This is Us is one of NBC’s newest television series, and it seems like everyone is talking about the pilot that blew them away—especially fans of Parenthood and Modern Family. In fact, the success of their pilot won This is Us a full eighteen episode season. But is This is Us worth watching?
A Promising Cast
The first episode follows the story lines of five characters, which you may very well recognize!
- Milo Ventimiglia, also known as Gilmore Girl’s Jess Mariano or Heroes’ Peter Petrelli, stars at Jack.
- Jack’s wife, Rebecca, is played by Mandy Moore—the voice of Rapunzel in Tangled, Jamie Sullivan in A Walk to Remember, and Anna Foster in Chasing Liberty.
- Rising actor, Chrissy Metz, stars as Kate. Fans of American Horror Story may recognize Metz as Ima ‘Barbara’ Wiggles.
- Similarly, fans of FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story will recognize Sterling K. Brown as Randall.
- Last but not least, Justin Hartley plays Kevin. Hartley is best known for his roles as Oliver Queen in Smallville, Arthur Curry in Aquaman, and James in The Challenger.
In the first scene, we learn that it’s each of the four main character’s birthdays: Jack’s, Kate’s, Randall’s, and Kevin’s. All four are turning thirty-six. Before we can begin to question why this little fact matters, or is relevant, the show dives into the lives of each character.
Jack and Rebecca
Jack and Rebecca are expecting triplets. We first see them celebrating Jack’s birthday with Rebecca’s “traditional” birthday strip tease. Of course, that’s the moment when Rebecca’s water breaks. At the hospital, the couple are excited and nervous about the delivery of their first three children. They are apprehensive about the high risk pregnancy, but also confident that the obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN), who has been monitoring the triplets throughout the pregnancy, will deliver three healthy babies.
Dr. Nathan Katowsky (Gerald McRaney) greets the soon-to-be-parents with bad news. Their highly-trusted OB-GYN, Dr. Schneider, will not be able to deliver their triplets. Unfortunately, the doctor’s appendix burst, leaving Dr. Nathan Katowsky in charge of Rebecca’s delivery.
“Now, sweetheart, I’m gonna get straight to your first concern. Look at me. Look at me. Do you see me? I am 73 years old. You know what that means, don’t you? That means I don’t run wind sprints as fast as I used to, but my faculties are otherwise completely intact.There are days that I wish they weren’t, because then I would retire and spend my remaining days doing something more glamorous than pulling eight-pound objects out of women’s vaginas. But until that time, I keep showing up here every day.” —Dr. Nathan Katowsky
Jack and Rebecca feel reassured that Dr. Nathan Katowsky can be trusted, and the next thing they know, Rebecca is in the delivery room. After Rebecca gives birth to a boy, she goes into distress.
As if the acting up to this point wasn’t already phenomenal, we watch as Dr. Nathan Katowsky updates Jack on the condition of his wife and newborns: Rebecca is resting, and the second baby was a girl. Sadly, the third baby was stillborn. The chord had wrapped around his neck, which isn’t an uncommon occurrence in these situations.
Dr. Nathan Katowsky’s heartfelt condolence on what it means to lose a child and how to cope with that loss is what truly resonates with viewers during this scene.
“I’d like to think that maybe one day you’ll be an old man like me… talking a younger man’s ear off, explaining to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.” —Dr. Nathan Katowsky
Kate’s first on-screen appearance is of her staring into a refrigerator. The shelves are full of foods labeled with sticky notes. The notes read messages like, “250 calories PER spoon-full,” “Bad,” and “Throw this crap out.” Even her birthday cake has a message: “Do not dare eat this cake before your party, Kate. Love, Kate.” Kate rips that note off to reveal another: “Seriously, what is wrong with you?”
It’s clear that Kate is unhappy with her career, love life, and body image. She never imagined that at thrity-six her life would look like this. When her brother comes over to her house to console her, she tells him the exact words she needs to hear in a pep talk.
“Tell me to quit feeling sorry for myself… Tell me to wake the hell up. Tell me, tell me to lose the damn weight.” —Kate
Kate takes charge of life by taking proactive measures. Besides tossing away all her junk food—and dropping dog poop on top of it all to guarantee she won’t be dumpster diving later—Kate attends group sessions where people who want to lose weight meet to discuss their failures and triumphs. It’s there that she meets Toby (Chris Sullivan), a potential love interest. They go out to dinner, and later end up watching strange videos at Kate’s house. Throughout the evening, Kate and Toby find joy in one another’s company. More importantly, they are able to connect by sharing their concerns about their current lifestyle choices.
Perhaps Kate has quit feeling sorry for herself. She seems to have woke the hell up. With Toby’s positive influence and the help of her family and group sessions, maybe she will change her lifestyle.
When Randall gets his screen time, he is sitting in a well furnished office overlooking the city. The camera sweeps over an inbox full of birthday wishes from co-workers before said co-workers walk into his office with a lit cake. He obviously lives a blessed life. He has a beautiful wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), who he’s been happily married to for years. Randall and Beth have two healthy girls, who we meet as they both play soccer games. Randall and Beth work as a team to parent their children and provide a safe environment for them.
But Randall has a past. His biological father left him at a fire station when he was a newborn. On Randall’s thirty-sixth birthday, a private investigator sends him the whereabouts of his biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones). Randall confronts the man.
Randall: “My name is Randall Pearson. I’m your biological son. Thirty-six years ago you left me at the front door… of a fire station. Now, don’t worry, I’m not here because I want anything from you. I was raised by two incredible parents, I have a lights out family of my own, and… that car you see parked out in front of your house? Cost $143,000 and I bought it for cash. I bought it for cash because I felt like it, and because I can do stuff like that. Yeah, you see, I turned out pretty all right. Which might surprise a lot of folks considering the fact that 36 years ago my life started with you leaving me on a fire station doorstep with nothing more than a ratty blanket and a crap-filled diaper. I came here today so I could look you in the eye, say that to you, and then get back in my fancy-ass car and finally prove to myself, and to you, and to my family who loves me, that I didn’t need a thing from you, even after I knew who you were.”
William: “You want to come in?”
By welcoming Randall into his home, William allows Randall the opportunity to get to know him. In return, Randall invites William to meet Beth and his children. Of course, William is not introduced to the children as their grandfather because his history with drugs. He does not show any signs of drug use, but to the family, he is still a stranger. At the end of the day, though, William thanks Randall for this chance to meet him and his family. Turns out, William is dying and doesn’t have much time to live.
How does a man who has everything build a relationship with a man who abandoned him in the past and happens to be dying in the present?
When we meet Kevin, he’s reclined on a bed and staring straight ahead with a crazed/dazed look. He sips on an alcoholic drink while two ladies try to dance with him. They don’t even know it’s Kevin’s birthday until he says something. The ladies tell him he looks nothing like thirty-six, but he knows they’re lying.
Kevin is the star of a sitcom known as The Man-ny. The show depends heavily on having him shirtless all the time and saying idiotic lines. If we didn’t get that Kevin is discontent with his life, we definitely understood when he bored his hosts with his ramble about the Challenger crashing.
“You know when I think it all went wrong for me was 1986, second grade. They were sending the Challenger up into space. You remember the Challenger, right?
…Christa McAuliffe, right? She was gonna be the first teacher into space. She was actually gonna change the world. I don’t know how, but you could feel that, you know? At least in second grade, you could… you could feel it.
Middle of the school day, the teacher brings in a TV, right? We’re all just sitting there, watching the launch, a bunch of seven-year-olds just-just watchin’. And all of a sudden, boom! The whole thing explodes. Little pieces of sweet Christa McAuliffe come raining down all over the state of Florida. It was awful.
Maybe that’s when I realized trying to change the world just leads to being blown up into little pieces all over Florida. Maybe that’s how I wound up as the Man-ny.” —Kevin
Even though Kevin doesn’t believe people can make a difference in the world, he does attempt to be a more dynamic character on The Man-ny. He wants to portray a character with substance to his personality, but Kevin’s director keeps asking him to take off his shirt. Once Kevin realizes the studio only wants him for his body, he quits–unprofessionally during the middle of filming in front of a live audience.
Kevin pops up at the end of Kate’s date, slightly drunk, and asking his twin sister and her date, what type of career can he pursue?
Why watch This is Us?
The writers of This is Us do a fantastic job of pulling together these four story lines. Not only is each story relatable, but the problems each character face are relevant to the real struggles average people face. Then, at the very end, the writers find creative way to please viewers with a surprise on how these characters are connected.
Still not sure if this show is for you? Watch the trailer. Check out the links. Then decide whether or not This is Us is for you.