‘This Is Us’ Review: Can New Fall 2016 NBC Last, or is it Too Good?

( [email protected] ) Sep 22, 2016 09:52 AM EDT
Of the new shows of the fall season, NBC really started on the right foot with This Is Us.  The show premiered very strong on Tuesday, September 20 with its pilot, and it currently holds a 9.0 on imdb.  That is very good, but can this show that starts so strong?  Or is it too good to last?
"This Is Us" on NBC NBC

Of the new shows of the fall season, NBC really started on the right foot with This Is Us.  The show premiered very strong on Tuesday, September 20 with its pilot, and it currently holds a 9.0 on imdb.  That is very good, but can this show that starts so strong?  Or is it too good to last?

First of all, I'm going to get this out of the way and say the show needs to have a better title than a certain film about One Direction: This is Us movie that hit theaters three years ago.  If that is the worst thing that I can say about it, then this is probably a really good show. 

Yes, that is the worst I can say about it.  If you are not familiar with the premise of this version of This Is Us, it follows four different people who seem to have only one thing in common: they have the same birthday.  I remember seeing the trailer for the show and thinking that it was interesting to introduce a show that has four plotlines, and I wondered if these storylines would ever intersect.  Yes, I will get to that.

The Story of This Is Us

The story begins properly with Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), who are expecting triplets.  It is Jack's birthday, and all he wants is to have sex with his wife, even though she is very pregnant.  There is a genuine sweetness between the two of them, then she says that her water broke. 

We are then introduced to Kate (Chrissy Metz), who has a weight problem, and forces herself not to eat her 36th birthday cake too early.  I have to admit that I have never seen a TV or movie character with a weight problem that didn't end up feeling like some anti-fat PSA, which is why I am glad that the show portrays her character with a lot of depth. 

Then it cuts to Randall (Sterling K. Brown), an African-American man who is some kind of Wall Street guy.  Money doesn't seem to be a problem for him, and the people in his office bring him a 36th birthday cake, which he doesn't seem too thrilled about.  Randall seems to be more interested in an email informing him that his birth father, who abandoned him in a firehouse as a child, has been found. 

The last principal character is Kevin (Justin Hartley) who is an actor celebrating his birthday in opulence and decadence, but he is very bored.  Right away, it is revealed that Kate and Kevin are brother and sister, which I thought was the only link these characters had. 

The Beauty of This Is Us and the Twist Ending

The pilot of this show doesn't feel like television, but more like an Academy Award movie.  I saw that it was created by Dan Fogelman, and I was surprised by his imdb page that he doesn't really do hard-hitting drama.  In fact, he has several Disney movies under his belt like Tangled, Cars, and Bolt.  This isn't to say that This Is Us doesn't work as both as a comedy and drama, but it can successfully balance the two opposing genres. 

The beauty of This Is Us is how the plotlines tie together. I'm not talking about the big twist ending, as I will get to it.  The way the show will start one plotline talking about triplets, and then cut to a shot of three babies in a playpen.  I don't know if that is an editing decision or part of the original script, but it is so well-done.    

This Is Us seems to be telling its audience that television itself is pretty bad, and we are the ones to blame.  This is evident in the scene where Kevin, who is acting on a show called The Manny (think of it as Full House but with one hunky man in the spotlight).  Kevin performs a scene where Alan Thicke (playing himself) is his father, and he kicks him out. 

When the director tells Kevin that he wants a "lighter" version of the scene, Kevin breaks down and quits his job.  Kevin has realized that people seem to want idiotic TV, and he is just as bad for saying "yes" to a demeaning role. 

Kevin goes to see his sister, who is actually doing well on a date with a man from her overweight support group.  In the meantime, Randall has met his dad in order to tell him off, but Randall invites his father to meet his wife and two kids. 

If you have not heard about this twist ending, I am going to spoil it for you.  At the end, it is revealed that Jack and Rebecca had their three children, but not the triplets.  One of their babies died in birth, but they adopted a child that was dropped off at the hospital by a firefighter.  Yes, that baby is Randall, and Jack and Rebecca's other two kids are Kevin and Kate. 

Then it is revealed that the Jack and Rebecca storyline takes place 36 years ago.  It is a twist that no one saw coming, and the pilot of This Is Us hit it right out of the park. 

The Future of This Is Us

The issue is whether or not this show can keep the level of quality that its pilot has displayed.  Unfortunately, the bar was set so high that I honestly don't see how it can get better, especially now that this gigantic plot twist has been revealed. 

The only plotlines I can see coming are the ones related to Jack and Rebecca raising their children, and they could do a lot of time-jumps here.  This actually might work. 

This is the only problem that I can see from the pilot: I just don't see how the show can get better from here.  I think there is enough for at least 13 good episodes, and then we'll see if NBC orders a full season.  Something tells me that audiences might have tuned out if the show doesn't stay as interesting as its first outing.