THIS IS US TV REVIEW
THE SHOW: This Is Us
WHEN: Tuesdays at 9/8 c (Returns October 11)
THE CAST: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Sullivan, Ron Sephas Jones
CREATOR: Dan Fogelman (Tangled, Crazy Stupid Love)
Many of the new TV premieres have been a little lackluster this season. This is Us is one of the exceptions. This well-written character-driven drama with a fantastic cast is a must see. This is Us is in some ways heartbreakingly real and in other ways a Dickensian plot with characters connected to each other in surprising, fated ways.
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This is Us is above all a story about life with characters we probably all know in our own lives. However, it’s hard to define the show without giving away major surprises. In fact, the plot and character twists are part of the appeal of the series. Even if you figure them out, it’s fun watching (particularly the pilot) the story unravel and discovering just how these characters are connected.
This Is Us follows the lives of four people on their 36th birthday. There’s Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) whose wife Rebecca goes into labor with triplets. Twins, Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Kate (Chrissy Metz) whose lives haven’t turned out the way they wanted or planned. He’s a Hollywood actor stuck in a TV show with bad writing that enjoys objectifying his body. While Kate is severely obese with an overeating disorder. And then you have Randall (Sterling K. Brown) who finally discovers his birth father who abandoned him when he was a baby.
The pilot is smart, emotional, and so real at some points, it’s nearly impossible not to relate. Especially for all thirty-somethings. Being a twin myself born in the ‘80s, I felt like I really knew these characters. From Dan Fogelman, the talented writer behind projects like Crazy, Stupid, Love and Tangled, you can expect fantastic dialogue and richly developed characters. Not to mention a romantic thread in the lives of the characters.
The cast itself is pitch perfect. From Milo Ventimiglia as the concerned father to be. Justin Hartley as the tortured actor. Chrissy Metz as the lonely obese woman with an eating disorder. Sterling K. Brown as Randall, the perfectionist with a heart of gold. And all the cast of characters who surround them. The pilot includes a guest appearance from Gerald McRaney as Doctor Katowsky that deserves an Emmy nod and is sure to go down as one of the memorable TV moments of the year.
I’m most drawn to the story of the twins, Kevin and Kate. Maybe it’s because I’m also a twin but I felt drawn into their lives and the characters’ performances. I love how close these two are and how strong the bond comes across on screen.
This Is Us is not without its faults, however. Having only seen the first two episodes, I can say that the story does need to break away from the twist endings just a tad. It’s okay for the first two episodes but if it continues, the twists may become overly tiresome.
I’m also not a huge fan of the Kate and Toby romance. Two obese characters who meet at an Overeating Anonymous feels rather cliché and tiresome. Fogelman is great with romance so why such a predictable romance for Kate? Toby plays the “funny” guy who likes Kate and pursues her. Most people will probably like Toby. And while he seems nice, he’s personally not to my taste. He is a bit pushy and unromantic – wanting to have sex on the first date. Yes, I know that’s supposed to be the normal these days. But I find it unappealing. He also seems too interested in porn and on their first date watches a creepy video with a dolphin. Yes, Toby is a cool guy and likes Kate despite her emotional problems and physical barriers. But I just feel like the writers could do better here.
On the other hand, the romance between married couple Jack and Rebecca is much more to my taste. They have real life struggles but genuinely love each other. While this marriage is clearly going to have its issues, I’m rooting for these two to find their way through them. Plus, Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore have wonderful chemistry. I also loved the married relationship between Randall with his supportive and protective wife, Beth.
Overall, I think This Is Us has tremendous potential as a series and I look forward to the rest of the season. If you love character-driven stories with flashbacks a la Lost style (without the supernatural angle) you should probably enjoy this new show. It is rated TV-14.
If you have missed the first two episodes, you can catch up on HULU or NBC.COM. This is Us returns October 11, 2016.
Have you seen This is Us? What are your thoughts on this new series? Let me know in the comments.
(I would give a 1 or a 2 rating to the Kate/Toby romance)
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