On a scale of one to 10, how many tissue boxes will "Parenthood" fans need for Thursday night's season finale? Maybe not a jumbo pack, but it will be good to have a few tissues handy, according to executive producer Jason Katims and actors Peter Krause and Lauren Graham who spoke with TODAY at a recent press event.
"I love the finale," Katims said. "I’m really proud of it. This year, there’s been a lot of change for our characters and a lot of (that) comes to a head. It has a combination of real catharsis — something in the Joel and Julia story that will give people something to hope for, and other stories as well. ... (The finale) definitely has its poignant moments but I think it’s really hopeful."
"Well, I don’t remember," said Graham, who plays Sarah Braverman. "Near the end, we start shooting pieces from different episodes. Wait. I know exactly where it ends, which I think is uplifting."
"People talk about the show making them cry," Krause, who plays Adam Braverman. "I think the last episode will definitely make some people cry. If you don’t want to say goodbye to the house, don’t watch."
Say it ain't so! No more beautifully lit dinners at the great wooden table in the yard?
"No! I don’t know!" Krause backpedaled. "Zeek might stop the sale. He might hang onto it!"
It's true that it's been a season of change for all of the different Braverman factions.
Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) sorted through their Act 3 differences and recently found a smaller house they both loved. But will they really give up the Braverman homestead?
Katims wouldn't say, but assured viewers that the patriarch and matriarch of the show aren't going anywhere. "I wouldn't say farewell to those characters. The story about the house this year is one of my favorites. It was never about them breaking up. They disagreed for a while and couldn't come to terms with it. but it was two people with very different opinions about what to do next and they were both very valid."
Krause understands why the story of aging parents fighting about downsizing and what their future would look like has hit home for many viewers.
"My mom wanted to move out of our home in Minnesota when my dad was alive," Krause said. "And then after he passed away, now she doesn’t want to move. Now she’s going to stay. It’s interesting. And it’s emotional. The Braverman house is a character on the show. I wonder how the audience is going to react when it’s gone. It was the place where the family meets. It’s a special place."
No couple has gone through harder times than Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) who separated this season. In last week's episode, Joel seemed to want to connect with Julia, after many months of pushing her away. Are they headed for a reconciliation?
"By the end of the season you start to see a direction for them," Katims said. "I won’t say it’s the end of the story but I think there’s some sort of clarity for the audience about what it is. Resolution might be a strong word but it gets to a place where there’s sort of a direction."
Hank (Ray Romano) has had a fascinating journey figuring out if, like Max, he has Asperger syndrome. As he's sorted through his personal challenges, he and Sarah have become closer again. If NBC renews the show for a sixth season, Katims hopes Romano will be back.
"Clearly, what Ray Romano has done on the show is so phenomenal," Katims said. "This year, he took it to a whole new level. We get to a place at the end of this year that sets up a story for next year. If the show comes back and Ray is available, I would absolutely love to keep telling that story."
As Max (Max Burkholder) has grown into a teenager, he's realizing the impact of Asperger's on his social life, which has made for some of the season's most heart-wrenching moments. As the season draws to a close, Adam and Kristina (Monica Potter) are making plans to open a charter school for Max and kids like him. Haddie (Sarah Ramos) also returns from college with some news of her own.
"It’s tough with kids," Krause said. "You feel their pain more than you feel your own. You just don’t want them to hurt like that. And sometimes there’s not much you can do for them except hold them and let them know you love them. And sometimes it’s not enough for what they’re going through, which is a bummer. It’s part of it, you know. And even though it’s not enough to fix their problem, it does let them know that they’re safe and they're held — at whatever age."
Adam and Kristina "might find they’re biting off more than they can chew next season. It will certainly add to everything they have to juggle in their lives," he added. "I love that Jason has written two people who really do lean on each other. It’s a great relationship. A lot of people come up to me and say, 'I wish our relationship was like that.' But it’s TV. Monica and I talked about it when we first started. The characters met each other when they were young so when they look at each other, they can see that late teen in each other’s eyes. They’re still a boy and a girl, which is cool."
NBC will announce next month if "Parenthood' will be back for a sixth season.