Friday, September 23, 2016

Pilot Review: This Is Us

This Is Us (NBC)
Premiered September 20 at 10pm

There’s something about the marketing campaign, font choice, and it being on the same network that made me think that this show was going to be the next “Parenthood.” Based on this pilot, I’m pretty sure I was right. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the whole thing since I’m going to address an unexpected development that changes the whole nature of the show that you won’t see coming. Many pilots start from the vantage point of following a number of people who happen to be connected in some way, and often that’s a crutch for the opening hour to explore and wow with its surprising connectors rather than an asset for the show to continue to expand on in coming installments. In this case, the use of the same birthdate proves very effective, since we have a father expecting triplets who it seems will be born on his birthday, twin siblings with different lives defined by loneliness, and an adult son who never had the chance to meet the father who abandoned him. What’s cool and different about this show, which smartly wasn’t revealed until a clever scene at the very end of the episode, is that Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack and Mandy Moore’s Rebecca are actually the parents of three babies who will grow up to become Justin Hartley’s Kevin, Chrissy Metz’s Kate, and Sterling K. Brown’s Randall. That makes their stories much more interesting, and I’m hopeful that it will add more dimensions to the drama that plays out in episode two and beyond. I’m excited to see Brown in a regular role like this after his affirming and genuine speech at the Emmys this past Sunday, and I liked Hartley when he first appeared in season six of “Smallville” and hope that he’ll have a good post-manny career on this show. I was worried that Rebecca dying during childbirth was going to be the devastating twist, and I’m glad that things went in a far more invigorating and creative that makes me more than happy to come back for more.

How will it work as a series? The format is certainly interesting, and now the question becomes whether the show can sustain itself based on its events in both time periods. “Jack and Bobby” did it a while ago, and as long as there’s enough content to drive the plot, I think this show could truly win me over the way it already has my wife and many other viewers.
How long will it last? Comparisons to “Parenthood” are definitely a positive for this show, and it looks like it pulled in ratings that match the early performance of the show that managed to run for six years on NBC. This show is moving to 9pm in a few weeks, but I suspect it will continue to do well there, and general affection for the show will undoubtedly bolster its chances and assure it a bright, heartwarming future.

Pilot grade: B+

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