The Big Three
The Game Plan
The Best Washing Machine in the Whole World
The Right Thing to Do
The Big Day
I Call Marriage
Jack Pearson’s Son
Aside from a few surprise twists early on, This Is Us feels like a standard real-life drama/comedy mash-up. Where the show excels is through its excellent storytelling, incredible acting and innovative flashback-driven plot mechanics. No doubt about it, This Is Us is a rollercoaster ride of raw emotion and aside from a couple of contrived dramatic moments the show is chock full of highs and lows expertly woven through the 18 episodes. Boasting well written characters and an ever-changing perspective with the four different plots, This Is Us is drama at its best.
The story splits between four distinct groups of people who happen to have their birthdays on the same date. What begins as a happy coincidence soon becomes clearer as the dynamic of the show is revealed at the end of the pilot episode. Following this, the rest of the season effortlessly shifts between characters as they live out their lives. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) are pregnant and expecting triplets. Kate (Chrissy Metz) struggles with her weight and sticking to her diet whilst supporting her brother Kevin (Justin Hartley) who also happens to have his own story.
Wildly popular, gorgeous sitcom star “The Man-ny” is going through the motions and wanting more from his limited acting role in the sitcom. Rounding out this trio of characters is Randall (Sterling K. Brown), a successful businessman who goes in search for his biological father who left him when he was a baby. To say any more would be to spoil the story but the way these characters interact and deal with their issues is believably written with wonderfully crafted character arcs. Every character grows and changes as the season wears on and because of this, This Is Us feels like a naturally progressing slice of these characters’ lives.
The diverse cast of characters feel like real people with hopes and dreams and complex personas and a lot of this is thanks to the well written script and brilliant acting from all involved. Whether it be the stressful and rewarding world of parenthood, dealing with social anxiety or the struggle inherent with chasing your dreams, This Is Us has a broad appeal as it tackles the realistic challenges and rewards of these and other issues. The wicked blend of drama and comedy works so well for the show and the way the scenes vary from laugh out loud funny to heart-breaking drama with a snap of a finger is testament to the strength at work in the script.
The build up to some of these dramatic moments is excellent and thankfully not dragged out for too long but This Is Us suffers as it deals with the aftermath of these issues it works so hard to build up to. In particular, one big shock midway through the series promises a devastating, explosive finale but fizzles out after a few episodes and everything (almost) returns to normal. This isn’t a one time thing either, with a few moments like this feeling like game-changers for the series but come to nothing. Att times it does feel a little too forced because of this which is a shame in a season that’s otherwise very good. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between and the majority of the season is full of memorable episodes that score a knockout punch through to the climactic, open ending.
This Is Us is simply brilliant entertainment. Despite a couple of minor plot issues, the circle of characters work really well together and produce so many strong performances its hard to single out one individual as outstanding. With regular conversations sneaking expository laden lines that naturally slot into the script and overlapping lines of dialogue, This Is Us perfectly captures a realistic depiction of life and the show is all the stronger for it. There’s some really emotional scenes here too and this wild ride of emotions you’ll feel whilst watching the show makes This Is Us one of 2016’s smartest family dramas on TV.
Verdict - 8.5/10