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NBC's 'This is Us' is a Heartwarming Trip Worth Taking
September 20, 2016  | By David Hinckley  | 3 comments
 

[Editor’s note: This story reveals some of the plot details of the upcoming premiere episode of This Is Us.]

No other new show on TV this fall feels quite like NBC’s This Is Us.

Premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET, This Is Us revolves around an ensemble cast of grownups, all of them damaged or wounded in ways that aren’t always visible.

Their troubles are exposed, some more subtly than others, but it’s soon clear that these folks will resolve not to be defeated.

That doesn’t mean This Is Us always shows us a happy face. It does suggest that ultimately it’s going for life-affirming and heartwarming. That correctly suggests it has a soapy side, but if it has any recent TV kin, it might be NBC’s late Parenthood.

A slice of life with the positive, hopeful side facing up.

The challenge for the creators is not to convince audiences that we could use a little heartwarming now and then. We can.

The challenge is to make this particular group likeable, relatable and sympathetic enough that we will want to follow their lives as they gradually wind together.

First we meet three pairs of people.

Jack (Milo Ventimiglia, top) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore, top) are expecting triplets, a joyful thing we soon learn comes with a heartbreaking decision.

Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) are a close sister and brother. She’s discouraged by her weight and a general fear that she may never attract anyone. He’s an actor increasingly frustrated by what he sees as a limiting and possibly dead-end career in a formulaic soap opera.

Randall (Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown) is a successful careerist married to a lovely woman, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), but nagged by the sense something is missing in his life.

It’s possible that something may be related to his father William (Ron Cephas Jones), who dropped him off as an infant to be raised by others.

As the show begins he has tracked down William, a confrontation that goes very differently from how Randall had always envisioned it, and has the potential to change both their lives.

The performances are solid across the board. Metz, Hartley, and Jones, in particular, seem like characters whose stories are compelling enough to follow.

But This Is Us isn’t selling individual characters. It’s selling a collective sense of sucking it up and moving forward, reinforced when the lives of these characters start coming together and they discover they share some interesting coincidental things like birthdays.

In a subtle way, This Is Us becomes a kind of morality play, offering reflections on life as we see the characters make their choices and deal with the consequences.

Whether these reflections feel compelling enough to make This Is Us a weekly appointment is another question. In some ways it feels like a cable show, perhaps for OWN.

It’s a gamble for NBC. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if it came in.

 
 
 
 
 
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3 Comments
 
 
Kevin
Viewed the pilot and loved it. Intend continuing. Although a secondary character and probably a one-shot appearance, i really enjoyed Gerald McRaney as jack & Rebecca's 73 year old OBGYN. I could watch a show about this character.

Wish it was on a cable network. Really dislike networks' schedule. Just schedule 6-10 consecutive episodes rather than an occasional interruption or rerun.......Like AMC's TWD, maybe separate the season into a fall and a spring.......
Sep 22, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
Bob Lamm
Anyone has the right to react to any TV show for any reason. But I am bewildered as to why anyone age 36 or any other age would find this show "too depressing... to watch." The premiere included some plot developments that were very sad, but others that were very positive and inspiring. I very much agree with David Hinckley's assessment and I encourage others to take a look at the show. You can still watch the premiere episode on nbc.com
Sep 21, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
Sarah
As one who is same age as characters this might be too depressing for me to watch
Sep 20, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
 
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