After six seasons and just over 100 episodes, NBC’s “Parenthood” is signing off for good tonight. Executive producer Jason Katims talked about the series finale for Variety, and offered his take on the show’s legacy. “There’s some sadness, some celebration, but ultimately, an uplifting ending,” he promised.
How hard is it for you to say goodbye to the Bravermans?
It’s very hard. It’s a show that we’ve all gotten very attached to. Anytime you do a show that lasts as long as this one has, you get connected to it and become close to all the people doing it. But there’s something special about this show because the subject matter of the show is about family. That has somehow made everyone involved in doing the show even closer.
It’s unique as a family drama on TV right now. Can you imagine trying to sell it today?
It would be a hard sell to go out and sell a family drama that doesn’t have some sort of twist. There are lot of shows about family, but they’re all couched in other things. This is a straight family drama. It’s unusual in that way. But honestly it was not easy to sell it five years ago. It’s not like anyone was saying let’s have it then. But the TV landscape is changing so rapidly. There’s so much opportunity now, so many different types of outlets — you never know. I’m hoping that there’ll still be a place for shows like this.
It did find a loyal fan base.
That’s been the most gratifying part. Our audience has been so passionate about the show. When I meet people — it’s unmistakable. It’s not just another show. They feel connected to the show and these stories and these characters. I always love when someone tells me, “I watch the show with my daughter” or “We watch it as a family.” It’s a great compliment to feel like you’re working on a show that a family can watch together.
Was it hard to shoot the finale?
The entire run, we shot 102 episodes and one was easier than the next — we would wind up wrapping after 8 hours of shooting, and every other show on the lot was angry and envious of us for that. And then the final episode was the opposite. It was an incredibly difficult episode to shoot with a lot of big sequences with our entire cast. Plus, we had incredibly challenging weather. It didn’t rain for two years in L.A., and suddenly it rained every day. Then we were supposed to shoot in San Francisco, and we were all very excited because we hadn’t been there since we shot the pilot. It was our great way of saying goodbye to the show. Then two days before we were supposed to leave, a weather report came out that said they were expecting their biggest storm in 50 years, so we had to cancel the trip. It was sort of like the show — all the curveballs that were thrown at us. That was what the show was about, all the curveballs that are thrown at you as a parent and in life in general.
So what happened that final day?
We ended up on a baseball field a block away from Universal. It was the most memorable day of shooting. There weren’t a lot of scenes with words — we were just getting all these great images. It was a very joyful day to have everyone together, but also bittersweet.
What do you think the legacy of this show will be for some of the younger actors, like Max Burkholder?
Doing the show with Max has been incredible. When we first started doing the show, I had such trepidation about taking on the storyline in general. I didn’t know whether we were going to be able to get a child actor who was going to be able to take on a role like this. And what Max has done has been unbelievable. So many of my favorite scenes have been scenes with Max, particularly when he was in the back of the car when he had that terrible field trip with his school and got bullied. I would put Max’s acting in that scene up against any acting I’ve seen in television recently. I’m excited to see what he does next.
What do you hope viewers take away from the finale?
We tried very hard to give the show a great ending. It was a gift to know when we got picked up for the sixth season that it was going to be the final season. So we started the first day in the writers’ room thinking not only about what the first episode was going to be, but what the last episode was going to be. What we tried to do is having an ending which reflected what we did on the show. It deals with some hard stuff. It deals with some hard reality and some difficult things. But ultimately what the final episode is is very uplifting. And to me what I hope people take away is that even though there are some difficult things that we all have to deal with in life is the power of this family we’ve been watching for 100 episodes or so and the love that they have for each other. I hope that’s what comes through.
How did it compare to writing the finale of “Friday Night Lights”?
It was very similar to me in terms of what I set out to do. My goal was the same thing: Give the show a great ending. Both were big ensembles with a lot of characters. I wanted to have the stories work but feel like every character was serviced. I was inspired by one specific thing about the ending of “Friday Night Lights” — the flash-forwards at the end of the show. We use a similar device at the end of “Parenthood” finale.
Given the wealth of platforms on the TV landscape, could you imagine ever revisiting the Bravermans down the road?
Yes, absolutely. Everyone who is doing the show — our writers, our actors, our directors, our producers — we all love doing the show. Everyone would want to do more. There is no one who is angling to get out of doing this thing. I personally would be interested in seeing what happens a few years down the road. I want to know what happens to these people, these characters. If you asked me three years ago, I would say it’s not going to happen. But now there are so many ways of doing things that it’s possible. I would very much be open to that