Creator Jason Katims joined Dax Shepard, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen and more in Austin, TX to share stories about the NBC family drama.
When This Is Us premiered in September 2016, Parenthood hadn’t aired for a little over a year. Many have dubbed Dan Fogelman’s new NBC family drama the heir apparent to Jason Katim’s critical darling, who was himself a follow-up to his NBC family drama Friday Night Lights. Some even falsely complimented Katims on his work on This Is Us, assuming it would be his next big-hearted tearjerker. Of course, This Is Us wasn’t Katims’ project, but that wasn’t the only major difference between the two shows: This Is Us quickly became a ratings juggernaut, while Parenthood was never NBC’s top draw was. and the ensemble’s large cast eventually took pay cuts to ensure a sixth and final season could take place.
So a little lingering irritation is understandable, even in jest — like the witty remarks made at Friday night’s “Parenthood’s” reunion panel as part of the 2022 ATX TV Festival. During the audience Q&A, Katims was asked how he knew it was time to end the show.
His simple answer: “That was NBC,” he said. “NBC made this up.”
Then Dax Shepard jumped in and pretended to hear another question from the audience. “Oh, we just have one other question here,” he joked. “She just said, ‘Is anyone mad at ‘This Is Us’ for trying to do the exact same show?'”
As the audience laughed, Shepard said, “It would be like AMC canceling Breaking Bad and then introducing Meth Lab: Santa Fe. [Or] ‘Euphoria’ will be canceled and then ‘Ecstasy’ will be on HBO!”
Jokes aside, “Parenthood” has endured in the years since he left NBC, streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and now Peacock. Despite streaming’s dismal viewing figures, it’s safe to say that audiences have only grown of late and fans have flocked to the hour-long reunion. The line out the door stretched around the block.
The celebrations were attended by Katims, Shepard (who played Crosby Braverman), Monica Potter (Kristina Braverman), Joy Bryant (Jasmine Trussell), Erika Christensen (Julia Braverman-Graham), and Lawrence Trilling, who served as executive producer and director of the series . Craig T. Nelson, Peter Krause and Lauren Graham, among other cast members, were once scheduled to attend, but the reunion’s rescheduling — it was originally scheduled for the 2020 festival before the pandemic forced a swing to virtual celebrations — has resulted in scheduling conflicts. Below are six highlights from the “Parenthood” reunion, including teary memories, dance secrets, and a brief but appropriate revival pitch.
Max was the key to unlocking all of “parenting”.
While Parenthood was based on Steve Martin’s 1989 film of the same name, each project was different. For Katims, his initial inspiration for getting involved with the series came not from the film but from his own TV show, Friday Night Lights. A family drama built around a high school football team, The NBC Project is widely considered one of the medium’s greatest shows of all time. It won three Emmys, including a script win for Katims, and built a strong following in the years following its first airing.
“I was very honestly inspired by ‘Friday Night Lights’ as I thought about what that show could be,” Katims said. “One thing I really enjoyed about ‘Friday Night Lights’ was the big ensemble – the big cast, the many, many points of view – and I was like, ‘What if you did a show like this, but focused would be [solely] on family and extended family?’”
Still, the idea needed more. If a family drama was to connect with audiences in the 2010s, it needed unique, undeniable emotional connections. It had to be personal.
“When I was writing the pilot story, there was a groundbreaking moment for me, a moment of truth for me when I was writing the Max storyline,” Katims said, referring to Max Braverman, the youngest child in the central family who is attending suffers from an autism spectrum disorder. “I have a child who is on the spectrum. […] There is a story where [Max] is asked to leave the school he is in and it really happened to me. I was close to taking it off the show because I was afraid it would be too personal for me [to divulge]. I took it out, then I put it back, and for me that was the path for the entire show.”
“At the time, there weren’t any characters on television with autism,” Katims said. “I wanted to do with every plot what I did with that plot — dig deep.”
Tears, tears and no tears
Such a personal investment led to many great emotional moments during Parenthood. Soon the drama had the reputation of a tearjerker – but of the best kind. Few, if any, tears were shed through overt manipulation or stretching to create fabricated drama. Many have been earned, including by the Creator himself.
“I cried at every stage,” Katims said. “I cried while writing the scripts. All the writers cried in the writers’ room. I cried on set. But the most embarrassing thing was getting in front of the editors in the editing room. I would try not to cry in front of them, I don’t know why. But then this crazy noise came out of me [instead.]”
“I cried every episode,” Christensen said. “Knowing what was to come didn’t help me at all.”
“I never cried,” Potter said, earning a great laugh from the crowd. Katims then praised the actress for her ability to “turn on the waterworks in a jiffy.”
Dax Shepard was reluctant to join network drama
Shepard said that when the opportunity presented itself to be on Parenthood, he focused more on writing than acting. But beyond that, the future ‘Bless This Mess’ star wasn’t sure if a potentially long-running gig would suit him well at the time.
“I wasn’t sure if I had the right attention span to be on a network TV show that’s been on the air for maybe six years,” Shepard said, before joking, “I like it, for three months to shoot and sleep with some of the people who live there and get out of town – I wasn’t married [then]I was single.”
Shepard said he was in the middle of a note-taking session with David Nevins – who is now chairman and CEO of Paramount Premium Group and chief creative officer of the Paramount+ Scripted Series – when the Imagine TV manager at the time suddenly looked at him and said, “Oh my god, that’s Crosby Braverman!”
After Nevins sent Shepard to audition, Katims soon had a similar reaction.
“I didn’t know you didn’t want to be on the show,” Katims said. “But when you walked into the room, I was like, ‘This is Crosby.’ It was one of those rare moments where I think it should be.”
Thomas Schlemme helped create the casting chemistry that carried the show for years
Even before Parenthood premiered, everyone was raving about his incredible cast. Craig T. Nelson was already a TV legend, having starred in Coach and The District. Peter Krause was hot from “Sports Night” and “Six Feet Under”. Lauren Graham’s last regular role on the show was on a small show called Gilmore Girls. Featuring Shepard, Potter and Christensen, as well as Mae Whitman and Joy Bryant, this was a quality ensemble to rival any other.
Still, they had to work together. They had to form a credible family unit. So Katims and his team turned to one of the industry’s finest directors – nine-time Emmy winner Thomas Schleicher – to direct the pilot.
“Much of our rehearsals took place under Tommy muds tutelage,” said Shepard [when] We sat around this big table, met for the first time and were encouraged to ask: “Who are you?”, “What is your role in your family?”, “What are your parents like?”. – and in the end it was incredible how much we could identify with each other.”
“It was a really quick way to understand each other,” Shepard said. “It immediately made us intimate and vulnerable and set us perfectly into the tone of the show.”
The Bravermans danced to their own beat—often literally
Over the years, Braverman family dance parties have become a popular staple of Parenthood fans. Once “the fever” caught one of the main characters, it could quickly spread to the entire group. But what fans may not know is that despite the show’s excellent soundtrack — aided by Emmy-nominated music director Liza Richardson — most of those huge group shindigs were recorded in utter silence.
“There’s a few that we’ve heard music at, but the vast majority we haven’t danced to anything,” Shepard said, before adding that they were often worried about looking out of sync because the performers weren’t told what music genre is played each scene. “I dance to hip hop. You dance to rock ‘n’ roll. Who knows what Monica’s dancing to,” he said.
Decisions were made early on about the characters’ given dancing abilities — Krause, as seen in many compilation videos, embraced cheesy dad moves — but those talents didn’t always match the actors’ true abilities.
“I decided Julia wasn’t a good dancer and I really regretted it,” Christensen said.
“Because Erika is the dumbest dancer,” Shepard said.
No word on a revival, although there was a pitch
In the years since Parenthood ended, as the drama’s profile continued to rise and family dramas became more desirable, Katims hasn’t been shy about considering potential sequels. Back in 2016, he told The Hollywood Reporter, “I would be interested in doing that after a little time has passed […] That would be a really interesting thing to revisit Parenthood as Drew [Miles Heizer] graduated from college now and haddie [Sarah Ramos] has graduated from college and someone who knows may be nearing retirement age.
Katims wasn’t asked for an update on revival thoughts during the panel, but he said he tends not to think about what happens to characters after completing a series.
“I don’t really think about it much,” he said. “We’ve done over 100 episodes of the show, and I felt like what I wanted to do in the last season, the last episode, the final arc, should really be a resolution. I wanted them to feel like they landed somewhere.”
The Parenthood finale was acclaimed by critics and fans alike, but that didn’t stop Shepard from arguing unprompted about how to revisit the story.
“Easy pitch, Jason, off the dome, let’s go,” he said. “After Zeke [Craig T. Nelson] died, the family splintered. Julia took a job in Oregon. Everyone moved around. You must come home to something special [because] They realize their life is miserable in this way: we have to get the band back together.”
With a void in the family dramas left by the recent ending of a certain series, maybe this is… the time for more “parenting.”
All six seasons of Parenthood are available to stream on Hulu and Peacock.
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/06/parenthood-reunion-7-highlights-cast-revival-atx-tv-festival-1234730704/ ‘Parenthood’ Reunion: 5 Highlights + 1 Revival Pitch from ATX TV Fest