From the football one he established in "Friday Night Lights" to the blood ties of the Bravermans in "Parenthood," Jason Katims knows a lot about family. And just like any proud father, he was just as happy to talk about either of his children when I spoke to him at the TCA Winter Press Tour in January. There we chatted about the future of "Lights"; the challenges of running two shows; and the appeal of each series.
Brian Ford Sullivan: What's it like having to run two shows at once?
Jason Katims: I would say the first day that I had two writers rooms going was really horrible. [Laughs.] I felt like I was having an affair. I kept like going from one room to another [saying], "I'll be right back!" "I'll be back in a half an hour!" Two hours later it's like, "Hey, how are you doing?" [Laughs.] And I was like, why was I thinking this was a good idea? And that was the first day... since then it's actually been really great. I've enjoyed it. It's been weirdly exhilarating... but it's interesting, it's worked well. The two shows are very different in many ways but they share certain things about them... the type of storytelling that it is and the characters, there's a lot about relationships and family. So I don't know why exactly but it's been, I've loved it, it's been really fun. I'm very lucky to have the job that I have. I didn't really expect or plan both shows to be going simultaneously... that's sort of a high class problem. I didn't have any option because "Parenthood" obviously it's a new show, it's very important for me to be there for it, and "Friday Night Lights" is a show that means so much to me I couldn't leave it. So I didn't have an option.
BFS: Do you feel there's certain muscles you flex on "Parenthood" you don't on "Friday Night Lights" or vice versa?"
JK: I approach both jobs very similarly, I approach storytelling very similarly on both shows. "Friday Night Lights" is a little bit more, it runs on its own steam because I've been doing it for this amount of time... "Parenthood" obviously [like] any new show you're making a lot of critical decisions early on so I want to make sure I'm paying attention to that. But basically it's just been really great. I love both shows.
BFS: In "Friday Night Lights" you have an obvious story engine with the football season, is it a challenge then to write for a show like "Parenthood" which is completely character driven?
JK: Football's been a story engine that's been so great. In fact in the second season we made this decision to get a little away from football which I thought was a mistake. And that's why since then we've really wanted to stay with that. And so in "Parenthood" it's a little bit different. We have a lot more kind of fun closed-ended stories that we hope will be very relatable. And you sort of come into it, you say, whatever the story is, it hooks you because [either] you've been a parent, or have a parent, or have been a brother, or been a sister... and that we think is going to be more of the fun of [the show]. There's a lighter tone in "Parenthood." You have two shows, they share a lot of ideas and subject matter but I think it's sort of coming out in a different way - which is part of what makes it so great.
BFS: Are you approaching the next season of "Friday Night Lights" as its last?
JK: Well, right now we're going into it with the assumption of it being the last but if the powers-that-be change their minds about that and want to do more I'm up for doing another 13. I think the cast would be up for it and everybody else. It's been a joy.
BFS: Is there anything you feel like needs to be said in those 13 - whether it be about Eric and Tami's relationship or high school football in general - if it's the show's last?
JK: What's great about the show is it's got such a good legacy. It's got the book that it was based on. It's got the movie that Pete [Berg] directed based on that book. You have the world of real high school football out there that's always happening. There's always more stories which you can be inspired by. If it felt like we were creatively running out of stories to tell, I'd say let's stop it but we have yet to feel that. I don't honestly see that coming. If we do the fifth season and we're done, I'll be thrilled with [what we've done]. This is a show, we didn't know whether it'd get past six episodes so that's a great run. But I think if it does more we'll be able to continue to be able to do great episodes.
"Parenthood" premieres tonight at 10:00/9:00c on NBC.