'Parenthood' Boss, Cast Talk Struggles, Snubs and Season 5

“We’ve definitely had our struggles and frustrations along the way, but I feel so positive about it now,” showrunner Jason Katims told reporters at TCA.
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"Parenthood's" Lauren Graham and Craig T. Nelson

Parenthood patriarch Craig T. Nelson has no regrets about defending the show in which he stars.

Asked about blasting NBC’s treatment of his drama earlier this year, Nelson told a roomful of reporters assembled Saturday for the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour that he felt strongly about his position and is proud of the fact that he voiced his concerns. “You get associated with a show that you love and that you believe in … and you get frustrated with the fact that it doesn’t seem to get honored in the way that you feel it should be,” the veteran actor explained, adding that he felt NBC hadn’t been marketing the show correctly or enough. “I felt I had an obligation as the patriarch of the dysfunctional family [to speak up.]”

Creator Jason Katims was far more political, suggesting that the show’s full 22-episode fifth season order -- up from a truncated 16-episode fourth season -- and its move to a premium slot Thursday nights is indicative of the network’s renewed support. What’s more, NBC brass had invited his entire cast to sit before the press Saturday, a rarity for a show heading into its fifth season. “We’ve definitely had our struggles and frustrations along the way,” he said, “but I feel so positive about it now.”

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Earlier in the day, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt acknowledged that he had regrets about not ordering more episodes last season, and not simply because the long-running drama out-performed much of NBC’s other series in the coveted 18-49 demo. “Once we got through the 16 episodes, I kept hearing from people, ‘Oh, I wish it wasn’t ending’ and ‘It’s too quick,’ ” Greenblatt said. “It’s one of the best shows on television, and I wish it had more of that acclaim. And it really had a great season this past year.”

To be sure, what the last season -- which featured a particularly heartbreaking cancer storyline centered on Monica Potter’s Kristina Braverman -- lacked in Emmy attention, it made up for in critical accolades. To hear Katims tell it, the series is at its best when it reflects what he and his staff see going on in their own lives, whether that’s raising a child with Asperger’s or being diagnosed with cancer.

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Potter and her onscreen husband, Peter Krause, spoke candidly about how challenging the arc had been on both of them. Potter, who had to sit for four hours each morning as a bald cap was applied, said that in some ways she went through it with her character in that she didn’t want to know too much. “I wanted it to feel fresh and real,” she explained, noting that usually she is the type to rip apart pages and start highlighting the minute she got a script. Krause, too, saw his method differ in that he wanted to let his scenes go as soon as he was done with them. “I just wanted to get through it and get it over with,” he said. “It wasn’t fun but it was rewarding. … That’s always been the strength of the show, it’s relatability.”

Both actors appeared relieved that this season will likely be lighter for their characters, with Katims suggesting that their arc will focus on what happens after a person becomes cancer-free. The showrunner stayed relatively mum on storylines for the upcoming season, which will jump seven to eight months in time, with few exceptions. Among the latter: Lauren Graham’s Sarah Braverman won’t be solely focused on her romantic relationships in the same way that she was last season. The actress added that she has moved into her own apartment and will serve as a super in the building. Dax Shepard (Crosby) and Joy Bryant (Jasmine) will be dealing with a new baby in their lives, while Erika Christensen (Julia) and Sam Jaeger (Joel) will see their relationship called into question. Warns Katims, with a knowing smile: “You might want to be a bit concerned about Joel and Julia.”