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"It Has to Be Now" for PARENTHOOD

Parenthood (2009) poster

Written by : published Saturday 28th September 2013

NBC's Parenthood has always been a critical darling that struggled in the ratings, leading to a number of truncated seasons with reduced episode counts. Finally, though, as season five premieres this week with "It Has to Be Now," fans have been promised a full fall-through-spring offering of the family drama that makes you feel good.

"It Has to Be Now" picks up many months after last January's finale, with Jasmine (Joy Bryant) quickly going into labor for the baby we just found out she was pregnant with in the previous installment. Setting aside the extreme oddity that overbearing grandmother Renee (Tina Lifford) is completely absent from the episode, it's a great moment for Parenthood, showing a happy, monumental moment in the clan's life.

Crosby (Dax Shepard) does not adjust well to the infant. He tries staying awake whenever Jasmine is, but that makes them both sleep-deprived and on edge. Jasmine admits this baby is far more work than Jabbar (Tyree Brown), whom Crosby missed out on, was, so we know it's not just the normal level of difficulty Crosby faces. It doesn't help that they haven't agreed on a baby name, or that Crosby's family invades their home for an extended period of time to meet their newest member.

Luckily, Crosby has Adam (Peter Krause) to talk to. The brothers have a very interesting, close relationship. They have plenty of differences, and certainly approach rearing children in varied ways, but their love is enough to give them the connection. Adam doesn't understand why Crosby doesn't feel connected to his baby, but he does offer words of encouragement. Crosby will get through this.

At first, I though Parenthood was setting up Crosby and Jasmine for more conflict, evidenced by their constant bickering throughout the hour, and we've had more than enough of that. Thankfully, it's only a realistic portrayal of frayed nerves parents would have in such a situation, and they are in a good place by the end of "It Has to Be Now." They can make it through, as long as they stick together.

Interestingly, this rocky couple is perhaps the most stable in "It Has to Be Now," in which two of Crosby's married siblings go through rough patches with their own spouses. Julia (Erika Christensen) can't find a job because of her vindictive ex-boss, meaning she has to stay home, something she isn't really glad to do, no matter how what she says. And Joel (Sam Jaeger) is working for a girl (Sonya Walger, Lost) who you can just tell will be bad news.

I know Parenthood is a drama, but does it have to threaten to destroy seemingly stable marriages? It wasn't enjoyable to watch Joel and Julia fight last season about a kid they took in, and it won't be fun to see them at odds again this year. Strife is one thing, but if Parenthood splits them up, that could be nearly unforgivable.

Eh, who am I kidding? Parenthood is so emotionally satisfying each and every week I'll keep watching no matter what they do, even hurt beloved characters. For every raw, angry scene, there are three that make viewers tear up a bit, in a good way. This is is the case with "It Has to Be Now," and nearly every episode that came before it, the show not having lost even an ounce of quality over the past few years.

The issues between Adam and Kristina (Monica Potter) seem less fundamental and more just that the two are out of sync with one another right now. Kristina wants to run for the office of mayor because her pal, Gwen (Rose Abdoo), reminds her that cancer survivors should not put things off. Adam is more cautious, worried Kristina will get sick again if she doesn't take it easy, which is the last thing she wants to do, grateful for every day, and wanting to get the most out of life while she still has it. They'll get on the same page eventually, once Adam sees she's OK and happy.

They also are a little upset over their son, Max (Max Burkholder) hanging out with Adam's sister's ex-boyfriend, Hank (Ray Romano). Adam is worried that Hank is trying to get back with Sarah (Lauren Graham) through Max, but when confronted, Hank insists the break up was mutual, and Max is seeking him out, not the other way around. Adam seems mollified.

I understand Adam's hesitation, but I'm glad that it's passing because Hank and Max really connect. I don't know if Hank shares some of Max's limitations, though if he does, Hank is a much more mild case on the autistic scale. But neither are particularly people persons, and they share an interest in photography they can bond over. Max could use a good mentor who doesn't mind his at-times grating personality, and Hank seems to fill those shoes perfectly.

Admittedly, when hearing Romano was returning to the show I assumed his reconciliation with Sarah was inevitable. But now, I couldn't care one way or the other if he gets back with Sarah (though I'll cheer for it if it happens). Hank's relationship with Max is great and extremely satisfying on its own. If that's the way Parenthood wants to keep Romano, who is absolutely wonderful on the show, around, I doubt they'll be many complaints.

Besides, Sarah has enough to worry about without Hank re-entering her life. She is the landlady of a building with some not-so-responsible tenants, one of whom will probably be a love interest, and she feels neglected by her college student son, Drew (Miles Heizer). Daughter Amber's (Mae Whitman) comments about Sarah to Drew are spot on and hilarious, the little dysfunctional family working just as well as any family can. But it's good Drew eases Sarah's tension before the end of the episode.

With all the drama unfolding at the start of the season, Parenthood needs something joyous to end the hour with, book-ending the birth at the beginning of "It Has to Be Now." This comes when Ryan (Matt Lauria) returns from war and proposes to Amber, who enthusiastically accepts. They are young, and just coming away from a bad place, Ryan may be acting a little irrationally. However, they have weathered a couple of storms already, and it would not be unwelcome for them to actually tie the knot.

Parenthood takes us up and down the roller coaster of family life, but it's always a fun ride that you're glad you went on. This season's premiere promises another great batch of Braverman stories.

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

About the author JeromeWetzelTV

JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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