If NBC had any decency, a new episode of Parenthood's full, 22-episode season, would be airing tonight. Instead we'll be getting a new episode of Smash.
Thankfully the cast of TV's best drama was honored last week during The Paley Center for Media's annual PaleyFest, which is where I caught up with (future Emmy nominee) Monica Potter, Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Jason Ritter, Sam Jaeger, Erika Christensen, Mae Whitman, Miles Heizer, Craig T. Nelson and creator Jason Katims to talk season four highlights, season five hopes and NBC frustrations.
Lack of Love
Despite being one of the network's most critically acclaimed series, the Parenthood cast all expressed some degree of frustration regarding NBC's treatment of the show. "There are all these people responding to our show and NBC is completely out of it," Nelson said. "They don't promo the show, you don't see anything about it out there. It's like this hidden gem, but why are they ashamed of it?"
"We should be doing more episodes. Full seasons," he adds. "I don't understand whatever the agenda is behind the scenes. It's very confusing. Having been around as long as I have and been on a couple of shows -- one of which I ran -- it doesn't make sense to me."
Potter's Perfect Performance
One thing everyone can agree on is that Monica Potter delivered next-level work all season long as her character, Kristina, battled breast cancer. "She's a magical actress," Jaeger, who directed one of Potter's most emotional episodes this season, told me. "She's a genius," Nelson said. "She's able to surprise and in that moment of surprise there's such awe and wonder, it creates its own magic. Even if it's just a moment, you never, ever forget it. It's an extraordinary gift she has."
"Monica just gave me goosebumps," Mae cooed. "And it's funny because she'd be so happy right before filming these painfully emotional scenes. If that was Amber's storyline, they'd have to wheel me around to hair and makeup because I'd be a mess all the time."
"That was pretty brutal," Christensen said of her co-star's performance. "We'd text through tears every Tuesday night. I don't know if it's more moving because I know the actor, but it was so powerful. Monica's whole storyline just tore my heart out. It's spectacular to be on a show and still have that kind of reaction to it."
Luckily for Christensen, the fact she was reduced to tears by her own show means her humanity is in tact, according to her co-star Peter Krause. "That's the beauty of Parenthood. It helps people look at their own lives and if you cry, it means you're wired correctly. If you're wondering if you're a sociopath, you can tune into Parenthood and if you feel nothing, seek psychiatric help immediately," he laughed.
Inside the theater, Parenthood fans made it clear that Sarah should have picked Mark over Hank, but Lauren Graham is excited to explore her character in absence of a man should the show snag a fifth season. "I'm hoping we get to see what happens to her in the absence of a man," the actress told me, before quickly adding, "but I'm trying to keep my goals with her immediate, like, let's get her out of the foldout bed."
Sadly, the chances of having Mark around more next season are slim since Jason Ritter recently booked a new pilot [Friends & Family] playing opposite Graham's former TV daughter, Alexis Bledel! "No one has said you’ll have to let Parenthood go completely," Ritter told me of his potential new bosses. "But it's a very strange thing because it didn't immediately occur to me since I joined the show before Alexis did. I was so excited when she came aboard and then I realized what was actually happening. So it's a little strange because I also worked with Scott Patterson on The Event. Clearly I'm working through some of my issues of never having been on Gilmore Girls. [A Melissa McCarthy movie] is next!"
"I have such specific memories with each one, so it never occurred to me that could ever happen," Graham laughed of the pairing. "It's like two people you once dated now dating each other. That started me thinking about what Jared Padalecki is doing next year. Maybe Matt Czuchry could come on. We could turn Parenthood into a new show called Cradle Robber."
Re'Light'ing Friday Nights Alums
Although Graham is excited to explore Sarah in the absence of romance, she's still got a few casting suggestions should Katims want the character to find love again. "I think I've dated everyone now in the world of Parenthood, but there are endless Friday Night Lights connections." An idea that led Mae Whitman, who was doing interviews right next to Lauren at the time, to gasp, "Riggins."
While Katims says he's open to bringing more FNL alums aboard, a lady is the first that came to mind when I broached the subject. "I'd love to work with Adrianne Palicki again," the creator told me. "Several of the writers on the show worked on Friday Night Lights, so a lot of times we'll get excited about a new character and someone will describe them as a 'Michael B. Jordan-type' and then we'll ask, 'How about Michael B. Jordan?' That's how it’s happened with almost all of them. Matt [Lauria] was just unbelievable this year and I would love to continue to explore Ryan's story with Amber."
Young Love - Take Two
Katims isn't the only one who'd like to continue exploring Ryan and Amber's relationship. "I love working with Matt, I would love nothing more than to work with him all next season too. I think that would be a great next step for Amber because it would bring her back into the family. I would love to see the different reactions to the family -- especially Drew's!"
"That would be interesting," Miles Heizer, who plays Drew, said, "because it's never actually been acknowledged that Drew knows Ryan, so Amber could tell me and I might be like, 'Um, who is Ryan?!?'"
Season Five is Alive
With NBC's new shows failing to inspire any enthusiasm or generate solid ratings, the odds of a Parenthood renewal seem good, so I asked Katims what storylines he'd be interested in exploring further next year. "I'm interested to see what happens with Ryan and Amber. I also think Sarah's at a point where she needs to look within. One of the things I think we tend to do well is tell these real stories in real time, and I want to see what happens with Kristina because even when you get good news, it affects you forever. So I want to know what the next stage is. How did surviving cancer effect Kristina?"
For her part, Potter is happy to keep exploring that storyline now that she's emotionally recovered from telling it the first time. "It took me a long time to get out of that headspace," she tells me. "I didn't have a lot of time to do or think about anything else besides work and my kids, so I went through a little bit of a depression at the end of the season."
But the reactions she's gotten from fans make the journey worth it. "Watching this season has been cathartic for some people, and to me, as an actor, that's the biggest gift you can get. I feel so blessed to be able to do that ... but I might like to do something a little lighter next season. Maybe Kristina joins a roller derby team or learns how to be a sumo wrestler. Something fun," she laughed.