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Every Fall, the networks roll out their new shows. You, the viewer, add some of the shows to your watch/DVR list, but 83.7% of time, you are disappointed. Not every show is good. Most end up cancelled. Most wasted your time.
But every once in a while, a show comes along and you are in love. It captures your heart. You don’t DVR it. You watch it live. It defies the current TV zeitgeist (watch on demand, when you have the time), and it becomes appointment television.
This Is Us on NBC is THAT show of the Fall 2016 season.
Just about every episode so far has had an “Holy shit!” moment. I admit, with the first episode, I was a bit meh until the last minute when they revealed that Rebecca, Jack, Major Dad, and the babies are flashbacks and that Randall was adopted into the family when one of their triplets died. Those knitted onesies ruined me, and I was immediately all in on this show.
OMG Moments so far:
The show relies on tropes, for sure. The fat people are super sweet and funny. The pretty boy actor is kinda dumb. Dad is a lovable fixer of all problems with a sweet story and vintage tee-shirt. But no one feels stuck in their trope. I’m especially happy that Kevin has evolved and grown on me. For a few episodes, I would yell at the TV, “Go away, Kevin! Get back to Kate and Toby!” But seeing Kevin become vulnerable in New York and watching him interact with William and his nieces, I am fully vested like my sad little 401K account. Just please, Kevin…don’t screw that British actress. So cliche!
He has yet to break our hearts, but we the writers have done a great job in presenting William as a character who could ruin us and Randall at any moment.
Does he get on the bus every day to get drugs? No. He has a cat he needs to feed.
Did he care nothing about Randall? No. He loved him and even hoped to check in on him from time to time (to which Rebecca said no.) He even helped her name him. “Give him his own name.”
The worst William could do now to hurt us is succumb to the cancer eating away at his body. But dadgummit, please let him live long enough to do voice-over work as that owl in a Pixar movie.
The show makes me guffaw every week, and many of the unexpected laughs come from Sterling K. Brown. What is that famous saying? Laughter through the stress of finding your dying birth father is the best kind of laughter?
Brown’s Randall is pulled tight like a wire — I can feel him vibrate through the screen — but when he deadpans, it breaks the tension and makes me snort my rosé. (Yes, I know rosé is not in season right now, but if y’all think it’s okay to start wearing white after Labor Day, I can slay all day with my rosé)
Rebecca, Jack, Kate, and Kevin are white. Randall is black. Mom Rebecca, like many white adoptive parents, naively thinks that loving a kid is enough. It’s so obvious that it’s not, no more so than at the pool when a black mother confronts her on her inability to care for Randall’s hair. Rebecca is immediately defensive and comes near close to saying “you people.” After having some time to think (in the 90 degree heat surrounded by screaming children…bless her heart), Rebecca goes back to the “over there” side of the pool and earnestly asks for help.
Black skin is different than white skin. Both get sunburned but one gets you judged in knee-jerk, horrific ways in this country. I hope that This Is Us continues this dive — moving beyond the difference in physical care — to take us further into Randall’s world and struggle growing up and succeeding in white Pennsylvania. There are some great shows out now highlighting the black experience in America (Insecure and Atlanta, for example). White people don’t have to be outright racist to be incredibly tone deaf and unempathetic about race (see All Lives Matter for reference). If this show can help enlighten even a few people on my Facebook feed, that would be great.
Also, in writing this paragraph, it dawned on me that Kate and Kevin share the K initial. And in changing Kyle’s name to Randall at William’s prompting, Randall and Rebecca share the R.
This Is Us is packed with drama, pain, and stakes. And yet, it has not had to resort to sexual assault to get there. Imagine that!
I would be fine watching a spin-off that is just Kate and Toby. Every girl deserves a Toby. He really likes (loves?) Kate. He makes her laugh. He has a great house, He is bad at throwing a football viewing party, which means he has zero interest in fantasy football. He tries to make Kate’s life better by nudging Kate follow her dreams. He dances. He doesn’t coddle Kate, telling her she isn’t fat. He’s fat along with her, doing his best to let her know she is enough. And if he hands Kate his autographed copy of Lindy West’s Shrill, Kate better say “MARRY ME!”
"This is us" pilot starts with a Sufjan song as if to say "keep watching, we know you have feelings"
— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) October 28, 2016
If SiriusXM had a This Is Us channel, I would listen to it. The music vibe music is so soothing as it kicks you right in the feels. Some of the playlist: