Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

At this evening’s PaleyFest panel on NBC’s Parenthood, the question on everyone’s mind was whether Parenthood will be around to make audiences bawl for a 5th season? Oddly, this question got punted to 15-year-old Max Burkholder, who gamely tried to answer. “I don’t think there’s any way to know, or anything to officially announce, but I’m definitely crossing my fingers.” According to the moderator, TVLine’s Michael Ausiello, some fingers are crossed already for Monica Potter to win an Emmy nod. Her character fought cancer this season. He offered that Potter portrayed “the C word, but now there’s talk that she might be a contender for the E word.” Pplot twists have included abortion, illness, autism and heartbreak, but an audience member stood up to show her bald head. She thanked the producer and cast for this season’s cancer story: “You brought the cameras into my life,” she said. Tissues had been distributed in advance to the audience because this extended-family drama from executive producer Jason Katims has a penchant for making people cry. (So did his Friday Night Lights.) The large Parenthood panel included Katims and cast members Craig T. Nelson, Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Erika Christensen, Monica Potter, Sam Jaeger, Mae Whitman, Jason Ritter, Joy Bryant and young actors Miles Heizer and Burkholder.

Potter joked that cast members cry so often during production that she has started a drinking game where she takes a shot every time someone tears up on set. For his part, Krause said that whether you laugh and cry at Parenthood should be the new litmus test for sanity: “If you don’t laugh a little bit and cry a little bit, you might be a sociopath,” he suggested. Katims was willing to venture a more serious reason Parenthood has been successful in walking the line between laughter and tears without falling into the mire of soap opera. He said it had as much to do with the chemistry between the characters as the emotional story lines. “Because you know the characters so well, that’s what makes the situation dramatic,” he said.

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