This Is Us (2016) TV Pilot Review
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 weeks away from welcoming their triplets, and settle 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). When still a baby, Randall is discovered 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.
Each trailer for this show intrigues but not enough to rush me into seeing it. The day after its premiere, I downloaded the first episode and put some space between its airing and hitting play. 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.
NBC touts this as a kind of replacement for Parenthood (a show I have never seen). Surmising from what I gather of the show, and what I know of This Is Us, I can see this comparison as 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 is bound to be 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 become swept up in Rebecca and Jack’s love story (despite its history); 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 to ponder.