LOS ANGELES – Roseville-raised Peter Krause has too much stoic German blood coursing through his veins to get openly emotional too often. But even he got choked up watching last week’s episode of his series “Parenthood,” when family patriarch Zeek learned that his granddaughter has named her newborn after him.
Expect more tears to flow Thursday night as the NBC series wraps up after six seasons.
Krause, who plays Zeek’s oldest child, Adam Braverman, knows what it’s like to say goodbye to a TV family. He previously committed five years to HBO’s “Six Feet Under.”
“That show was a little more demanding as an actor, so it was kind of a relief when it ended,” he said. “This was a really happy group. The cast and crew had a lot of love for each other and I think the hopeful tone of the show led to that.”
The series has always run against the grain. While network TV keeps investing in more gruesome procedurals and outrageous killers, “Parenthood” has explored the drama of trying to start a business, battling cancer, adopting a troubled youngster and separating from a spouse.
The latter story line dominated much of this season. The husband of Adam’s youngest sister, Julia (Erika Christensen), moved out and she plunged back into the dating pool.
“When I first heard that their marriage was going to be in trouble, I thought it would be fun, some kind of slick, flirty, sexy TV thing,” said Christensen. “Then it got real. It wasn’t fun.”
Perhaps the most emotionally charged story arc dates back to the very first episode, in which Adam discovers that his son has a severe case of Asperger’s syndrome. It has continued to be an important component of the series — one that creator Jason Katims almost decided to drop.
“I came very close to not telling that story because it felt like an invasion of privacy on me and my family,” said Katims, who was raising a 13-year-old with Asperger’s when he wrote the pilot. “I didn’t know if people would turn away from it, that it was too depressing, too specific. But weirdly, I think the opposite happened. I think that’s the story line that kept us on for six seasons. I feel like people saw that and felt it was real and different from anything else they were seeing and it grabbed them. It gave us time for viewers to get to know everybody else.”
Katims has rarely taken the easy route. His last drama was the critically acclaimed “Friday Night Lights” and he’s currently running production of the NBC sitcom “About a Boy.” All three series have strong, likable characters and everyday problems that viewers can relate to. All three struggled in the ratings, with “Parenthood” perpetually on the verge of cancellation.
Wouldn’t “Parenthood” have been more marketable if one of the Bravermans was a flesh-eating zombie?
“You’re, like, making me rethink my entire life!” Katims said. “I’ve been lucky to be able to tell stories where all your concerns are about the characters and intimate story lines. Because you’re not having to solve a crime or get the bad guy, you can really let the stories breathe and get deep.”
It’s also a surefire way to trigger those tear ducts. Without giving too much away, the final episode will include a wedding and the very real possibility of losing a loved one.
“We have never set out to make people cry, but it has just always happened,” said co-executive producer Sarah Watson. “We had this inside joke in the writers’ room for a while — we would host cry-a-lot Tuesdays. Hey, when you write about family, you’re going to cry.”
Same thing happens when you’re watching.