Parenthood "Everything Is Not Okay" Review: Emmys, Please Consider Monica Potter

Parenthood S04E03: "Everything Is Not Okay"

"The bad thing is already happening."

So we're all in agreement that Mae Whitman just played another character who convinced a kid without a chance in hell of winning to run for student body president, right? Way to go, Egg!

Do you feel like Max is starting to become a caricature? As this season progresses, it's been getting harder to tell if his tantrums are the results of his autistic perspective or if he's just a big baby. Obviously, I don't need every week to be a very special episode where Max is the center of attention, but freaking out about the vending machine (and, specifically, Skittles) sounds more like a diva who didn't get everything on her rider. I love Max to pieces, but with the focus shifted away from him to Kristina in that household, Parenthood is quick to turn to the fits for either comic relief or just plain relief.

I say relief because the current A-story is so terribly painful (in a good way) and Monica Potter is killing it right now. Last week I wasn't sure if this storyline was a good idea. This show exhibits what my buddy Noel calls "grief porn"—that is, Parenthood is a perfect blend of serious obstacles mixed with melodrama and characters that earn our empathy. So that's why you feel like you have dust in your eye every week. Or that you're cutting onions. Whatever you tell yourself.

The point is, I was a little afraid this would be too much. The family has brushed so often with emotional disasters in three years and cancer is almost like one of those topics people throw out there when they can't think of anything else. "We've done autism and homelessness and alcoholism. We've done engagements and splitting up and the Braverman Apocalypse. What's next?" "Well, there's always cancer." And everyone throws garbage at that writer.

That's what I felt. What I feel now is that Kristina, who has really ramped up in the last half-season or so, has been given a chance to take center stage, and she has done so beautifully. The scene where she pulled down her robe and looked at herself in the mirror, eyes welling up? I must have had an inflammation in my tear gland right then. Powerful stuff.

Plus, we can trust Parenthood with all the facets of the issue. It's not just going to be Kristina scared for an episode or two and then, pop, the cancer comes out and we move onto the next thing. Bravermans can't deal with things that way; everything they do has to be infected. I bash Adam a lot because I think he's the worst Braverman, but this week really identified the nuance of Adam's desire to simultaneously fix everything and do the right thing. It's a common issue of television marriages, "I don't want a solution, I just want you to listen," but it fits with Adam, who is Mr. Protector McFix-It, to only want to quickly find a solution and whisk his wife through the process rather than actually seeing that, in the time it takes to get into the process, she's understandably flooded with emotions and thoughts of mortality. Adam has to learn that not everyone takes solace in knowing they're doing something the right way and that everything else is out of their control. This is scary.

Which is what made the rest of the episode so interesting. Much in the same way that last week's episode was a little jokey, a little superficial, this week's episode was rife with sitcom fodder, too. From Max's vending-machine tirades to Zeek getting his old man license to Sarah constantly mentioning her annoying boss to Amber trying to clean up the burned coffee smell. They all had their Braverman twist (Max's obsession pushed his only friend away; Zeek's run-in with the law made him face his own age and mortality; Hank is clearly always on Sarah's mind, to Mark's chagrin; and Amber trying to please Adam came with a side of insecurity and feelings of inadequacy) but they are not nearly as heavy as what Adam and Kristina are going through. Or maybe that's just the Cancer Effect.

Of the four other stories, Sarah's was the most intruiging to me. The writers are slow-playing that hand despite the fact that everyone watching knows what's going on. Mark insisting on being in the picture was nothing but doom for him. We've already seen that Hank is at least attracted to Sarah (from his awesome conversation with Max) and she can't do anything but talk about him, so how long are we going to wait for Hank to make a move and for Sarah to have to make a decision? Granted, it's only been three episodes but he's also already been vulnerable in front of her (a little, about his failed marriage). It's only a matter of time before Sarah worms her way in and converts him to a Braverman. Like a virus.

So while Sarah wandered toward inevitable philandering, Max decided to run for student body president (find a blank tape to record your campaign video on, Max), and Zeek crushed the driving exam, they also all faced distractions they'll have to shrug off in order to move on. Sarah needs to put the Hank thoughts away for suspicious Mark. Max needs to cool it on the vending machines in order to keep his friend. And Zeek has to take solace in his good test score to distract him from feeling old.

Zeek dealing with his mortality provided one of the best shots in the episode that wasn't on Monica Potter or Mae Whitman. When Adam called him out on his heart flutter, Zeek turned to Adam and said, "I'm gonna be all right." Then, turning to look out into the night, he continued, "Then again you never know what's going to happen, do you?" Peter Krause has never looked more like a frightened child than he did standing next to a stone-faced Craig T. Nelson staring into the dark and considering the rest of his life. Adam is the kind of character who would bury himself in the minutiae of the cancer-curing process rather than actually face the real possibility of losing his wife. And possibly having to become Max's sole Skittles dealer.



NOTES


– Max needs a reality check on what's fair. He really had to jump through some logistical hoops to find injustice regarding a hypothetical vending machine that no one in his present had access to.

– Also: who knew Max Braverman and Marshawn Lynch had so much in common?

– Gypsy (from Gilmore Girls) and Woody (from Psych) in the same episode? Two of my favorite side characters coming by for a visit. Now we just need Kirk.

– Micah is in a wheelchair AND he's Max's best friend? What'd this kid do to deserve such a crappy hand dealt to him?

– It makes perfect sense that Amber is the first family member to know about Kristina. She's the most trustworthy, emotionally stable, understanding person in the Braverman bunch. It's a wonder that she's not adopted (Season 5 storyline: switched at birth?). Also: Mae Whitman put in another amazing performance. This kid consistently makes my eyes sweaty every week.

– Yes, every way of explaining away crying I've used is from "I'm Not Crying" by Flight of the Conchords. Ha. Ha. Ha-ha. Haaaaaaaaa.



QUESTIONS


– If Kristina did stay with Dr Hariana, how long do you think it would take before Crosby created Braverman Apocalypse II: Oncologist Boogaloo?

– What's the over/under on the number of episodes before Sarah has to make that "important decision?"

– Will Emmy voters remember Monica Potter next summer? They seem to forget all about Mae Whitman.

– How involved in Max's campaign will Kristina be after being restricted by Haddie for hers?

– Do you think the Braverman siblings were blowing the Zeek situation out of proportion?

Comments (22)
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Max Braverman is a brilliant kid. I see Harvard & a perfect SAT score in his future. Go Max.
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I'm really enjoying Ray Romano on here.

-I'm still not a huge fan of the cancer story line. On one hand because any awareness for it is important...I respect when certain shows implement some awareness. I'm not a huge fan that they're doing it, but because Breast Cancer is important to me after losing a friend to it I can't be too annoyed. I am frustrated that it's Kristina. I'm almost being forced to have this emotional investment in a character whom I've pretty much loathed since the beginning. I can't stand Kristina...and now she has cancer so I either feel like a horrible person for still disliking her while she's sick, or I'm forced to tolerate her for the sake of the storyline and her journey and that is truly difficult to do. Not taking away from Monica as an actress. I also feel like there is just too much happening all the time with their characters in relation to the other Bravermans so this means that they'll continue to dominate in that way that they tend to do. But I can't deny that it's being done quite well. I expect nothing less.

-Zeek getting pulled over was probably my favorite scene of the night. There was something about my favorite Braverman with the Rainbow Coalition of grandkids merrily singing in the backseat. I loved it! Zeek spending time with some of his grandkids...especially such a lively batch equipped with the jaded newly adopted kid, the one with Asperger's, and the little genius.. Zeek getting some screentime, period. Awesome.

-Max does need a reality check. I know from experience it isn't so much giving him one as him actually receiving the message.
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Why is Ray Romano trying to ruin my Braverman family?
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I actually love his character right now.
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As do I.
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I love Parenthood so much.

Just one thing, I think the Braverman are not tragic at all...come on, ok a kid with Asperger is hard, an (ex-)addicted ex husband too, Ziek hart, Zoe's story, Crosby's sleepover..all challenging but not so tragic in my opinion. It's just life and they are all still together, all here (for now)......maybe I am used to a lot of "telenovelas" stuff... :P
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Notes:

-Max does need a reality check. I would love to see a five minute focus on the teaching Max. I think that would be excellent.

-I don't know what this means.

-Yes, and Yes. Not only are both Gypsy and Woody present, but they both did a fantastic job with very little screen time. Good stuff. Also, would love to see Kirk.

-Life sucks for some people. Just ouch.

-Amber is the least Braverman Braverman in my book (but still very Braverman). Which is why I think the most interesting stuff seems to happen to her and gets introduced to the clan to allow awesome to filter through. That also might make no sense.

-I've given up a long time ago. I just cry, and I admit it.

Questions:

-No comment. I like Woody the best. Plus, I'd like to think that Crosby has actually grown up a little.

-6 more episodes. I put it around the Christmas break when it comes to a head when her boss has "no plans" for the holiday. Possibly could be the Thanksgiving one instead.

-They seem to forget about this show entirely. I would wish they would, but their steadfast ignoring of "Fringe" seems to indicate otherwise.

-I think Kristina will want to be very involved in Max's campaign but will be stymied by both his personal difficulties and her illness. It will not make her happy.

-Not at all. I personally think they were well within their rights and took a very solid and reasonable approach to the situation. Fully behind them on that one.
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I thought I was going to hate the cancer storyline. It's usually a sign of a writer's room out of ideas and looking for easy manipulations. Remember how awful it was handled on Brothers and Sisters?



But as a person recently diagnosed with non-hodgkin's lymphoma, I was blown away by the honesty that Parenthood is bringing to a well-worn story. I knew right away that one of the writers was culling from personal experience, and interviews I've seen online confirmed that. The oncologist with the awful bedside manner, the husband sneaking looks online at cancer material, the cancer patient describing all the phone calls you get from people you haven't heard from in decades... it was all so spot-on. I do hope they bring more humor to it (I read that there's a medical marijuana storyline coming up) as I think so many people don't know that it's ok to laugh at cancer.
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I feel really the same way, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer little more that a year ago and we went through all this things, the not-positiveness, the not-so kind and attentive doctor, even the "we bond because we both have cancer" roommate from the hospital. It feels so real and so not tragic in a way.

On some tv shows when you see someone get cancer you know it's a way to write them out. Here, like in life, you don't know, and you just go with it.

Anyway, about your diagnosis...keep strong!
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I'll start with this: I hate Kristina Braverman. I really do. I despise every parenting decision she makes, or tries to make. I hate the way the she views other people, like her way is the only right way, and anything else is wrong. This cancer thing is difficult for me, because you're supposed to feel sorry for a character who gets cancer (and I sort of do), but it's murky waters when that character is the worst. If this season is going to be all 'Woe is Kristina', I'm officially checking out of any scene that involves her or her medical issues.

I agree with you about Mae Whitman, she kills it every time, she's probably my favourite character (honourable mentions to Crosby and Zeek).
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YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!! I was starting to think I was the only Parenthood family on Earth who pretty much LOATHES Kristina. So I hate this Cancer storyline on one hand because now I'm being forced to get emotionally jumbled up about a character I loathe, because it's cancer, and cancer is horrible,and I've lost people to it before etc. I hate that. Oh I could just hug you nick. And word with the Crosby and Zeek it's like you're speaking my language.
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Phenomenal, gut wrenching acting this episode.
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I'm starting to get a feeling that the cancer story-line is a way to bring Haddie back.



And, as Gipsy (she'll always be Gipsy to me) said, it's going to be a whole year - that is, a whole season.
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I'm almost certain that getting Haddie back was NOT the goal for this storyline.
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Great writing and great acting. That's the parenthood I expect. Great episode.



Max does annoy me and I usually skip his scenes, but I have a cousin with autism so I do understand. And yes, it makes perfect sense for him to be fixated and the skittles, that's wat autism does.



No the Braverman kids did not blow it out of proportion. If anything their mom was kinda hard on them



No the Bracerman ki
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I think just as strong as Monica's performance is Peter Krause's, showing the cracks in the veneer of a man who's lost control of his world and really has no idea how to handle it. But that's no surprise--the cornerstone of Parenthood is the amazing performances.
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I've always had a bit of a Monica Potter crush since her days on Boston Legal. That has nothing to do with anything, but I still thought I'd throw that in there.
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This is a safe place for Monica Potter love.
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I thought it was a pretty good episode. The Max story was annoying, though. It doesn't matter if he has a psychological disorder, he can still choose to act normally, and his parents should really put him in his place, just as they would anybody else who throws such a tantrum, and tell him there are much worse things in this world than a missing vending machine.



Also, the cancer story was very intriguing, and it was gut-wrenching watching her tell her husband she doesn't want him to tell her it will be okay. Great episode all around.
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You do know having a psychological disorder many times means you can't simply choose to act "normally" as you say. They can't treat him just like any other kid throwing a tantrum. Do you think people with autism can just choose when and what is affected by it? A bit of an uninformed/detrimental comment to make that people with psychological disorders as you say can just choose to turn them off on a whim to accommodate a need for them to act "normal".
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While I could see how he might act rather awkwardly on a regular basis because of his disorder, I think in instances where he acts grossly inappropriate, I think the parents can intervene, and teach him how, mostly, NOT to behave. There really is no real universal way to be "normal," and it is easy for anyone to deviate from that thin line, but behaviors that are far off the "spectrum" can probably be dealt with.
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ANSWERS

- an episode or two

- by the last season arc in april/may

- Parenthood is no Emmy material, just give up (they recognized Jason Ritter only because of all the buzz surrounding his performance)

- 50/50... maybe a lot, maybe they'll make just one episode with the both of them involved in the campaign... I'd rather the latter it feels like revisiting old material already

- no it is a set-up for the heart-attack Zeek is going to have this drama-filled mother of a season
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