Attention old people! We are launching a mid-season Parenthood TV Club. Every week, Allison Benedikt IMs with a different fan/regular watcher of the show. First up, Slatest editor Josh Voorhees.
Allison Benedikt: Hello, Josh! Thanks for joining this first ever Slate Parenthood TV Club, which we are starting 10 episodes into the show’s fourth season just because we can.
Josh Voorhees: Thanks for having me.
Benedikt: To bring readers up to date: Parenthood is an hourlong NBC drama about the extended Braverman family, and every episode ends with a musical montage that makes me sob these gaspy snotty choky, grotesquely loud sobs. What did you think of tonight’s show? Did you cry? Do you think guest star Glen Hansard, who sang this week’s Montage of Tears, really drives a Camry?
Voorhees: It normally gets mighty dusty in my living room during those final montages, but that wasn't the case tonight (even with Hansard in all his Once-y glory).
Benedikt: I'm actually with you. I mean, I may have cried a tiiiiiny bit when Mark broke up with Sarah—Jason Ritter delivered the "I love you but I just can't do this" line with his usual understated puppy dog-eyed panache—but I wasn't gasping for air in the manner I've grown accustomed to on Tuesday nights.
Voorhees: The episode's lows—Sarah and Mark's breakup, Victor's school troubles, Ryan's rough day at work—didn't hit me like many past ones have. I think the big reason for that, though, was that Kristina's cancer only received passing mention tonight. And years of network drama watching have taught me that it's always calm before the storm (a suspicion that the scenes from next week quickly confirmed).
Benedikt: The scenes from the next—gah! They can't kill off Kristina, can they? I really, really, really don't want Kristina to die, and yet I know that her death would provide me with the most cathartic cry of the year.
Voorhees: NBC can't kill off a mother on a Christmas episode. They just can't. Back to this episode, though: I always thought Sarah's latest relationship was doomed, even before Ray Romano showed up.
Benedikt: I agree. But are you on Team Ray Romano? Do you want those oldsters to get it on?
Voorhees: I'm not sure I want those oldsters to get it on, but I suspect they will and, once that happens, it won't end well. But I am looking forward to the season finale when I predict there will be a scene letting us know that Mark has found himself an age-appropriate lady friend who is ready to travel the world with him. What's your take on Ray Romano (or Hank, as Google just told me his character's name is)?
Benedikt: Well, my take on Ray Romano is very different from my take on his character Hank. I never watched Everybody Loves Raymond, but am smugly confident that I wouldn't have loved it. When I first heard that Romano was going to be on Parenthood this season, I mainly thought: That's not good. But he, like so many other Braverman and Braverman-adjacent actors on the show (Dax Shepard, I am talking about you), has turned out to be really terrific as Sarah's gruff, crabby but ultimately sympathetic boss. (Writing the words "gruff, crabby but ultimately sympathetic" in a positive light make me now realize I probably would have liked Everybody Loves Raymond.)
However, Hank needs to STEP OFF. I don't think he's Sarah's ultimate match. (Yes, yes, I may still be holding out for the return of Sarah's ex-husband, John Corbett's Seth, and yes, yes, that may be tied up in some of my own personal unresolved Sex and the City issues.) I also don't think Sarah's ultimate calling is to be Hank’s photo assistant. Just as likely as she is to run into Mark laughing it up with some 27-year-old Teach for America alum, Sarah is bound for yet another career change in Season Five, and I think that will be the end of old Hank.
Voorhees: I don't think that it's a coincidence that since he's entered the picture Drew has unwittingly taken his lead and turned to manipulation to win back his high school sweetheart.
Benedikt: We didn't see Drew at all tonight, but he is consistently one of my favorites on this show. Unlike his sister, Amber, or their annoying cousin Haddie, Drew seems ... well ... real. Awkward, cagey, hoping to get an apartment to himself so he can screw his cute girlfriend, and basically a good guy. You were once a young man, Josh. Do you relate to that character?
Voorhees: To be honest, I'm just happy Drew's alive! There were a solid two seasons there where Sarah and the rest of the Braverman clan (not to mention the writers) seemed to forget about him all together.
OK, I've waited long enough. Let's talk about Joel, who would be painfully one-dimensional if it weren't for the fact that that one dimension is Awesome. Tonight we saw him out in the professional world for (I believe) the first time.
Benedikt: Remember last season when the show and the clan's moral core, Adam Braverman, almost/sort-of/nearly transgressed with his hot young assistant? Joel is heading for some kind of fall. He is, as my husband noted last week while I blushed and kvelled over the very Joel awesomeness you mention, written precisely to appeal to women like me: 35-year-old working mothers of two who fantasize about the handsome husband who can do it all and still have time to put dinner on the table he built. This also appeals to Josh Voorhees.
Voorhees: Apparently there’s a Joel spin-off playing in my head.
Benedikt: Here's to next week being not too traumatic but still traumatic enough.
Voorhees: Thanks for having me, even if you have left me more worried than ever that Joel is soon going to let me and the rest of the nation's young mothers down. And have no fear, Allison, no one ever dies on an NBC Christmas special. (Or at least that's what I'll be telling myself until next Tuesday.)