According to my own personal research, the This is Us pilot episode was the show that made the most noise on social media. The pilot compelled many viewers to react with numerous sobbing emojis and rightfully so. This is Us is Parenthood with a The Sixth Sense twist thrown in at the end. The newest “cry-time drama” is one that might be worth the DVR space.
The show is anchored with an interesting gimmick. This is Us focuses on four people with the same birthday and the challenges that they face. (I share the same birthdate with Tina Fey and George Strait. I think the challenge that all three of us face is that technically all our exes live in Texas.) For a show that wishes to run for multiple seasons, This is Us is based on more than just birthday similarities. Kate struggles with her body weight. Kevin struggles with keeping his artistic integrity. Jack struggles with raising “triplets” and Randall struggles with connecting with his biological father. The gimmick steers the show into fertile storytelling waters.
However, many people were upset by the shows mathematics. In the show, Kevin is deeply bothered by the 1986 Challenger explosion. According to the show, Kevin was in second grade during this event. But if you do the math, a 7 year old born in 1979 would be 37, not 36, in 2016. There was a lot of Internet outrage about this indiscretion. I would chalk this miscalculation up to a late premier or just artistic license. Let the show be set in 2015 (or what if the mistake is somehow part of the next plot twist!)
The show isn’t all catchy gimmicks and mathematical impossibilities. There are some moments that make you want to change the channel. At one point, Randell, played by Sterling K. Brown, yells “Screw You!” to his long lost father. Since Brown is a newly minted Emmy award-winning actor, his visceral anger is too much for the flimsy phrase. The “screw you” feels like Tina Fey’s (My birthday twin) “blergh.” It’s too cheesy and feels like a more aggressive, truer wording was probably censored out of the script.
Kevin, the character played by Justin Harley is also a little painful to watch. He is constantly shirtless and overacting. On his imdb page, he has this gem of a quote, “I don’t have a gardener because I enjoy pulling weeds. It’s hard to explain but there is something fulfilling about pulling out a weed and knowing that you got all the roots.” I will let this quote stand as sufficient evidence of why I find Hartley difficult to watch.
Regardless of all the abs and overacting, the show begins on a strong note. The opening title card is a beautiful morphing image. It sets the tone. This is Us will be a story with an interesting gimmick that will make you cry a lot. This is a story that is dictated by format. Whether they will be able to carry out the series and continue with all the plot twists and birthday connections, remains to be seen. But, I’m willing to spend a season watching to see if it works.