“Parenthood” returns tonight with a new episode, “Forced Family Fun.” This week the Bravermans are determined to spend even more time than usual together. For Sarah, that means finally formally introducing her hot younger boyfriend Mark to her family. The situation is complicated by her continued support of her ex-husband, Seth, as he struggles to get sober. Will Mark be able to handle a Braverman family gathering? Is he capable of following a conversation in which everyone talks at the same time? Lauren Graham and Jason Ritter preview the awkwardness and speculate that there might be a surprising, sci-fi reason why Mark is such a great boyfriend.
In the previous episode, Sarah decided to get Seth into rehab. How does that connection impact her relationship with Mark?
Graham: It does get somewhat resolved. An issue like that obviously can’t be finished in one episode of television but I think the impact of the father of her kids coming to town will continue to unfold. I want him to get his life together. It’s a confusing time for my character. In this episode, I’m introducing Jason to my family for the first time.
How do the Bravermans react to Mark?
Ritter: It’s fun because I get to have a scene with Adam Braverman (Peter Krause) and Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and they’re all very tall men and very intimidating as a family. But I think Crosby likes me.
Graham: They’re happy to see Sarah have some happiness and something that could go a while, but it’s always daunting to see someone around a big, loud family. So you see some of that, too.
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Zeek is such an opinionated character. What is his take?
Graham: He’s happy for Sarah. I think he’s actually a member of the family who is encouraging and wants her not to worry about their age difference or what’s going to happen. That doesn’t mean he’s not going to give him a hard time.
Ritter: But he’s also on my side about her ex-husband.
Graham: He doesn’t like her ex very much and doesn’t trust him. He doesn’t think he’s ready to be in the family. He’s definitely a champion of Mark.
Ritter: But it is still awkward to first meet the father of the woman you are in love with from underneath a bed. So it’s nice to meet him officially, standing up.
Sarah and Mark initially bonded over her writing. Will we see more of her attempts to become a writer this season?
Graham: I hope so. It’s a story that hasn’t been featured for a lot of this season. What I like about that is that it’s not something that you would have immediate success with. We saw her launch something last year, put up a staged reading, but I hope that it’s going to continue, and I think it will, whether it’s another play or a writing group. But right now we’re focused on this relationship and what the next step is. They finally got together but what’s next and how are their differences going to impact them. I think they’re going to start having conversations about the future.
Mark’s been the perfect boyfriend so far. Is he going to turn out to have any human flaws?
Graham: Are you human or a robot?
Ritter: He’s definitely human. I think the relationship between Sarah and her husband has been difficult for him. He’s had to stand his ground and show that he has boundaries and not just be a pushover. But he’s going to give it all that he can. But he is after all –
Graham: A robot.
What will happen with Julia’s attempts to adopt the coffee cart girl’s baby?
Graham: She’s developing a friendship with this young woman and I think the woman is having concerns about is this the right thing to do? I think they’re exploring as to will she give her her baby. I don’t think it’s resolved tonight. It’s an interesting story because she’s so desperate to have a child that she’s willing to do anything and I think people can relate, unless they’re robots.
Ritter: Like me.
Will Sarah and Mark be together for the long haul?
Graham: I hope so. I think there’s such an opportunity for Sarah to have some happiness, which I love because she has really suffered.