TV | Ken Tucker's TV

'Parenthood' season premiere review: 'I hear you and I see you'

Parenthood got off to a fine second season on Tuesday night, even if the distinct implication that Lauren Graham might eventually make out with William Baldwin triggered a silent scream in my head. In a snappy premiere written by Jason Katims, almost everyone got ample screen-time while contributing to the overall shape of the series. (Note to Alan Ball: Look at how a good network show can juggle multi-sub-plots before writing the next installment of True Blood, please.)

The show forged a nice new link between

Graham’s Sarah and Peter Krause’s Adam right from the start: Her idea for his footwear company solved her big problem last season – getting a job. I don’t know how popular a device that would locate a missing shoe would be in what we laughingly call the real world, but it made Adam’s boss, William Baldwin’s Gordon, raise his woolly-mammoth eyebrows in approval. Bingo: After Sarah asserted ownership of the idea, Adam offered her an internship at the company.

Another clever connection was made: Jabbar (Tyree Brown) and his impending visit prompted the idea of a sleepover with young Max (the amazing Max Burkholder). Granted, this was mostly background to the bigger plotting at work – Dax Shepard’s Crosby and Joy Bryant’s Jasmine can’t make this long-distance relationship work, or even successfully execute “Skype sex.” And Max is still very much in need of Minka Kelly’s babysitter/autism coach (sorry, I can’t come up with a more concise term for her function in the show, but I’m glad she’s there to distract Crosby – sexual tension is always good for more drama).

We witnessed the benefit of the marriage counseling Craig T. Nelson’s Zeek agreed to undergo after

last season’s woes with Bonnie Bedelia’s Camille: a neatly hair-cut, meeker Zeek, who caught himself when he started to thunder egomaniacally, dialing it down to a therapy mantra: “I hear you and I see you.”

I think I’ve waited long enough to quote the out-of-the-mouths-of-babes cute quote of the night, courtesy of the young daughter of Erika Christensen’s Julia and Sam Jaeger’s Joel: “Did I come out of a vagina?” asked Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae). This bit brought some much-needed comic relief to the Julia/Joel pairing, which last season was one of Parenthood’s soft spots of sourness. Even better was Joel working this night with Zeek on some roof repair; the show was acknowledging that we haven’t seen much of these two together, and they played out their awkward bonding very satisfyingly.

The best acting of the night was done by

Sarah Ramos as Haddie, now 16 and learning to drive, sorta, courtesy of her high-strung mom, Kristina (Monica Potter, once again bravely tackling an unsympathetic role and making it compelling). Haddie’s frustration, her imitation of her mother in front of her father, and her scenes with brother Max were all marvelously rendered by Ramos with great expressiveness.

Yep, Parenthood is no doubt one of the best family shows on TV. By which I mean a show about family, not a show families will probably watch together (the time period; the Skype sex; the “Did I come out of a vagina?” would seem to work against that). I’m glad it made its premiere before The Good Wife starts its new season in the same time period, and some of us begin a weekly indecision over which to watch and which to record; Parenthood needs the viewers. (Do you hear that, NBC?: Parenthood needs more promotion.)

As the series has proceeded, what initially looked like a bunch of talented but disparate actors has cohered into a believable clan. Many of the straining-credulity set-ups, such as the rebellious Sarah and her equally rebellious daughter Amber (the terrific Mae Whitman, minimally seen last night) moving back home with Mom and Dad, now have traction, sense, and crackling interaction.

So I have some questions for you:

• What did you think of Parenthood’s season premiere?

• William Baldwin: Good addition, or not? (I don’t think my joking remarks made it clear, but I come down on the side of “good.”)

• Peter Krause’s Adam: Is this man a saint, or what?

• Would you buy shoe-locator footwear?

Follow: @kentucker

Originally posted September 15 2010 — 7:23 AM EDT

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