‘Parenthood’: The Teen Pregnancy Episode So Controversial That It Required a Warning

by | January 9, 2013 at 12:12 PM | Parenthood, Recap

"Parenthood" (NBC)

This week’s brilliant, heartbreaking, daring episode of “Parenthood” begins with a warning from NBC that it contains “mature subject matter.” That could refer to its treatment of abortion, or it could be a reference to  language used in this week’s comedic subplot. I definitely am not mature enough to handle Zeek talking about ejaculation. Here are the highlights:

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Teen Mom? When I saw the promos for this week’s episode, I assumed this would be yet another storyline about two teenagers deciding that they could raise a baby and blithely giving up their futures. It’s a television staple and would keep Drew (Miles Heizer) at home for the foreseeable future. Instead, Drew and Amy  (Skyler Day) act like actual ambitious upper middle class teenagers from liberal families. Amy tells Drew she is pregnant with minimal preamble. He tries to comfort her by saying it’s going to be okay. She tells him it won’t. Mark (Jason Ritter) notices their heated conversation. Drew insists on accompanying Amy to her appointment at Planned Parenthood, in what may be a weird case of product placement, to confirm her pregnancy and discuss her options. He is handling this much better than a lot of adults would. Drew, you are definitely mature enough to watch this episode.

Mark visits Sarah (Lauren Graham) at work to tell her that Drew is upset, which does not thrill Hank. When Sarah asks Drew what’s bothering him, he claims he’s freaked about college applications. Sarah uses the pretense of dropping off some of Mark’s stuff to see him. She tells him that Drew is fine. Mark admits he gave up on her too easily.

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The doctor lays out Amy’s options: keeping the baby, adoption, or abortion. Amy thinks abortion is the only possible choice. Drew wants to consider keeping it, which makes sense given his chaotic childhood and his desire for a stable family. Why not create his own? Amy, having seen “Teen Mom,” knows that if she has a baby she will ruin her life.  He tells her his family will help, and that he can get a job and go to college.

Let’s unpack what would actually happen if they had the baby. Julia would salivate at the prospect of a newborn WASP that she could raise and pressure Drew to give the baby to her. Sarah would blame herself yet manage to make Drew feel guilty for making her life more difficult. There is no way that Drew would be able to get a job that would pay well enough to raise a baby without an education. Nor would he have the time or money for college. And, oh, yeah, Amy would like to go to college, enjoy her life, and acquire the skills she needs to one day become a successful adult.So she tells him she just wants help paying for the abortion.

Drew does something smart. He talks to Amber (Mae Whitman), who really ought to become a therapist. She offers him unconditional support. He tears up as he says that he doesn’t want to give up the baby but he wants to respect Amy’s wishes. It’s commendable that he recognizes that this is ultimately Amy’s decision. Drew accompanies Amy to the clinic. Because this is not “Days of Our Lives,” she goes through with the abortion without any second thoughts. Afterward, she more or less breaks up with Drew, which is heartbreaking but realistic. She will probably spend the rest of her life searching for someone as kind and supportive as him. Drew goes home and breaks down. Sarah embraces him, without knowing why he is so upset.

That was gutsy writing. A teenage girl just got an abortion on network television without even telling her parents. And it was portrayed as the right decision for her. Most television shows won’t even utter the word abortion. It’s far more taboo than graphic violence or sex. NBC deserves credit for airing something that may get the network a lot of hate mail.

Julia Has Second Thoughts About Adopting Victor: Victor (Xolo Mariduena)  goes on a hunger strike and continues to tell Julia (Erika Christensen) that she’s not his real Mom. He steals her box of  bribe candy. He falls when Julia snatches the box away from him.  Then he calls 911 and accuses her of child abuse.That’s the sort of sophisticated evil that I would expect from Sydney (Savannah Paige Ray). The police realize it’s a bogus accusation. Julia is livid. When Victor again calls her not his real Mom she walks away from him. Joel (Sam Jaeger) tells him that Julia is his wife and it’s not acceptable for him to disrespect her. Joel should open his mouth more often. He has intelligent things to say. Also, Victor, who seems not to have had a father figure before, has fewer issues with him. Victor’s incompetent social worker, who created this situation by forbidding contact with Victor’s biological mother and instructing Joel and Julia to keep Victor away from his old friends, meets with them. She suggests family therapy so they can work through their issues and Victor can speak to someone objective about his feeling. No, she doesn’t. Because she is incompetent. She says they are doing everything right. Julia tells her things have been getting worse, failing to mention that he was fine until she refused to let him contact his biological mother. Loretta wonders if she is considering not going through with the adoption. Julia admits she isn’t sure she can do it. Sydney will be thrilled that her diabolical plot to get Victor out of the house is working.

Max Hits Puberty: Kristina (Monica Potter)  launches a campaign to get Max (Max Burkholder) to shower every day because he stinks. Adam (Peter Krause)  talks to him about puberty. Max proudly tells Zeek and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) that he has pubic hair. He has done all search of research on the internet. This leads to a hilariously graphic conversation. I could have lived the rest of my life without hearing Craig T .Nelson say “wet dream.” Adam has the sex talk with Max .Max says he isn’t ready to talk about t and doubts he will ever be interested in girls. Adam admits to Kristina that he is worried Max will never have a relationship, which is poignant.

Crosby Continues to be the Most Childish Braverman: Crosby (Dax Shepard)  hates that Jasmine’s (Joy Bryant) mother, Renee (Tina Lifford) , has moved in while she is job hunting. Renee’s crimes include cooking a gourmet meal for tehe whole family and offering to do Crosby’s laundry. He does seem to have a point when Renee turns down a job offer. When he questions her decision, she tells Crosby she worked at a non-profit for 20 years and got laid off due to budget cuts. Maybe she is being too picky, acting entitled to having the sort of job she had  before. If her pride has inconvenienced him, she is sorry about that. Wow. That was one of the best depictions of the impact of the recession that I have seen on TV. The solution seems obvious. Awesome Renee needs to re[lace Lorraine the incompetent social worker.

* The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.