I know I usually do an even split of best and worst pairings for Parenthood, but honestly, that's impossible for the best episode of the season (so far), "Election Day." Even the "worst" storyline in this episode could barely be considered bad, let alone a storyline really, and that's because everything here clicked. This was Parenthood at its best: heartbreaking, funny and surprisingly compelling television about human moments. While I still think the worst is yet to come for powder-keg couples Joel and Julia and Ryan Amber, the groundwork that the writers are laying for both of their eventual implosions is some of the best stuff the series has ever done. Not to mention the fact that it's gotten series-best performances out of Sam Jaeger (who has been particularly outstanding and Emmy-worthy this year) and Erika Christensen. The only truly bad thing about this intense installment is that we'll have to wait three weeks to see how everything shakes out.
During this winter break, I visited family and found myself not mentioning Parenthood when people asked for TV recommendations -- and not because I don't clearly love this show, but because I realized the individuals asking me have painfully lived through things we've watch the Bravermans endure, and it seems in very poor taste to tell my future mother-in-law whose own mother died of cancer not too long ago to tune in to Kristina fighting the battle. It begs the question: Is Parenthood a show for the privileged voyeur? Aside from the whole TV-as-escapism factor, I think there's an argument there with this show in particular. Then again, one of the reasons people love Parenthood as much as they do is because they've gone through some of the same emotions are the Bravermans, which can make our own lives feel less lonely, our issues less taboo and stigmatized and our problems more manageable (I see this a lot from fans in particular of Max's Asperger's, which, of course, makes sense). I've also had friends tell me that they can't stand Parenthood because they don't want to, say, watch Crosby and Jasmine sync their calendars when that's what they literally spent the week fighting with their spouse about. Can't win 'em all.