‘Remote Controlled’: Jason Katims on ‘Pure Genius’ Inspiration, Revival Plans for ‘Parenthood’ and ‘Friday Night Lights’

Debra Birnbaum
Variety

Welcome to Remote Controlled, Variety’s podcast series featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

This week’s episode features Variety executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum and editor-at-large Michael Schneider in conversation with Jason Katims, executive producer of CBS’ medical drama “Pure Genius.” Katims discusses the inspiration behind the series, his reputation as “the remake whisperer” — as well as any potential for revivals for his fan favorite series “Parenthood” and “Friday Night Lights.”

“The idea of combining the world of technology and medicine was something that was very intriguing to us from the beginning,” says Katims of “Pure Genius.”

But it was also a personal story, he reveals, based on his experience when both his wife and father fell ill at the same time and he spent a year in and out of hospitals. “It renewed my respect and admiration for doctors and how much they cared, how hard they fought for their patients,” he says. “I also came across their frustrations of the medical system. One hand wasn’t talking to the other.”

Adds Katims, “Those were some of the things that stayed with me: Is this the best way to be dealing with this? Those were some of the ideas that led to Pure Genius.”

Working with Hulu on “The Path” has been a “fantastic” experience, he says. “We were in at the ground floor. It was as important to them as it was to us,” he says, adding that the creative freedom has also a huge benefit. “You get to push things further than you get to do in network.”

The second season is even more “bold,” he promises. “We’re still very much looking at the central story of that marriage [between Aaron Paul and Michelle Monaghan], but they’re in a completely different space,” he says. “We’re really pushing things in terms of where Meyerism is.”

His success with “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” have given him the reputation of “the remake whisperer,” but Katims shrugs off any notion that he deserves that title.

“Brian Grazer and Ron Howard really freed me to do my version of it,” he says of “Parenthood.” “They didn’t want to do anything that looked like the movie… If we were going to do a television show, they wanted it to strike out on its own. That was a great gift.”

As for any reunion plans for the series, Katims reveals that it may well happen. “I would love to do that at some point,” he says. “It would have be coming from someone — me or someone else — having the spark to say, OK, this is the story we need to tell. I don’t know what that is yet. My instinct is it should be a story that picks this family up a little bit further along where they left them. I’d like to see Amber as a mother, as opposed to see the defiant teenager we met at the beginning of the series. Seeing Max as a young adult in the world dealing with the idiosyncrasies that he has. We’re not getting together because it would be fun to do that but we’d be telling a story that would be unique to this version of it.”

But as for “Friday Night Lights,” he says although there was talk of a “Friday Night Lights” movie, he ultimately realized it was not meant to be. “The show ended in this perfect way,” he says. “We’re moving on from that.”

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday.

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