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Jason Katims is riding high.
The prolific showrunner is fresh off the Jan. 29 conclusion of NBC family drama Parenthood, and he’s wrapping production on the second season of his charming comedy About a Boy. But, given the challenges of broadcast TV and its evolving landscape, Katims could soon find himself out of a job should NBC opt to wipe its comedy slate clean. About a Boy and Parks and Recreation (the latter of which is airing its final season) were the only comedies NBC brought back this season, and the network, come March, is putting the David Walton starrer, along with Marry Me, on hiatus in favor of a multicamera comedy block.
“Unfortunately the single-camera comedy is hitting a tough moment right now, [but] for a while, they thought one-hour scripted television would be obsolete. That’s obviously not true,” Katims tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So I think these things come in waves.”
“I’d never done a half-hour before, and being in this territory, I realized there are things you can do; there’s a beautiful sort of brevity sometimes,” the Friday Night Lights alum says. “The fun is being able to push some of the comedy in ways that really wouldn’t have worked on Parenthood or Friday Night Lights.”
No stranger to writing season finales that might have to live as series finales, Katims, who’s currently plotting the About a Boy season-two ender, talks with THR about life post-Parenthood, the future of About a Boy and his plans to move into multicamera territory.
Parenthood just came to an end, so now are you finding yourself redeveloping stories you didn’t get a chance to do there for the half-hour format?
It’s funny: We did a storyline this year [on Parenthood] that was almost a parallel story [to one on About a Boy]: The Dylan (Ally Ioannides) and Max (Max Burkholder) story on Parenthood and the Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and Shea (Izabela Vidovic) story here. It was a really interesting thing because it was a lot and we had to rebreak a couple of episodes because the stories felt too similar. It was very interesting to watch, and it’s interesting now to be putting those two stories to rest almost at the same time.
And what about the cast? You’ve done some great crossovers in the past, and the characters obviously live in the same area, so are you already scheming ways to bring some over?
We don’t have any plans this year, but it was really fun to do the crossover with Dax [Shepard], and I can tell you that at the end, half of the actors in Parenthood were basically pitching themselves for About a Boy, so hopefully at some point in the future we’ll be able to have some fun with that.
Now that you aren’t juggling two shows, what are you enjoying most about About a Boy that maybe you didn’t notice or took for granted before?
About a Boy has this wonderful tone, and it is something that is unique to the show. The exciting thing about doing the show is that the show is able to sort of ride this wave of having these moments of really, really fun humor — sometimes broad, physical humor — but then get to these places that are so real. And I really credit the actors for not only digging into the comedic aspects of the show but for also lining such depth and heart in their characters. It’s allowed us as writers and directors to lean into that component of the show.
The family dynamic created on About a Boy is an unconventional but still very strong one, yet the core characters of Will (Walton), Fiona (Minnie Driver), and Marcus have been pulled apart lately, each dealing with individual issues and relationships. How does this affect the rest of the season?
It’s really about trying to find the balance. What’s the sweet spot for our show? This is a story where we’re really following these people’s lives, so what we’re seeing is we have a season-long arc with Marcus and Shea and this girl who is sort of his first crush [but is also] becoming his girlfriend. We’re going to follow the end of that, and we’re also introducing a love interest for Will, and then we’re coming up to a heart-breaking ending to the relationship between Fiona and Mr. Chris [Chris Diamantopoulos]. And throughout those episodes, there are a lot of great, heightened moments, great, fun physical comedy, but this season will continue to get more emotional as we move forward. I’m watching the cuts in the editing room, and you can literally see the show continue to get funnier and deeper as we go on. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of. Obviously I wish our numbers were better, but we’ll hopefully get there, too.
You mentioned a new love interest for Will, so does that keep Dr. Sam (Adrianne Palicki) out of the picture for the rest of the season?
Yes, she is for now. He meets someone new in the episode that airs Feb. 10 [“About a Cat Party”], played by Christine Woods, who’s wonderful.
Where does this leave Fiona? One of the things that makes About a Boy even more unique is the platonic relationship between its male and female leads, but do you see that as long term?
I let what happens in the show guide me, and for a long time I was thinking it’s just a purely platonic relationship, and then last season there were a couple of episodes — and actually this season as well — where there were just incredibly moving moments between the two of them and you saw them so connected that I definitely think the idea of the possibility of it turning into something more than a platonic relationship is interesting. I think we’d want to be very careful with that [though] because the show is about neighbors, and I think if you go too far in that direction it loses some of the charm of the show. But I would say I’m more inclined to consider that now than I was when we first started the show.
They still have a lot to learn from each other.
They’re such incredibly different people, and I really think what they still have to learn from each other is just how much that relationship has affected them and how much it’s changed them. They’ve really gotten quite close, and I don’t think they’re aware of just the profound affect it’s had on them.
The state of comedy on NBC is in great flux right now. Depending on what happens with About a Boy in May, would you want to stay in this medium or focus solely on drama?
I don’t know if I have a tremendous amount of control over that. Everyone does what they’re excited to do, and what’s exciting for me is no matter how broad or how comedic it is, let’s define what it’s really about and what these characters are really about. … I would love to do a multicam one day [though]. We did try to develop one this year, but it didn’t go. My way into that was to develop [one] where the characters were really grounded and you would feel for them. To me, that’s the only thing I can do, and I think it’s why people watch TV. From the beginning I’ve felt like what I could bring to the half-hour world was to have a show that was funny but where you really loved the characters and that you also left at the end of the episode feeling something.
About a Boy airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
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