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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

PILOT REVIEW: This is Us

THIS IS US











Starring: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Sullivan, and Ron Cephas Jones

Created by Dan Fogelman
Written by Dan Fogelman, Directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra

We have the first gem of the new fall season and it is This is Us, an emotionally rich drama featuring several different stories that intertwined in some obvious and not so obvious ways. At its surface, it is about people who share a birthday, but it of course goes much deeper than that. And the twist at the end that everyone has been teasing? Well, it's worth the wait and it's not done for shock value, though that certainly happened to many, but it's done as an important element to the show. I predicted part of it towards the end of the episode but not all of it. I will not spoil it for anyone reading this who hasn't seen it yet,

The show is set around four unique stories at the beginning: a couple, Jack and Rebecca (Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore) about to have triplets, a woman, Kate (Chrissy Metz), who is desperate to lose a considerable amount of weight, a wealthy man, Randall (Sterling K. Brown), who is determined to find his birth father, and a sitcom actor, Kevin (Justin Hartley), who is very unsatisfied with his career. The cast is as good as advertised: Ventimiglia and Moore were great, Metz seems really promising, and Brown is fantastic (and coming off a well-deserved Emmy for his role in The People vs. OJ Simpson). I have seen a couple reviews that felt the Kevin storyline wasn't quite as strong as the other three but I don't agree. Maybe the stakes don't feel as consequential but he brings some humor to the show and I could see him being the Crosby (from Parenthood) of this show. A guest appearance by Gerald McRaney added to the top notch performances though I'm not convinced the Alan Thicke appearance was necessary.

What really made this show work was the way it was put together. Too many shows, sitcoms and dramas, are just so obvious in exposition. Whether it's through a narrator or blatantly obvious dialogue, so many network shows feel the need to tell us exactly who the characters are and what the set-up is. The best dramas I have seen including Friday Night Lights and Mad Men feel like they plop us down into the world they've created and we learn about the characters as we go. That is what This is Us did and that not only makes for a less clunky, less exposition-y pilot, it usually makes for a better crafted series.

And boy, am I curious to see what kind of show this becomes. It's not going to be the show I thought it was going to be after those final minutes but I'm even more excited now. When I first saw the trailer, I thought it looked OK but not amazing so I was surprised when it blew up on social media like no TV trailer ever has before. But after seeing that pilot, I really hope that buzz translated to viewers for the pilot because it deserved it. This is how a pilot should be done, this is a quality network show, This is Us deserves to be a hit.

WILL I WATCH IT AGAIN?
Of course. I am very excited to see next week's episode.

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