HOLLYWOOD—A good drama is not an easy thing to come by on network television. Even worse, is finding a drama that seems somewhat original, so unique that the moment the show begins you find yourself completely engulfed into what is about to unfold. This is what viewers will get with the new NBC drama “This is Us.” The premise at first seems simple, about four thirtysomethings who feel their lives are at a crossroads, but as a viewer we soon learn there is more connecting these people than we suspect.
We are first introduced to married couple Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore). Jack is turning 36, and for his birthday he’d like his wife Rebecca to give him a striptease dance while he wears his birthday suit; be advised Rebecca is pregnant, and not just any pregnant, she’s pregnant with triplets. In the midst of doing that dance, her water breaks and she’s rushed to the hospital for delivery of the babies.
We then transition into the lives of Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley), both who are also turning 36 and are dealing with a mid-life crisis. While this is not known right away for the audience, we are soon clued into the fact that Kate and Kevin are fraternal twins and they share a close bond. That is one of the first things I love about this new series; it takes a scope and really delves into the relationship between siblings and this brother and sister duo are tight, super close and there for one another at their times of need. Kate is overweight, and feels she has done almost all in her power to lose weight. I mean she has ‘notes’ on various food labels in her refrigerator to prevent her from snacking on the wrong items.
The audience will be able to connect with Kate; for any of us who have EVER struggled with our weight or the idea of sticking to a diet can feel the frustration, the shame and the relentless reminder that it may never happen. I mean she takes off all her clothes and even all her jewelry in hopes that when she steps on the scale it will make a difference and it ends in hilarity. That moment leads to a bonding session between Kate and Kevin over a carton of ice cream. While Kate’s life is not where she wants it to be, guess what, neither is Kevin’s.
For those not in the know, Hartley was a notable name on the CBS soap “The Young and the Restless” as Adam Newman. While many are upset the actor left the canvas, it was indeed the right move in my opinion, because Hartley really gets to shine and showcase his dramatic chops. As an actor, Kevin has a hit show titled ‘The Manny’ where he walks around virtually shirtless with a baby in his arms. He is a sex symbol, but he wants more in his acting career and finds himself quite limited. So what is a guy to do? Kevin has a complete meltdown on set, which goes viral all over social media.
Another character in the mix of this very entertaining drama is Randall (Sterling K. Brown), a successful businessman who has been eagerly searching to find his biological father William (Ron Cephas Jones) who abandoned him at a fire station when he was born. I mean everything looks great for Randall, but he needs closure, and when he finally locates his biological father it’s a moment that is quite a revelation. He says everything he’s wanted to say for years to the guy who didn’t take accountability for the child he created.
In the midst of getting everything off his chest, when William asks Randall to come inside, he comes in without hesitation. So much for having a grudge against his biological father, because that first meeting leads to William getting the opportunity to meet his two granddaughters and his daughter-in-law Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). Beth is thrown off by the invite, but things quickly make a 360 when William reveals to his son that he is dying. So with the snap of a finger a bond that is being built is about to be ripped apart.
The audience revisits Jack and Rebecca who are having some complications with her pregnancy, and the biggest tearjerker of the episode dawns when Jack learns that only 2 of the 3 triplets survived. He is devastated by the news, but the doctor who gives the new father a pep talk recalls when he lost his first child with his wife. It is such a poignant and moving scene; I could honestly watch it over and over and over again and not get bored.
Some might argue a lot is transpiring for a pilot episode, but it’s more so laying out the groundwork for these characters who are certain to invade our TV screens the rest of the 2016-2017 TV season. Kate finds an ally in her weight battle with Toby (Chris Sullivan), who utilizes humor to make all things better. She is apprehensive about sparking up a relationship with Toby, who is also ‘fat’ as she states. Their fun evening ends with a drunken Kevin needing a shoulder to lean on.
However, the big twist of the entire pilot premiere is that creator Dan Fogelman is playing with time. Yep, in 1980, Rebecca and Jack gave birth to Kate and Kevin and they adopted Randall. So everything comes full-circle in a way that is slightly satisfying. It makes sense, and only further makes watching where Kevin, Kate, Toby, Randall, William do in the present life that more interesting. At the same time the audience gets the opportunity to see what transpires in the lives of Jack and Rebecca as they raise their three children. I am eagerly awaiting the moment to see the interaction between Kate, Randall and Kevin. Rarely does a show hook my on the first viewing, but “This is Us” is on my must list. “This is Us” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.