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Parenthood Boss Opens Up About "Stressful" Renewal Talks and Final Season's "Higher Stakes"

Parenthood

The Bravermans are gearing up to pack their bags and bid adieu to the small screen this upcoming season on Parenthood, and fans of the acclaimed NBC drama aren’t the only ones having a hard time letting go.

“I don’t think it really has sunk in yet. We’ve been doing it for so long and it’s such an intensely personal show for everybody who’s involved,” showrunner Jason Katims tells TVGuide.com. “But on the other hand, I’m so excited that we have a final season.”

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That excitement is partly because Parenthood almost didn’t get picked up at all. Despite consistent praise from critics and impressive numbers airing opposite the powerhouse that is Scandal, the series was the last scripted show to be renewed by NBC for the fall. “There were times when I was convinced the show was not coming back,” Katims recalls.  “Everybody wanted the show to come back. We needed to figure out a way to make it work, to make the economics work to sort of do that, so it was really stressful.”

However, fans’ enthusiasm about the show’s last-minute pick-up was dampened by the news that it would return for just one final season of 13 episodes. Katims, on the other hand, is optimistic. “I’m very happy to know that it’s the final season because we can give it an ending and hopefully do these episodes in a way that will give the show the ending it deserves,” he says. “In every other season, you’re trying to balance out the catharsis with cliff-hangers. The final season, you don’t really need a cliff hanger, you need catharsis.”

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That advance notice on the series’ impending finale also affected just how Katims and the writers have approached possible story lines for Season 6. “There are a lot of higher-stakes stories this year just because of the fact that the show is ending,” he says. “There are certain things, certain ideas I had going into it right from the beginning, about the characters and the show and where I felt like I wanted to see them kind of get to, so I was able to bring those in to the writers the first day which kind of helped us really get on a good path right away. With most of the big stories and the characters, we didn’t really waver much. We just knew what we wanted to do.”

That difference will be visible on screen as well, particularly with the introduction of a more cohesive and inclusive main story line. “We wanted to have a strong central story that would bring everybody together, that would touch everybody in the show,” Katims says. “I felt like the one thing that was sort of similar was [Kristina's] breast cancer story line in Season 4, but I think that this one has the weight of that, but will actually even be more impactful on the entire cast.”

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Katims is tight-lipped about just what will bring the entire family together early in the season, but says it will reflect a “changing of the guard” within the Braverman family hierarchy. “One of the things that I feel this show is about is about the generations in a family,” Katims says. “We want to do a story that shows what winds up happening in life when our four adult siblings get to a certain point where they’re getting to be middle-aged and they’re getting to that point where the tables are starting to turn a little bit. We hinted at it in the last episode of last season of Adam sort of becoming the patriarch of the family.”

But with just 13 episodes to go, is Katims worried about giving proper closure to every member of the 15—person ensemble? “A little bit,” he says. “You want to give everybody a huge, huge story line but generally speaking, it doesn’t really work that way. So that’s why we do have one central story line that runs through this season that will affect, I think, everybody in the show, certainly every adult character in the show. I think that that will give us the ability to have good arcs for every character. … We really have spent a lot of time thinking about every character this year and wanting to get to some place by the end, which does give each character closure as opposed to the entire show.”

Katims is also hopeful about bringing back some of the show’s many beloved recurring characters, such as Haddie (Sarah Ramos), the latter who made a memorable return in the Season 5 finale. “We’re hoping she’ll be able to come back for the first episode of the season, and we’re hoping some time later in the season she’ll come back,” he says.

But above any one character or story line, Katims is most worried about leaving fans satisfied. “Pressure’s the wrong word, because I don’t feel it in a negative way,” he says. “There’s a wanting to make these episodes great, and wanting to make the season great and really wanting to give a great season to our fans who have stuck with us the whole time.”

Parenthood‘s final season kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 25 at 10/9c on NBC. What do you want to happen?

On the set: What makes the Parenthood cast cry:

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