am focused enough on other things to not notice this issue most of the time. I think his character was certainly not really fleshed out when the series began, and we're seeing on screen the different writers' different approaches to figuring him out.

     One major problem with the show is that there are a lot more aliens in the meeting hall with Sophia than previously shown escaping their crash site in 1944, even taking into account limited camera angles. What's up with that? Do their children age quickly, and then stop? Is that how the population grew? I didn't see any kids among them. What about half-breeds? Surely, marrying and having kids would have raised suspicion, since they don't age, and would have had to leave their families at some point or risk exposure (that was dealt with to some extent, though not fully, when trying to explain the drastically different numbers of aliens).

     One of my favorite characters is Simon Lee (Ian Anthony Dale). One of Sophia's group who escaped imprisonment, Simon currently works for Sterling. A few episodes into the series, it seemed certain his cover was blown, but some pretty clever writing kept his job intact. Simon is loyal to Sophia, but also to the men with whom he serves. He seems to have the ideals of morality and the sacredness of human and alien life in hand more than any other character. While playing both sides, he wants the greatest good for both and is not motivated by selfishness. The episode where we saw him in love with a woman in the 1950s, and his later encounter with her in her old age, demonstrated as much. He is a truly good man (being?).

     While Simon is an example of great character development on the show, sadly, not every character is used to their full extent. However, given the changing amount of screen time Sean, Sophia, Martinez, and the others get, and depending on who is involved with the major plots moving the story forward, I would bet that won't stay true for long. I can't imagine right now how Christina (Lisa Vidal) could really be worked in more, but maybe with Vicky's (Taylor Cole) greatly reduced role in the last few episodes of the fall run it could be in the works. And why Martinez didn't do much important in the last few episodes, even though he was still a presence, is something I definitely wonder about.

     Most cheated at this point is Leila's father, Mike (Scott Patterson). As the pilot who almost flew a plane into Martinez and Sophia, as well as the father of another main character, Mike has spent most of this run locked up by the government and his screen time has been scarce. As a Gilmore Girls fan, I want more for Patterson, and the finale left me with hope that will be coming down the line. With a twist I saw coming from about hour three, I was nevertheless excited when Sean and Leila realized that Mike is an alien. I wonder if Sterling and Martinez know yet. They should with all the medical work done on Mike at the CDC and if not, there will be another huge plot hole for the writers to plug.

     The action during the run has been intense, and the story has kept me guessing--there are so many threads unraveling at once, it's impossible to be bored. But, the stories aren't so numerous as to be very confusing either. While it does not (yet) live up to Lost or 24's legendary status, there is enough here that, if handled right, it could be a great show with at least four or five seasons worth of interesting tales. The current stories will probably only take us though one or two as the series has chosen to keep the revelations coming fast, rather than dole them out slowly. I think that is the right decision in this case, and I, for one, am interested in finding out what happens next. So far though it's pretty good. We'll see what comes next, and whether that will push the series to greatness, or condemn it to mediocrity... if it doesn't get canceled first.

     The Event will return to NBC on Monday, February 28th. A little too long between episodes for my taste, and after Sweeps--which isn't a great sign--but here's hoping that it does well.

For frequent mini-reviews and occasional TV news, follow Jerome on Twitter.

Article first published as TV Review: The Event - Fall 2010 on Blogcritics.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Event will be one to watch

    NBC has a new show this year that wants to become event television: The Event, which premiered last night. I don't really know what's going on, of course. This isn't the type of show where viewers are meant to, at least not at first. But peppered with a slew of likable and talented actors, and with some intriguing plot already laid out, The Event is certainly better than last year's similar offering, Flash Forward.

     As near as I can tell, there will be five main players in this series. President Elias Martinez (Blair Underwood, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Dirty Sexy Money, L.A. Law) found out about some event and secret group at an Alaskan hideaway about a year and a half before the series began. Sophia Maguire (Laura Innes, ER) has been locked away there, but has now arrived in Washington to announce something with the president. Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, Parenthood, Joan of Arcadia) is the everyman hero, whose girlfriend, Leila (played by Sarah Roemer), has been kidnapped by unknown people for unknown reasons. Michael Buchanan (Scott Patterson, Gilmore Girls) is Sean's girlfriend's father, and is clearly being blackmailed into doing bad things. And I'm not sure exactly who Simon Lee (Ian Anthony Dale, Day Break, Surface) is, but he's important enough to get close to the president, and smart enough to know that Michael is up to, and to try to stop him. Or maybe he was tracking Sean. That's unclear.

     If you haven't watched last night's premiere yet, stop reading here until you do.

     All five of these people have very interconnected stories, with Simon being the bridge between the two duos listed above. I don't particularly care about Simon, but the I already do about Martinez, Sean, and Michael. Martinez is shown to be a very principled president in the scenes before the action starts, in the vein of other great television presidents such as David Palmer and Jed Bartlet. The pilot was smart enough to give us plenty of Sean's background, and what his relationship with Michael is. There's a bond there appropriate for a soon-to-be-related couple of men, and it's touching. The fact that the woman they both love, in different ways of course, is in danger excuses their extreme behavior.

     The question is, why are Sean and Michael acting like they do in the framing story? My only complaint is that this should have been a two hour premiere. So much of the first hour had to take us back a week, or a year and a half, to set up the characters, that the framing story with all of the big stuff was not given time to be fleshed out. I presume we'll find out how Michael and Sean got to be on that airplane next week.

     The series is also clearly going to go into impossible territory. The plane disappearing into some energy-infused hole in the middle of the air seemed more appropriate for Fringe than The Event, which tells me that this isn't a cookie cutter series, and I might be interested in watching it. I assume Sophia will soon get the chance to explain to Martinez (and the viewer) what's happening.

     The other thing going for The Event is the supporting cast, which boasts such small screen heavyweights as Zeljko Ivanek (Heroes, Damages, True Blood, Big Love, 24, Oz) and Bill Smitrovich (The Practice, Life Goes On, Without a Trace). While neither did much more than stand around in this week's episode, I'm sure they will get to more than flex their acting muscles as the season unfolds.

     Only time will tell is this is the next Lost or a fizzling dud. But the signs in the premiere look promising. The Event airs Mondays nights at 9pm on NBC. 

Article first published as TV Review: The Event will be one to watch on Blogcritics.