In life, as on the television series, parenthood's a crazy game of pinball, with rapid-fire ricochets of sudden bad luck that blur reality and make you feel like you're losing control - and slow, lazy rolls of the ball that score big as happy family times spin into memory like the most magical poetry.
This sincere series - loosely inspired by the 1989 hit movie with the Oscar-winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer as the executive producer - reflects the duo's Hollywood-honed juggling skills as it explores three generations of the Braverman family with tight scripts, nuanced acting and kinetic storytelling energy.
The fact that Parenthood is back for a third season, however, is a small miracle. The show lingered so long "on the bubble" last year - with only so-so ratings - that some were surprised when NBC greenlit another season. In fact, last month, the network signed up for season four, too.
And why wouldn't they? The amount of dramatic "meat" in this series sets a sumptuous emotional feast for its viewers. As the new season begins, Parenthood tackles:
The former business bigwig Adam Braverman (Peter Krause) is losing his mind as a househusband.
His wife Kristina (Monica Potter) sees her corporate career taking off - yet she's about to deliver another child - and Adam's pride is sorely wounded. Where is her place; where should she be? They need the money.
Cash-strapped Sarah Braverman (Lauren Graham) turns 40 and papers over her fear with big talk: "I just want to tell you that I am not afraid of turning 40. I'm going to look 40 in the face and say: 'Hi 40. This is going to be the best decade ever. It's going to be the decade of Sarah.'"
A small-time record producer, the unfaithful Crosby Braverman (Dax Shepard) remains separated from the luminous Jasmine (Joy Bryant) - and his eyes reflect his pain when she tells him she's started dating.
Loneliness / new love
Sarah steals a kiss from the English teacher Mark Cyr (Jason Ritter) - "I kissed him like a starving person who saw a sandwich" - which signals he'll play a key role in her love life this season.
Sarah's having a fit because her rebellious daughter Amber (Mae Whitman) wants to move into a downtown industrial warehouse. "That's kind of like the crack district, isn't it?" asks the family patriarch and grandpa Zeek Braverman (Craig T Nelson). At the loft, Sarah adds: "This is like a scene from Shutter Island - this is NOT a place to live."
Nothing's going right for Adam. His 11-year-old son Max (Max Burkholder) even criticises how he scrambles eggs: "No. These eggs aren't good. Mom has the good eggs."
"The latte girl at work is pregnant, and I really want to ask if I can buy her baby," says the hotshot lawyer Julia (Erika Christensen), desperate for a child.
The series creator and executive producer Jason Katims says he's particularly excited this season about the return of Sarah's ex, Seth (John Corbett), who gives Mark some romantic rivalry.
The third season of Parenthood premieres on Thursday at 8pm on OSN First / OSN First HD and at 10pm on OSN First +2