*Update: This show seriously gets better and better. While I liked the first season (for all the reasons I discuss below), I now consider it to be pretty darn fantastic in its outstanding writing, storylines that continually surprise, and consistent portrayal of family and marriage as good and beautiful.
There seemed to be quite a bit of hype surrounding NBC’s new drama “This Is Us” when it premiered this last fall, and honestly even still now after the season has ended. Part of that hype is probably because it stars Milo Ventimiglia who has also been popular lately over his presence in Netflix’s “Gilmore Girls” revival (go team Jess!). And part of that hype might be because the show was created by Dan Fogelman who wrote Crazy, Stupid, Love and also had a show premiere on Fox this season as well (the sports drama “Pitch”).
But mostly, I think the hype of “This Is Us” is because the show is actually very, very good.
The original premise of the show is mildly deceptive: It’s about several people connected through sharing a birthday… Except we learn quickly that it’s really about triplets (one adopted) born on their father’s birthday, so they’re actually connected by a lot more than the common birthday.
The show jumps back and forth to various points in time, to when the parents met, when the kids were born, when the kids were pre-teens and teenagers, and the present when they are 36.
High Quality Drama
This show has been compared a lot to “Parenthood,” and that may be the closest comparable show out there, but I think this show is actually quite a bit better than “Parenthood.”
We get a mix of strong, multi-faceted characters with both deep flaws and many admirable qualities. And their stories are woven together cleverly and seamlessly to show us many deep, genuine, true-to-life conflicts about things like making a marriage work when they don’t feel like putting in the effort, struggles with alcoholism, severe obesity and eating disorders, sibling jealousy, nervous breakdowns, grieving the loss of loved ones, life-long insecurities, and the over-all work it takes to be a family with your family members.
In fact, it’s all about family…
Nearly every plot line in this show has some connection to the importance of family life (probably where most of the “Parenthood” comparisons come from…). Having a family to back you up is shown to be not just a nice thing to have but an essential part of one’s life. What a concept.
We see the dad struggling to be a good father, siblings acknowledging that they’ve never been very close but deciding to work on it, a search for a birth father and subsequent involvement with him, and the list goes on.
These people struggle in very real, deep ways (yeah, you can expect to cry a few times), but they keep getting back up because their family members come through for them.
One unusual high point
I’ve never seen an extremely overweight principle character in a show before. Probably because it’s just not something that’s intrinsically appealing for people to watch.
But much like the story-line of my other favorite new show this season, “Speechless,” the writers of this show have taken a subject that does not seem like it would be much fun to watch and have made it both relatable and moving.
I would venture to say that the lack of sugar-coating in this character’s struggle with her weight and with the serious deep down pain connected with it is one of the aspects that makes “This Is Us” feel so real.
A couple moral issues…
It’s not perfect, morally. It’s got a promiscuous character, and a couple having premarital sex, but nothing graphic or out of the ordinary for a typical network TV series these days. And there’s very little sexual material that actually shown onscreen (though there is a brief male butt shot in the pilot).
There is also a character in a same-sex relationship, which felt unnecessary and rather tacked-on, but it’s a pretty minor plot point.
It’s good. Quite good. Very little to complain about morally, and very much to appreciate.