In our quest to find teevee shows to binge that do not cause nightmares, yerdad and I have landed on “Parenthood.”
I liked the movie “Parenthood” (1989), although I thought it had some treacly moments and overshot some of the comedic bits. The stand out is the characters. The script gave a forceful voice to the moms, a voice that wasn’t typical in those days. Some folks might best remember Keanu Reeves as a masturbation consultant, but I was really in it for the moms.
So, with only a little trepidation, we launched into the teevee show (2010-2015). I was pleasantly surprised to see Bonnie Bedelia playing the grandmother, Camille. I remember her as a sort of Ice Queen of the 80s. She was the icy wife to Die Hard’s main man. She was miss-cast and still iced her role as the (spoiler alert?) pivotal vampire victim girl friend in Salem’s Lot (1979). Most notable in my memory was her entirely credible (spoiler?) ice-cold murderer in “Presumed Innocent.” (Is it possible to spoil anything that’s thirty years old? If so, I’m sorry!!)
I was looking forward to seeing Bonnie chew up some scenery as a grandma. It hasn’t happened yet. We’re into season two, so I still had hope that she’d get her own story and not continue to be written like a piece of peeved, imported furniture. She is a lovely love seat, though, and I adore her character’s hippie aesthetic. She’s always draped in beads and her hair is deranged into a distinctive triangular curl mash. It’s too bad that she’s mostly allowed no more than mute moments of looking annoyed.
What is Camille thinking? Apparently, she’s interested in soup and “finding herself,” although I think that went out of fashion decades before her character flopped it onto the family’s conversational table. She seems to use it as an excuse for being impatient with her husband.
Grandmas need no excuse for anything. Camille knows who she is and she’s just not willing to tell us. Or the writers aren’t.
It’s too bad. I think a serious opportunity was missed here. I broke down and read a few bits of old news about the course of the show and it isn’t encouraging. It seems that Camille continued to have no more than a few bright snippets of dialogue and a lot of glowering from irritable ottomans.
I may have to correct this. I might just write a voice-over for Camille’s scenes. Or maybe an alternate script for all the unseen action. Yeah. Italics are my contributions.
Last night, we watched “Orange Alert” the Halloween episode (episode 6 of season 2). A few scenes in, we are rewarded with a quick bout of establishing banter wherein Camille says a few lines and eyes her daughter’s cleavage. Just as she’s about to pass on her favorite bra story, she’s interrupted by Zeek (the grandpa) singing his I-want song of Halloween. Zeek likes a big, scary display with all the kids and grand-kids piling in help him. Camille just rolls her eyes. Zeek is quickly abandoned by the rest of the clan and turns to his grandson to say, “It’s just you and me kid.” Camille is right there, but not in the shot. She remains, as is typical, uncounted.
The big dilemma of the episode is that Max wants to finally trick or treat, but he’s afraid of fire because of his condition (Asperger’s). Clearly, the scene is deleted wherein her son phones Camille to ask her opinion of having her grandson finally experience the joy of free candy from mostly reliable strangers. Camille reminds him that he was afraid of Halloween for three years because of the cheesy pop-up skeleton that his father rigged in the entry when he was two. She thinks Max deserves to be terrified just like everyone else.
Later, Camille makes an indirect appearance when her daughters recount her dating advice, “You can get pregnant just sitting in a hot tub,” and, “Boys are stupid.” Obviously, they have both misremembered her advice, “Do not get pregnant with a stupid boy.”
When the big night arrives, much of the family gathers to go over the game plan. Camille isn’t there. She probably became irritated with Kristina’s bossy attitude of telling everyone what their route was to be. Kristina’s passionate momming irks Camille, who knows that most things work out despite all the efforts to control circumstances.
Camille can’t be bothered with this slice of family drama, she’s deep into another situation at the art supply shop. She overheard an extortion plot there, mainly because no one seems to notice it when she is standing right there picking out a new tube of Payne’s Gray. She’s considering her options of phoning the police or just tailing the suspect to see who she’s shaking down.
As they family hits the street, we finally see Camille. It’s possible that the censors have determined that her Elvira cleavage is too much for post-prime time. She’ only visible in quick, fuzzy background shots.
She gently stroked Kristina’s back during the tense moments while Max may or may not be getting scarred or getting candy, we just can’t see her long nails contrasted on the cottonball white of her daughter-in-law’s costume. The editors found that image almost as disturbing as her bosom.
Anyway, all the grandchildren survive the night.
Later, Camille and Zeek have a tawdry evening of candy strip poker, fueled by diet soda and her outrageous costume. He’s wowed by her ability to stomp around the entire neighborhood in platform boots and becomes entirely wobbly when she offers to share his hot tub.
She doesn’t tell him about her case and he doesn’t notice the new book she bought on how to be a spy.
That’s better, isn’t it?