I’ll get the superficial observation out of the way first: Oh, Haddie, what did you do to your hair? You strike me as the kind of girl who would have watched every season Felicity alone in your room when you were younger; did you learn nothing from Keri Russell’s disastrous season-two ‘do?

Now, on to better thoughts. Parenthood began its third season on Tuesday night with a bit of forward time-jumping. Since we last saw everyone, Kristina (Monica Potter) has become well and fully-rounded pregnant, while husband Adam (Peter Krause) is still unemployed and spending far too much time thinking about what he’ll have for lunch today. Amber (Mae Whitman), who’s done herself no more favors in the hair department than has Haddie (Sarah Ramos), is looking to get out from under the smothering wing of her mother and move into her own apartment. And speaking of Sarah (Lauren Graham), she’s turning 40, with the requisite big Braverman birthday party planned.

All of this led to some fine tension, with Sarah throwing a particularly nice fit when Amber opts out early from the birthday festivities. (These two are so well-matched in temperament, I really hope Mae Whitman isn’t being eased out of the show too early.) The return of Jason Ritter as the high school teacher just made for Sarah was a nice touch — can’t she get together with him now that Amber is no longer his pupil?

Although I enjoyed the inside-joke of the line, “I know there’s alcohol at high school parties; I watched Friday Night Lights” (Katims and Michael B. Jordan, who plays Alex, are FNL vets), I winced a bit at the notion that Alex, like his Vince on FNL and his Wallace in The Wire, is being set up as a character defined by his flaws and his disadvantages. It was simultaneously appalling and hilarious, however, to see Sarah Ramos trashed at the party.

Are you as hopeful as I am that the latest pipe-dream of Crosby’s — to get Adam to refurbish an old recording studio and Pursue Their Dreams — really becomes an ongoing plot, and not just a three-week arc that will end with Dax Shepard and Krause acting out their fraternal hostilities so well once again? I mean, I don’t buy the idea that the Dead and Janis Joplin really recorded in this place, though I suppose, it being Berkeley, the legends might have stumbled in there a few times. But think about it: At the very least, this would be a groovy place for Max (Max Burkholder) to play his drums!

I’m pleased that Parenthood no longer competes in its time period with The Good Wife, that excellent series that basically draws from the same audience pool and which will now air on Sundays. Not that I think Parenthood is suddenly going to start winning its time period once Dana Delaney returns with new episodes of Body of Proof on ABC. As a TV producer said to me last year, Parenthood has a difficult task: Unlike law and medicine shows, Parenthood has no inherent dramatic structure each week (a case to try, a medical mystery to solve). This producer pointed out that Parenthood has to generate its own drama (and light comedy moments) solely from family dynamics, which are more difficult to invent and maintain, and aren’t as immediately grabbing to any channel-flipping viewers.

All credit, therefore, to showrunner Jason Katims for overseeing show that keeps many interesting subplots moving along, while nurturing the weaker ones (such as Julia and Joel’s never-ending, tedious adoption proceedings) like ailing little puppies, until they get better.

How’d you feel about the return of Parenthood? What do you think of the season’s various new hairstyles?

Twitter: @kentucker

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