A “Parenthood” Writer Says Good-Bye To “Parenthood”
After more than 100 episodes, writer-executive producer Sarah Watson considers the end of the beloved and bittersweet NBC family drama and looks back at how she was saved by Parenthood. “Let’s go home.”
Back in mid-October, when I turned in the script for tonight's episode of Parenthood, this is the email that I sent to the show's creator, Jason Katims:
Today I typed Fade Out on my last Parenthood script ever. I'm kind of hoping you'll have lots of notes so that it's not really over.
I'd actually told Jason I'd have it for him a few days earlier and I'd never missed a deadline before — I'm a little like Julia Braverman (Erika Christensen) that way. Truthfully, the script was done on time. Because, OK, when it comes to deadlines, I'm a lot like Julia Braverman. But this deadline was different, because as soon as I turned in that script, my time as a Parenthood writer would be over, and I wasn't ready for it to be over.
So after forcing myself to finally hit send, I grabbed my iPod, cued it up to my playlist of Parenthood songs, and took the dog for a walk through the rain to process this spectacularly huge moment. Was I being melodramatic? You bet your ass I was. But when you've spent six years of your life writing for the show that has become synonymous with Kleenex and ugly crying, you learn to embrace your feelings.
And I was feeling… actually, I don't even know how to articulate what I was feeling. I guess there's some irony in there. Six seasons writing the emotions of the world's most annoyingly expressive family and this one moment had me emotionally stumped.
I was recently rewatching the Parenthood pilot and there's a moment I'd forgotten when Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) turns to Sarah (Lauren Graham) and says, "Welcome home." I'd always thought it was a sweet line, but six years later, it hit me in a completely different way. There was something sad and hard about hearing those words at a time when it was all about to end. Parenthood has been my home for six years — and leaving home is hard.
The show has been the biggest defining moment in my career. I entered Parenthood as a mid-level writer. I leave it as one of its executive producers. I found my voice on this show. Adam Braverman (Peter Krause) will tell you that The Luncheonette saved him. Well, I can tell you that Parenthood saved me. I've been through a lot these six years, good and bad. I fell in love. I fell out of love. I'm a little like Sarah Braverman that way. I bought a home. I worry about things like the mortgage and mold and water damage. Because like Crosby (Dax Shepard), I learned that being an adult is hard.
We've certainly covered it all over the course of the show. Joy, pain, marriage, breakups, births, and death. As a writing staff, we've experienced all of it. There was writer Monica Henderson-Beletsky's gorgeous wedding and her father's speech that was so moving that it caused Jason to purse his lips together, nod, and make the same sharp noise of approval that he always makes in the writers room when you've nailed a pitch. But I was also there at his dad's funeral, when even as my heart broke for him, his dog Jack came over and stuffed his entire head up my skirt.
Life is painful, but life is also funny. That's the best gift the Bravermans have given me: Embrace all of it.
Max (Max Burkholder) dances with Kristina (Monica Potter), as Adam (Peter Krause) looks on; Crosby (Dax Shepard) contemplates his newborn baby daughter, Aida.
Right now, my emotions are all over the place. Which brings us back to me and my dog and our dramatic journey through the rain. When we'd walked as far as we were going to go, I turned to her and said the same words I always say when it's time for us to head back: "Let's go home." And that was it. With those words, the crying started. Not just crying — heaving sobs. I mean, it was bad. Strangers leering at you and wondering if they should intervene for the welfare of your dog bad. "Let's go home."
God, those words. You'll understand why when tonight's episode airs. Because —spoiler alert that doesn't actually spoil anything — it's the last line of the episode. It's a bittersweet moment and I do hope you enjoy the scene; it's one of my favorites. But for me, it's not just the end of an episode. For me, it's the end of a journey. After six seasons and more than 100 episodes, those are the last words of Braverman dialogue that I will ever write. Because a few days after I sent the script to Jason, this is the response I got:
Another beautiful script. Sadly, I have no notes.
I don't know where I'll go next. It's unlikely that my next show will last 100 episodes. Out of our entire huge — and hugely talented — cast, only Craig T. Nelson and Lauren Graham had ever made it to 100 before. That's just the nature of television these days. You work for 13 episodes or so and then pack up your stuff — in my case two Ewoks and three Smurf action figures that always sit on my desk — and move on to the next thing. But this time, I'm taking a lot more with me than just a few action figures. If you want to get literal, my Smurfs now come with a fancy mushroom house that was a gift from fellow writer Kerry Ehrin. I never thought about it until I was packing them up, but it seems fitting that my Smurfs found a home on this show too.
My Smurfs' home will travel with them, and in a way, mine will too. Because that's the other thing the Bravermans have taught me. When you're a part of a family as big, and loud, and all consuming, and smothering, and loving as them, you don't stand a chance in hell of ever really leaving. So in a way, my final words couldn't be more fitting. And that's how I choose to say good-bye to Parenthood. To the Bravermans. To the best 103 episodes of my life. By saying, "Let's go home."