It’s a pure family drama, with little in the way of built-in story engine other than chronicling the adulthood of four adult siblings in Northern California.
The show got to take a victory lap at TCA on Saturday for securing a fifth season order after notching some notable upticks in the second half of last season. For a time it looked like the curtain was going to fall on “Parenthood” after season four, which was a shorter order of 16 episodes.
But about halfway through that run last season, the demo numbers started to uptick — not gangbusters but enough to get noticed. The show got a lot of media attention for a dramatic storyline involving Monica Potter’s character dealing with a diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.
In the fall, NBC is testing “Parenthood’s” mettle with a move to a higher-profile slot, Thursday 10 p.m. as the cap to its overhauled 8-10 p.m. lineup emphasizing family comedies, including new vehicles from Sean Hayes and Michael J. Fox.
“Parenthood” star Craig T. Nelson wasn’t shy last season about criticizing NBC for what he saw as a lack of marketing support for the show.
“You get frustrated with the fact that it doesn’t seem to be being honored in the way you feel it should be,” Nelson said. “I felt I had an obligation as the patriach of this dysfunctional family to speak out. I’m proud of that. It’s what Zeke Braverman does.”
“Parenthood” creator/exec producer Jason Katims said he had a good feeling about getting a fifth season because he knew how much internal affection there is for the show at NBC and Universal TV.
Katims has been there before with a show balanced on the bubble. “Friday Night Lights” was perpetually in danger of getting axed until NBC set a creative deal with DirecTV that took the show through five seasons.
“I’ve seen what can happen for a show when there’s a lot of internal support for it at the network,” Katims said. He never spent much time planning for a series finale; the (happy) outcome of the cancer storyline was set long before the crunch time of pickup decisions in the spring.
Nor was Katims surprised by the bump the show experienced in the second half of last season.
“I feel like there’s been a building passion for the show throughout the run,” he said.