I don’t do TV reviews very often, but I couldn’t help myself. I had all but given up hope for broadcast television (ABC, NBC, CBS & FOX) to be able to compete with cable. The paid cable channels (HBO, Showtime, etc) have spoiled us with no commercials. The streamers (Netflix, Amazon, etc) have spoiled us with the ability to binge-watch our favorite shows. Not since Lost, Friday Night Lights, and the early seasons of Desperate Housewives have I been committed to a regular weekly television series on broadcast television. But This Is Us has changed all that. It has me wrapped around its proverbial little finger… and I am hooked.
Admittedly, I was skeptical at first. Organically weaving the stories of four adults, each celebrating their 37th birthday, seemed kind of gimmicky. But by the end of the pilot, those stories were brought together in an unexpected way. It was so profound and emotional, that I felt my heart leap into my throat and my eyes unexpectedly well-up with tears.
The veteran-TV-executive and longtime "been-there-done-that” skeptic (in me) was certain that they couldn’t keep up the hat trick. Surely it would be an unsustainable device. We used to call it “pilot-itis” (where the pilot is so good that the series simply can’t live up to it).
But I kept watching anyway… and I was so glad I did. This series is like a soft blanket that wraps itself around you on a cold winter's night. There are so many things I love about this show. I almost don’t know where to begin.
I love the characters. Which is really to say I love both the writing and the cast. They feel real. They feel relatable. They feel honest. They are funny. They are tragic. They are human.
The cablers and streamers have become such a competition of R-rated language, violence, and sex that people have forgotten how hard it is to write for a mainstream audience where there are guardrails and restrictions to what you can say and what you can show. It doesn’t mean you can’t tackle difficult content, it just means you have to work harder to do it.
This Is Us tackles eating disorders, love, heartbreak, life, death, drug addiction, adoption, divorce, fostering, diversity, racism, gender issues, sibling rivalry, parental favoritism, step-parenting and so much more.
As someone who also lost their parent when they were little, this series taps into all of those issues of loss, guilt, abandonment, canonizing the deceased, blame, fear, depression, sublimation and a gamut of other emotions that occur as the result of that loss.
I have heard some people say, “The show is too sappy.” But for me, it’s just the right balance of humor and pathos. Good old-fashioned television combined with contemporary issues that feel relevant… and yet timeless.
So I just love This Is Us because it is.
It is Us.
It is Them.
It is Me.
It is You.
It is special.
It is memorable.
It is emotional… and it is so fun to have something to look forward to every week.