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Jason Katims: With clear eyes and a full heart, he can't lose

Families are complicated. Families can be loving, messy, dysfunctional, and fiercely loyal—many times, they’re all of those things at once. Is it coincidence that three of my favorite TV shows not only tackle that very complexity in much the same vein, but do it with many of the exact same actors?

Not when you discover that the man behind all of them is the same person, and not when you find out that Jason Katims—creator and showrunner of such hits (some of my faves) as Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and About a Boy—is, simply put, all about family himself.

If you’re a fan of more than one of his shows, Jason Katims’ Midas touch is evident. If you’re not, you should be. But until you have time to do some serious binge watching (all three of these shows are available to stream on Netflix), I’ll give you a quick rundown of a sample of the overlap—the “Katims-isms,” if you will—and try my best to do it without posting a complicated Venn diagram (but don’t think I haven’t made one).

Actors: It’s obvious that Katims is a loyal man. Just take a look at the list of actors he’s cast in more than one of his shows:

Minka Kelly: Lyla (FNL), Gaby (PH)

Adrianne Palicki: Tyra (FNL), Dr. Sam (About a Boy)

Michael B. Jordan: Vince (FNL), Alex (PH)

Jurnee Smollett-Bell: Jess (FNL), Heather (PH)

Matt Lauria: Luke (FNL), Ryan (PH)

And on a smaller scale:

Angela Rawna: Regina (FNL), Zeek and Camille’s therapist (PH)

Jeff Rosick: Buddy, Jr. (FNL), boy who gets in fight with Drew (PH)

Sam Jaeger: Under Armour salesperson (FNL), Joel (PH)

Sam Jaeger on FNL

Side note to Jason Katims: If you could sneak Sam Jaeger into all your shows, we’d appreciate it. Thank you.

Characters: It’s not only actors who show up on multiple different shows. Sometimes the same character makes an appearance, which makes fans giddy with excitement when it happens (speaking for myself, at least). On season 1, episode 7 of About a Boy, Crosby (Parenthood‘s Dax Shepard) showed up to play poker at Will’s house … and my head exploded. Since both characters live in San Francisco and both are quintessential boy-men who pretty much live their lives like college frat boys, it made perfect, delightful sense that these two would be pals. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if Tim Riggins would’ve shown up, even though Riggins showing up in SF would have been a stretch. Wouldn’t have mattered, I’d have gone with it.

Tim Riggins gif

Taking the same character/different show idea to a much bigger stage was last spring’s brilliant appearance at Parenthood‘s Luncheonette by FNL‘s jammin’ hair band, Crucifictorious. While it wasn’t part of an actual episode, seeing Landry and crew reappear with Amber via the digital short three years after the premature ending of Friday Night Lights—not to mention having Billy Riggins show up with a six-pack and a party—was epic.

Landry GIF - FNL

Behind the scenes: Besides keeping his cast of actors all in the family, Katims keeps things familial behind the camera as well. Sam Jaeger, Peter Krause and Dax Shepard have all directed episodes of Parenthood, and last week’s Christmas episode of About a Boy was directed by Shepard as well (which he apparently did while wearing a Christmas sweater all week, which only supports my infatuation with him).

Family situations: Besides being loyal to his actors and characters, Katims is obviously loyal to family. Not knowing the man personally, I can’t speak to his relationship to his own, but knowing how he treats the families he creates for TV, I think it’s safe to say he considers the sanctity of family vitally important. Between the rock-solid—but not always smooth-sailing—marriage of Eric and Tami Taylor on FNL, the realistic ups and downs of the Bravermans on Parenthood, and the instant connection between Marcus and Will on About a Boy, Katims’ shows illustrate the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of different kinds of families (as About a Boy shows us, you don’t even have to be related to be family). Oh yeah, and they all make you cry. A lot.

Katims isn’t afraid to be honest, either, and doesn’t shy away from tackling issues that aren’t easily tied up with a bow. Cancer, job stresses, teen love and first experiences, sudden disabilities, and marriage problems are just a handful of the complicated situations his shows have explored. What makes things even more authentic is the fact that Katims writes what he knows. Not only is the character Max on Parenthood modeled after his own son and many of the situations that have arisen with his Asperger’s, but Kristina’s cancer storyline as well as what Zeek is going through currently are pages from Katims’ own life.

With FNL long over and only four episodes left of Parenthood (here’s how I feel about that), About a Boy is about to be the only Jason Katims force on TV… for now. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Braverman to show up on a future Katims’ show and deliver this line:

Famous FNL tag

On second thought, maybe Katims himself should deliver it, because as his shows prove, it’s a pretty great testimony to the man himself.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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