'Parenthood' recap: Season premiere answers fans' prayers

Yahoo Contributor Network

In the Season 4 premiere of "Parenthood," the Braverman family copes with new realities with a mix of humor and heart, giving viewers a long-awaited reintroduction to the clan.

At the end of the Season 3, Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant) got married; Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaegar) adopted a foster boy, Victor; and Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina's (Monica Potter) oldest, Haddie (Sarah Ramos), was accepted to Cornell.

In the season premiere, Crosby copes with Jasmine's mother, who introduces their son, Jabbar, to Christianity without asking. Julia and Joel struggle to adjust to their reclusive new son. Haddie is overwhelmed by her well-meaning family, who expect her to spend every last moment at home forming "special" memories.

In addition, "American Idol" contestant Paul McDonald plays a musician recording at Crosby and Adam's studio who takes a shine to Amber (Mae Whitman). Ray Romano, in what will hopefully be a long-term role, plays an irascible photographer who hires Sarah (Lauren Graham) to be his assistant, since she has the people skills he lacks.

In a humorous subplot, Sarah's fiance, Mark (Jason Ritter), appeals to matriarch Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) to earn a place in the family portrait.

Trouble arises when Adam and Kristina's autistic son Max (Max Burkholder) is convinced that Victor (Xolo Mariduena) has stolen his lizard, Guacamole. In addition, Drew (Miles Heizer) anxiously awaits his girlfriend's return from summer travels.

The episode gives fans what they expect: deeply textured characters responding to realistic situations. For example, it's no surprise that Max has a meltdown when he can no longer order his favorite burger from a restaurant. The scene's power comes from the other characters' reactions. Without words, the actors convey Haddie's resignation and frustration at dealing with her difficult family; and the parents' mystification at Max's distress and a desperate attempt to save the ruined situation.

Newcomer Romano's photographer should fit right in: conveying oodles of information about his character when viewers still know very little. His Max-like inability to deal with social situations, yet his witty perceptions, make him a promising addition.

The strength of the show can best be summed up by the religion subplot. After probing the other members of his family for their thoughts on religion, Crosby has a talk with Jabbar. Crosby tells him, "I believe in you. And I believe in your mom, and all my family, my brothers and sisters. Sometimes, like on a night like tonight, eating delicious cookies -- I think I'm pretty blessed. Blessed by something." The little boy chimes in, "Me, too, Dad," and they sip bottles of soda while watching the stars. That careful blend of thoughtfulness and realism -- where not every problem is neatly resolved, but where family and communication are always emphasized -- is an answer to the fans' prayers.

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