This Is Us, Pilot (2016) – Emotional Drama Connecting Three Stories (Plus THAT Twist)
I’m not much for the “emotional” drama. But once in a while I sit down, hit play and walk in with an open mind. Such was the case with NBC’s latest show.
Life is bliss for Rebecca and Jack (Mandy Moore, Milo Vintimiglia). They’re a mere weeks away from welcoming their triplets, and are settling into a new house in anticipation of their arrival. But everything changes when Rebecca goes into labor early.
Life is at a standstill, ending with a question mark for Randall (Sterling K. Brown). As a baby, he was left at a fire station. All he knows is his mother died and his father, who he has just found through a PI, abandoned him. Even with a successful career and now, his own family, something is missing.
Siblings Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) are far from living their perfect lives. Kate is an overweight single woman struggling with turning 36 and being so far from where she envisioned her life. Kevin is a B-actor no longer satisfied with being the “sexy” star of his B-show “The Manny.” As a result he has a meltdown on the set.
One day connects these people, and one choice leads to a future none of them imagined.
As the trailers played for this show I was intrigued but not enough to rush into seeing it. The day after it aired, I downloaded the first episode and put some space between its airing and finally watching it. When I finally did, I came away surprised by how well composed the scripting and story was. Tightly compacted into its first hour is the setup of something I can see – surprisingly – working really well as a series. Though judging only by its pilot, I don’t see it being this good long term.
Touted as a kind of replacement for Parenthood (NBC), that was one show I never watched. Surmising from what I have gathered of the show and what I know of This Is Us, I can see that comparison being legit. The various threads that tie these characters together are interesting. Each one is compelling. What I liked so well about the pilot was its pursuit of genuine emotion over heedless, thoughtless and tiring drama. Sure, as the show furthers, there are bound to be some challenges or drama that doesn’t fit, but for the most part… everything comes across as emotionally fulfilling.
The performances in particular help sell this. I quickly became swept up in Rebecca and Jack’s love story (even though it’s established); unique markers configure the relationship between the siblings; and finally Randall’s story is wrought with heart wrenching revelations and promises to be thoroughly rewarding. Everyone had a story to tell, and somehow the pilot felt very complete. As the credits rolled, there was a sense of completeness to everything that I never expected.
If you’re looking for something outside of the over-the-top comedies or the frequent crime dramas, This is Us might be your cup of tea. If however, you want something more linear, then this drama is not your ideal. It will suit, as is true of everything, a specific audience. As nearly every show does, I’ve little doubt the pursuant episode will differ from the pilot, which means I’m leery about continuing on. Do I leave off where I feel happy with what I saw and imagine what I’d like of these characters futures? Or do I continue on and risk disenchantment?
This is the question I am now left pondering.
(Content: There is a backside shot of female and male nudity. A married couple flirt (he’s naked) and there are various sexual innuendoes. The show is rated TV14.)