Q. I enjoy NBC's "Parenthood." I watched the final show of the season on Jan. 29, but it seemed like it might be the final show ever. Are they planning another season? Is Ray Romano going to be a regular if there is? I'm also impressed with young Max, who has Asperger's syndrome. Does the actor have Asperger's? If not, he does a fantastic job of acting!
-- D.B., of Freeburg
A. Believe me, the Internet is abuzz with fans like you pleading for a fifth season of this second attempt at a series loosely based on the 1989 movie starring Steve Martin and Dianne Wiest.
Like you, John Kubicek at www.buddytv.com fears things may have been wrapped up far too neatly. The inference: NBC now can ax the show because there are no cliffhangers to resolve or mysteries to explore.
So, Kubicek offers reasons why it must be renewed, which I'm sure you will appreciate: It's uplifting, we need to see more of war vet Ryan York, Sarah needs happiness -- and we must know more about Max's development.
But will NBC be a nurturing parent itself and allow this somewhat troubled ratings child to grow? That, I'm afraid, is the nonscripted cliffhanger you'll have to fret over until NBC releases its fall schedule this spring.
"Parenthood" is one of those "on-the-bubble" shows with ratings not good enough to do cartwheels over but not bad enough to whack without a care. This past season, for example, the show drew a steady 5 million viewers per episode, just slightly off season three's 5.1 million.
Right now the network is putting up an optimistic front. They say they like "Parenthood" because it's an alternative to the violence you see elsewhere and that they hope to develop more family dramas in the future.
"We're feeling really great about (its performance)," Jennifer Salke, NBC's president of entertainment, said at the recent TV Critics Association press day. "We haven't determined its future, but I'd be crazy to tell you that we didn't feel incredibly excited about where the show is creatively."
Jason Katims, who developed the show, also says don't let that last episode fool you. The man who is also known for such series as "Roswell," "Boston Public" and "Friday Night Lights" is far from giving up on this baby.
"I didn't really intend for either last year or this year to serve as a series finale," he told the Hollywood Reporter. "I certainly don't want it to be a series finale. I wouldn't be satisfied because I feel like the show has been in such a strong place creatively. I would love to keep doing the show."
Like the show, Ray Romano's return may be up in the air, too. With such a large cast, "Parenthood" is not a cheap show to produce. As a compromise to keep the show going, Katims may have to cut some costs, and you can bet Romano commands big bucks, so he might be expendable. But that's pure speculation. Katims might want the return of the popular comedian to draw viewers.
"I haven't considered any of those kinds of changes yet," Katims replied when asked about a trimmed cast or abbreviated season five.
As for Max Henry Wolf Burkholder, who plays young Max Braverman, no, he does not have Asperger's (unlike "Life Goes On's" Chris Burke, who really has Down syndrome). Burkholder is simply a talented 15-year-old actor, who has been landing roles since his debut as a 5-year-old in "Daddy Day Care," for which he was nominated for a Young Artists Award. He also has been in great demand for voiceover work in such shows as "The Land Before Time" and "My Friends Tigger & Pooh."
Playing a boy with Asperger's was merely a tougher challenge.
"It's quite a bit harder because I have to figure out a way of expressing what Max is feeling without making it seem that he doesn't have Asperger's," Max told disabilityscoop.com.
"Every couple of episodes I get together with an Asperger's doctor, the director and the executive producer and we talk about what Max might do in the given situations in the script. As I do more and more, I start to understand more about what Max might be feeling."
He no doubt hopes to learn even more in a fifth season.
What is thought to be the first construction project that required workers to wear hard hats?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: So, did you know what big Elvis Presley hit is based on the Italian folk song "O Sole Mio"? Time's up. Come on, it's now or never. No, really, the answer is "It's Now or Never," which Elvis rode to No. 1 in 1960 -- and John Schneider resurrected in 1981.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or email@example.com or call 239-2465.