This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show doesn't premiere until a few hours after publish time; we got a screener.
Is This Is Us Too Much Us Or Just Enough?
Prepare to cry, Generations X and Y. Our Thirtysomething has arrived.
What Is This Thing?
This is Us is an hour-long dramedy revolving around four main characters in separate (so far) storylines, who all happen to be turning thirty-six on the same day. It's so perfectly upper-middle-class that they might as well have filmed it in a Target, but the cast is (almost) diverse enough to make it interesting.
When Is It On?
Tuesdays at 10 PM ET on NBC; there's a special premiere September 20, with the season starting for real on October 11.
Why Was It Made Now?
People just didn't feel like they were getting enough crying time in since Parenthood went off the air? I mean, that might really be it. NBC seems to have looked around and noticed that every other old-school network is busy with superheroes and werewolves and cop/hospital/firehouse/lawyer shows or trying to reboot the Great American Sitcom. Relationship dramedies are getting made, I guess, but for Netflix, not primetime. The nation's tear ducts were going dry!
What's Its Pedigree?
This Is Us was created and is produced by Dan Fogelman, the puppetmaster of multiple good-natured tearjerkers, including Tangled and Crazy, Stupid, Love and...Galavant. I'm saying: the guy's no slouch at that thing where a warmly-lit scene goes fuzzy around the edges and dissolves into everyone (especially you) crying while some hipster band softly sings about something that reminds you of your childhood and your own children and all the things you feel slipping away.
If I just made you cry, imagine what you'll do when they crank up the Sufjan Stevens.
The cast includes the winsome Mandy Moore and the formerly (?) loathsome Milo Ventimiglia as a married couple about to have triplets, along with Justin Hartley (Revenge, Mistresses) and Chrissy Metz (American Horror Story) as twin siblings, and none other than Emmy-winning Sterling K. Brown (The People vs. OJ Simpson) as a successful businessman in search of the long-lost father who abandoned him at a fire station, "probably because he couldn't think of anything more cliché."
Every one of them is well cast and their stories get you in the heart right away. Like, you're not going to wait around to cry: it will be happening before the second commercial, guaranteed.
And if you consider yourself one of those statue types who think you are impervious to gloaming light and poignant familial love scenes, try this: Gerald McRaney guests in the pilot as a wise old obstetrician who makes painfully accurate homespun observations about what is most important in life! Yeah, I know! Get a lot of Kleenex.
Well, the "everybody's birthday" premise is not something I love. I understand the need for a binding element but, to me, it will only make it more contrived should the storylines, at some point, overlap. What are they going to do to bring them all together? Stage a severe weather emergency on the night of their 37th birthdays so that they'll all be trapped at adjacent restaurant tables? They all get held up in a Party City robbery? It's a little cheesy.
I'm a bit worried, also, about Chrissy Metz's character, Kate, who struggles with being considerably overweight. Metz is compelling and endearing and I hope for the character's sake that she is given some good places to go, and not the same old stuff we all know and hate.
The thing is, the show is not trying to trick you. That strummy-la-la sound is no accident: they're trying to make you cry, and they will. This Is Us has that formula down to a science. In this show, well-off people gnash about the problems we all begin to face as adults when circumstances of actions or inactions, of age, of health, can start feeling very real; whether or not you'll like it depends on your tolerance for that.