Note: Spoilers ahead!
Since the trailer premiered (to record views), the actual premise for the NBC series This is Us has been kept under wraps. They introduced the characters and sparked interest with some intriguing (and a little saccharine) marketing. Clearly this would be the show that appealed to the same audiences that love Friday Night Lights and Parenthood… hopefully with stronger ratings than either. To be honest, I never made it through Parenthood because some bad writing in the first season really turned me off – I know, the show got better, get off my back, I’ll watch it when I have a few hours to kill! So I’m glad that I watched the first episode of This is Us, and at this point, I’m willing to invest.
90% of this show probably works because of the very good cast involved. Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore make for an incredibly likable married couple planning triplets (although I really want more Gerald McRaney who guest starred in the pilot). Likewise, Chrissy Metz (as their adult daughter Kate in the present day) and Chris Sullivan have a similar romantic chemistry, which suggests they’ll be a nice couple to follow. Her twin Kevin (Justin Hartley) is the only person on the show I’m not so convinced about (his freak-out on a sitcom set was cringe worthy), but with some time his character might grow on me, and Hartley has plenty of charisma.
As for Sterling K. Brown, well, if you saw him before (I still remembered him in the short lived series Starved), you’ll know why he won that Emmy Sunday. He’s awesome! And right now, his story, as Randall their adopted third child (one of the triplets died during childbirth) trying to reconnect with his biological father (Ron Cephas Jones), who abandoned him is the single one that could hold my interest for an entire series. His relationship with his wife (Susan Kelechi Watson) is completely engaging, and Brown already suggests his character is fully lived in.
In regards to the overall premise of the show, a flashback series set when the kids were children and present day, I’m not sure of anything so far. We don’t know if the show’s flashbacks will reflect on present day storylines and how interconnected the stories will be. And not yet seeing Kate and Kevin interact with Randall, or determined what happened to their parents, is both interesting and distracting. As for the stories we have so far; Kevin quitting his sitcom acting job, Kate entering over-eaters anonymous and meeting Toby (Sullivan), and Randall meeting his father, I’m only interested in two of those three. Kevin being a heartthrob actor seems a little out of place in a show aiming to be about the everyday struggles people face. But to see how the family dynamic plays has serious potential.
Creator Dan Fogelman certainly doesn’t shy away from sentimentality, and there’s a sense that the show could use a little more humor throughout; Sullivan and Metz’s instant humor is why their characters work so well. For an hour long show, drenching it in sentimentality can get exhausting (I can’t imagine binge-watching this show). As for the show’s look, they downplay that aspect (only the 70’s segments are sepia toned), which offers a nice balance. Overall, however, the show works well enough to earn a few more watches to see how these characters truly come together.