This Is Us was, unquestionably, my favourite TV discovery of 2017. I can’t say it was the opening title that did it for me – a black screen that read “This is a fact, according to Wikipedia, the average human being shares his or her birthday with over 18 million other human beings. There is no evidence that sharing the same birthday creates any type of behavioural link between these people. If there is, Wikipedia hasn’t discovered it for us yet.” – although, that certainly had me intrigued.
The show then opens with four people who share the same birthday; twins Kate (Metz) and Kevin (Hartley), married-father-of-two Randall (K.Brown – who just won an Emmy for Lead Drama Actor for his performance) and Jack (Ventimiglia), a soon-to-be-father of triplets. The obvious high quality of the show was apparent from the outset, with many of the cast having proved their capability in previous TV series and the dialogue being immensely well written. The moment – that ‘sold’ moment or ‘yep, I’m a goner’ moment, depending on your viewpoint – happened late in the pilot episode. Enough had gone on in the episode, funny moments and more sentimental moments, to indicate this would be a series to keep an eye out for. But when that moment happened (I’ll not tell you – you’ll have to watch it for yourself) it was clear this was a real one-to-watch. It was impressive both in terms of the surprise of what happened and the fact that it totally made sense. From that point on, I was committed.
In the 18 episodes that make up season one, the truly extraordinary ensemble cast gets moment involving life, death and everything in between. Every single cast member gets their moment to shine and every character gets development. In other TV shows these would be defined as arcs – with This Is Us, it’s more than that. Everyone gets fleshed out, as if they are real living, breathing, walking, talking, feeling people. Although there’s the main linear narrative, every episode has a B-Side in the form of a flashback. Each flashback serves a dual purpose in enhancing our understanding of what is happening in the main story and how/why they got to that point in the present day. Through this blending of timelines, we have an understanding of the characters in a way that most TV shows would be unable to achieve.
This truly excels because there’s a clear and well chosen balance between joy and sadness. It’s not an unrelenting misery, a series of unfortunate events. Nor is it an idealistic and unbelievable array of saccharine sentimentality. Family and relationships are the foundation of the series. As a result the events that occur are those which highlight the most wonderful things about families, and the annoying bits too. The characters react to things like real people – they cry, they struggle, pretend they’re okay, and then they move on. But, no matter what, they’ve got each others’ backs. As a result I think I hit an average of three moments of unadulterated sobbing per episode, sometimes due to how lovely something was and sometimes at how bereft certain moments left me.
This is comfort TV at its finest and now would be the perfect time to get on board. Binge on series one then start watching series two which premieres in the States on Tuesday 26th September. As the days get shorter, the nights get longer, the weather gets more frightful – you really should watch something this delightful.
This Is Us: The Complete First Season is available now on DVD courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Creator: Dan Fogelman
Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Sullivan, Ron Cephas Jones
Prd: Dan Fogelman, Jess Rosenthal, Donald Todd, Ken Olin, Charlie Gogolak, John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
DOP: Yasu Tanida
Music: Siddhartha Khosla
Run time: 77 minutes