This Is Us (2016–)
Signed up the 25/04/2017
This Is Us features an ensemble cast, couple Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore), who have triplets – siblings Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley) and the adoptive black son, Randall (Sterling K. Brown). We are introduced to the characters separately and we uncover minor subplots for each one. Only later we realise that their lives intertwine and that these characters are related. The stories of the characters and how they unfold is done so gracefully which ties the whole series together. Dan Fogelman, the creator and executive producer of the show, does a great job of creating a timeline which shifts between the early days of Jack and Rebecca’s marriage, the siblings’ upbringing and present lives. Because it parts from present to past, a lot of information is discerned and alluded, and we are made aware of the fact that Jack Pearson dies when the siblings are in their teens and Rebecca gets remarried to his best friend.
The show deals with a lot of topics and themes and relies on the minutiae things to drive storylines. The rebuilding and reconnection of a son and his biological father and being a black child and growing up in a white household with your adoptive parents and subsequently, a white neighborhood. It also deals with issues of weight and insecurity – not feeling like you’re good enough or that you are worthy of love and being loved. It deals with leaving your comfort zone and entering new and unfamiliar territory, frightened, and wondering if you’ll be accepted. It deals with the loss of a parent and wondering if things will ever go back to how they used to be when you were young – but also if you’re holding on to the past because that’s all you know. Most importantly, it deals with love – unequivocally, unconditionally and whole-heartedly loving and being in love. It deals with life. These characters deal with some or all or none of these things, and its magnificent, and simple, and heart-warming. My favourite, is the relationship between Randall and his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), which represents successful black love, which is rarely shown on screen. Randall and his reconnection with his father. In any second Randall can lose him, therefore their relationship is formed with such delicacy and purity. There’s also the idea of introducing him to his family – whether they will accept him, how they will react, and eventually leaving them right after opening themselves to one other.
The neatly written journey helps us go past the normal realm of family dynamics. Often as the series progresses, situations might seem dull and unoriginal, but the characters never are. They all exude and play their characters to their fullest. Mandy Moore surprised me the most because of her typecast roles in romantic comedies, but with the character of Rebecca, the matriarch, playing her both young and old, she shows such complexity in her capabilities. Chrissy Metz, the breakout actor of the year, slays as the overweight sibling, showing such vulnerability in her role and uses the character to confront issues of her own, although, that’s not the finality of who she really is. We get a view of her pure and generous nature as well. And how could I forget Ron Cephas Jones, who plays William, Randall’s biological father. As Sterling Brown said in his Emmy speech “you just show up and the job is done”.
Every episode makes you laugh and cry in equal parts. The writers are not trying to make it something other than what it is. It just is. My personal favourite, is episode 15 titled “Jack Pearson’s son” – where Randall, a perfectionist who always overworks himself, and takes care of everyone around him, suffers from a mental breakdown. In that episode it’s the opening night of Kevin’s Broadway debut. Kevin, knowing how his brother Randall is, sensed that something was not right with him and left one of the most important moment of his career to go be there for his brother. I related so much because I saw myself in Randall. Another stand-out is episode 16, titled “Memphis” where Randall takes the first and final trip with William to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. The episode guest stars Bryan Tyree Henry, also known as Paper Boi of the Emmy-winning “Atlanta”. That episode focuses on William’s childhood and upbringing of which is enticing. Bryan also showcases his singing abilities which stunned me because of his multiplicate talent.
That’s the nature of the show - it is about real life and ordinary people doing ordinary things and trying to figure out what’s next. This show allows you to immerse yourself into your own world and remind you that you’re not alone. Perhaps I’m corny because I believe that people want to feel stuff and not just be entertained. However, in trying to reveal the twists and turns of these characters, it may somewhat seem like a manipulative drama that is in high pursuit of your tears.
My absolute favourite, Sterling K. Brown, went on to be the first black male actor to win the outstanding lead actor in a drama series in 19 years for his role, having won the supporting actor in a limited series or movie for the critically acclaimed The People vs. OJ, last year. Sterling is such a force and a talent that he goes beyond his character as Randall. The best performance of the entire cast – I can’t even begin to describe how much love I have for him. And a show doesn’t get nominated for over 100 awards and has an average of 14 million viewers and it’s not great. Get your tissues ready cause this is a must watch.
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