Ron Batzdorff / NBC

How This Is Us Is Actually Us

If you feel like someone just read your emotional scrapbook to the world, you're not alone.

Good. Grief. I need a moment. And if you were born anywhere between 1961 and 1981, you likely do, too. Because, was that my family I just watched on TV? Were those my parents? Was that ME? It sure as HELL felt like it. If you are of a certain age and you casually decided to watch this show because, I don't know, Mandy Moore is in it, and you weren't ready to see your dad boozily explain that the reason he took you to football games was because his own dad was emotionally unavailable, or worse? Come sit by me. I wasn't ready, either.

Additionally, if you have had a moment or two past your child-having limit where the horrifying specter of the "parenthood reset button" rose to greet you in a waking nightmare? And you faced this moment with a hot mixture of despair and, weirdly, excitement? I feel you. Sometimes I also look up Charleston retirement homes. They DO have great restaurants!

For the first four episodes, I so strongly identified with Rebecca and the challenges she faced in motherhood…I don't think I even realized what this show was doing to me. But when they laid out "The Game Plan," I saw it: Rebecca's not me. She's my mom. She grew up wanting love she wasn't going to get, and Jack grew up feeling love he wasn't allowed to give and now, here they are. Or, here they were. Cut to: Generation X crying -- and I mean sobbing -- on the couch because we're only just now old enough to see the links in the ancestral chain. What we just watched was an hour-long dissertation on the brutal reality of time. It doesn't slow down. You can't get a do-over. And you can hardly do a damn thing but drag your childhood behind you like a rock, just hoping you can use it in some positive way in the future to get one step farther down the path than your parents got.

There are so many ways that This Is Us is getting it so right, to list them would be impossible. The barely-beneath-the-surface serious anxiety of Rebecca. The bittersweet trajectory of Jack's and William's lives. The honest partnership of Randall and Beth. Kevin's rude awakening to the realities of middle-age. (If you never thought of 36 as middle-aged, double it. Sorry.) Kate's dawning awareness of what she wants out of a relationship, if she even wants one. These notes are being played so perfectly, I can hardly breathe through them. Allow me, then, to ask a few questions about the (very few) things that hit my ear a little funny. Through my tears, I recall that Previously.TV is a humor publication, right? ["Yeah, my compilation of literary allusions in Hannibal was a real lulzfest." - ed.] Let me try to get out of my feelings and make a few lighthearted points. Oh my GOD, I think we could all use a chuckle after seeing that quick scene of Randall sitting on his daughter's bed, clutching William's hat. Randall's going to be a double member of the Dead Daddy Club? I can't take that. Anyway, even though I'm STILL crying, I do have a few questions:

Does Toby have a craft room?

This guy and his homemade game day invitation…calm down, pal. I get that he's all about pushing Kate out of her comfort zone for her own good, but his cute gestures cross a line when he blatantly ignores her actual needs. And sports-watching is an actual need, held dear by -- surprise! -- as many women as men. Please don't try to interrupt my sacred rituals, okay? Sometimes when Alabama delivers yet another beatdown on the gridiron, I still reach for the phone to call my dad who has been dead for 15 years this week. As my brother once said to me with the dead-seriousness of someone about to launch a nuclear missile: "Football is an emotional game." That it is, and for many reasons. Even now, I'm not sure Toby gets how important Kate's time "with her dad" really is.


Does Kevin have to be that dense?

Asking William if he can read?! Oh, lord. He's already kind of dingy, but does he have to be racist, too? That seemed off to me, for what we've seen of this character. I was feeling hopeful about him for the last two eps, but that line indicated a shallowness I thought we were moving past.

If Beth is not pregnant, why is she throwing up?

This whole date night trip to the drugstore happened because Beth admitted her period was late and she had been feeling weird and throwing up. So, if she's not pregnant, what's up with that? Should we be worried? Was it just food poisoning? I'm so scared of a threat of any kind to Randall and Beth's life that I may be hearing alarm bells where none are ringing, but the twisty style makes me paranoid!

Have the writers ever seen a bar fight?

Pretty sure a brawl between two drunk rival team fans in a Steelers bar in Pittsburgh during the Super Bowl in which the Steelers overcame a fourth-quarter deficit would last longer than one weak punch. These guys just watched Up With People do a halftime tribute to the big band era while they hid their tears over the Mean Joe Greene jersey Coke ad. They wouldn't even bother breaking the ice on their freezing beer before they poured it on a dude in full Rams' kit. Mouthing off to a local regular while he's tryna wach a Stillers and everybody just pulls them apart and goes on about their business? Yinz jags are crazy!

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