What a difference a year makes. Last September, Parenthood faced a shortened 15-episode season after three years of high critical praise but lukewarm ratings. But thanks in no small part to Kristina's heartbreaking battle with breast cancer, the tearjerker family drama transformed from bubble show to buzz show. Now the NBC series returns for a full 22-episode season on a brand new night, Thursdays at 10/9c.
"Moving us to Thursdays was a vote of confidence from [the network]," showrunner Jason Katims tells TVGuide.com. "Rather than putting us out to pasture, they're really investing in the show." But while things are smooth-sailing behind the scenes, there are rough waters ahead, naturally, for the entire Braverman clan. So what's next for Kristina (Monica Potter) after beating cancer? Will Amber (Mae Whitman) and Ryan (Matt Lauria) make it to the altar? And who might be headed for a separation? Get the scoop on Season 5 below:
Now that we've now seen that spoilery promo for Season 5 (which reveals Amber and Ryan's engagement), what is coming up for them?
Jason Katims: These are two people who love each other. They have this great chemistry together, but are also very young, and he also has a lot of stuff in his past that's challenging. So I think no matter what is teased in the promo, the story is going to be one that is full of twists and turns.
How will their challenges differ from last season?
Katims: There are arguments to be made whether or not these two people should be getting married right now. I think it's interesting from a storytelling perspective [because] it's not a simple cut-and-dry story. Certainly things like Ryan's past will probably come up. People don't change overnight.
How will Sarah (Lauren Graham) take the news?
Katims: I think she'll take the news like a mother whose daughter is getting married very young. ... Since Amber moved into her own apartment, we've just found it doesn't always naturally lead to scenes or stories between Amber and Sarah and that's such a strong relationship and I missed that. One of the things that I'm looking forward to this season is the fact that Amber is going to get engaged, which naturally puts Amber and Sarah together and there's going to be such great mother-daughter scenes between the two of them.
This is a big year for Sarah now that she's moved out and her kids are grown up. What is coming up for her?
Katims: Sarah is somebody who, in the beginning of the series, was moving into her parents' house because she really had no other options left and wound up living there for four years with her kids. Now both of her kids are out of the house and basically doing well. So I think this is a big opportunity for Sarah to see this as a year of personal growth and being able to figure out what she's going to do with her life. I think she's determined to really focus on herself this year and so I'm excited about that and watching how that evolves. Obviously, it's not going to be without its complications.
How will Hank (Ray Romano) come back this season?
Katims: We do want to continue to watch that relationship between Hank and Sarah evolve, but we didn't want to start out with that because of the way last season ended. ... What we find out is that Hank has returned from Minnesota because it didn't work out there. One of the things that I really liked was the idea of seeing Max and Hank in scenes together. I thought that the connection between the two of them, even from the very first episode Ray did last year, was really interesting to me and we wanted to explore that. So Hank returns through Max's emerging interest in photography, but it also gives us opportunities to do scenes not only between Max and Hank, but eventually, with Hank and Kristina and Hank and Adam.
Last season was such a huge one for Kristina and Adam (Peter Krause). What will their obstacles be this season?
Katims: They really are hyper-aware of mortality and the time that they have and they really want to make use of that time. So for Kristina, it's a little bit of a wake-up call. She wants to make sure that she doesn't let her dreams pass her by and she makes some pretty big moves early in the season and gets involved with politics, which is something that she's been doing, but has largely not pursued because of having young kids. It's about her wanting to jump into that and the question being whether it's too much for her take on.
At the end of last season, Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant) found out they were expecting. How does the baby affect their relationship? How will Cosby be changed by having to raise a baby for the first time?
Katims: It's the first time he's going through that experience of raising a child from being an infant and that's an eye opener for him. ... In a way, Crosby's always been able to kind of have it both ways. He has a great wife and family, but also seems to always live his life with a certain kind of freedom. This is a year where Crosby is starting to feel a little bit more of what it feels like to be Adam: The weight of responsibility, the increased financial pressure.
There will be a few new characters coming into Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel's life. How will these new characters impact their marriage? Should fans be worried about Joel (Sam Jaeger) and Julia?
Katims: One of the things that we haven't really done on the show is explore a marriage really getting to a point of trouble and danger. That's really what we wanted to do this year. It's not really because she meets a guy or he meets a woman. It's not a story about an affair, per se. It's really more of a story about how sometimes relationships can just kind of go awry a little. They're having a huge role reversal. Julia has really been so defined throughout the show by her career, and I think when you take that career out of the equation, it's left some holes for her emotionally. So what we wanted to explore this year is Joel and Julia getting into the inner workings of their marriage and watching and living with them through a very difficult time.
Why was it important to look at a marriage in trouble and challenge these two characters that have been together for so long?
Katims: I think there has always been tension in their marriage. Their love for each other always makes everything work in the end. I think there were seeds planted over the last couple of seasons when they were trying to adopt and then last year having adopted Victor. ... Not just problems between Joel and Julia, but also problems for Julia with leaving her job and seeing her come unglued a little bit. ... The story about potentially separating and what that's like is something that I think is new and different from what we've seen on the show and something that feels like you start to see happen with people that you know. Sometimes you don't expect to ever see it from certain people and then it happens.
Parenthood airs Thursday at 10/9c on NBC. Are you excited about Amber and Ryan's engagement? Do you want Hank and Sarah to get back together? Are you worried for Joel and Julia? Sound off below!
Watch a sneak peek of the new season — and the newest Braverman! — below: