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NBC’s Parenthood closed the book on its sophomore season on Tuesday, with Peter Krause‘s Adam and Monica Potter’s Kristina battling problems real-life families can relate to: job loss, a pregnancy and financial issues. (Not to mention the Braverman clan going through the aftermath of a car accident.)
The hourlong drama from Friday Night Lights’ Jason Katims was set to move to a more competitive time slot in March, Mondays at 10 p.m., before NBC nixed the plan, benching troubled procedural Law & Order: LA instead. Meantime, Parenthood has held its own in the ratings on Tuesday nights, with solid performers like CBS drama The Good Wife beating down its door.
With a new NBC entertainment boss at the helm and a third season pickup still a question mark, on the day they wrapped filming, Krause, Potter and Katims took a look back on Season 2.
On leaving things open-ended:
Jason Katims: We try to balance that stuff where, on one hand, you do want some kind of catharsis, you want to feel like by the end of the episode, you’ve gotten somewhere and something’s resolved. But on the other hand, it’s like life. Some things don’t get resolved.
On going off-script:
Peter Krause: The strength of our show is what happens between characters and the actors are given the freedom to bend the material a little so that when we’re listening to each other, we actually have to listen to each other. Jason [Katims] understands that if you want that space in between to be connected between characters, that you do have to get them freed up so that they — like people in life — aren’t thinking about what they’re going to say next. They’re listening to the other person and they’re receiving their energy and giving back. It is a different way of working than most acting work, I find.
Monica Potter: I also think the way to give us space is to allow us to have the space where nothing is said. I know a lot of actors look at the words on the page and go, “I’m happy I have all these things to say.” I’m the complete opposite.
Katims: Something that I learned from Friday Night Lights, sometimes if you have four or five scenes in an episode, it’s not having less than having 10. It’s what you do with those scenes.
On the show’s realism:
Krause: We’ve gotten away with all sorts of things that a lot of other shows haven’t. When I think about dealing with Haddie’s (Sarah Ramos) sexuality, I think that there are other networks that would not deal with it in the way its dealt with here. The way we portray teen drug use is a really positive thing to have on TV rather than sweep it under the rug. Even in the way that there’s emotionally based violence on the show, like Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) throwing Seth down on the car, things like that don’t feel gratuitous at all. They feel real and they’re grounded [in something]. You still love these people but it’s not a sugarcoated family show at all.
On the chances of a third season:
Katims: It’s an interesting time because there’s a whole new ownership and changing of the guards. [NBC entertainment president] Bob Greenblatt has been supportive of the show. Obviously, there are a lot of factors that go into it.
Krause: [Knocks on wood] There’s nothing like it. I haven’t had an experience like this before where we get to have creative ownership of the show.
On the ratings: [UPDATE: The Season 2 finale drew 6.3 million viewers and a season high 2.5 in the demo.]
Katims: Even though the [total viewers], of course you’d want the numbers to be higher, but we’ve been holding our own in the demo with the competition and the show tends to go up 50 percent in audience when you look at the DVR numbers. It’s another sign that there’s a core audience there. (Parenthood averages 5.3 million viewers and last week’s episode drew a 2.1 rating in the ad-favored 18-49 demo.)
On the progression of the second season:
Katims: The second half pushed into another gear. We were very deliberate in how we started to set up the stories and eventually by the time you bring in a character like Seth (John Corbett), Sarah’s ex-husband, immediately it’s such a loaded situation because you’ve heard about him, you’ve seen those kids struggle and you’ve seen Sarah struggle. Then when he’s there, it’s like “Oh my god, he’s there.”
On their favorite scenes:
Krause: The “Shut up, grandpa” was a thing where Max was doing something and Zeek explodes at him. Max [Burkholder] at one point, as Max, shouts back, [in a soft yell] “Shut up, grandpa!”
Potter: It helped balance it out because it was such a heavy scene that it was comic relief in the middle of it.
Editor’s note: Peter Krause and Monica Potter were interviewed together.
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