In a recent Facebook message I said that the new NBC family drama “This Is Us” might be the successor to its previous hit family drama Parenthood. After having just watched the pilot episode I can say that it most definitively meets the high standard of that show. It is extremely well written and well acted on every level.
The story follows 4 people who all happen to be celebrating their 36th birthdays. The first is Jack played by Milo Ventimiglia whose wife played by Mandy Moore goes into labor with a risky pregnancy six weeks early. You may remember Ventimiglia as playing Peter Partrelli on Heroes. Moore is known for romantic comedies like A Walk to Remember.
Next is Randall played by Sterling K Brown is a successful businessman and family man who has recently tracked down his biological father. He was abandoned as an infant by that father who was a drug addict. His mother died shortly after his birth was also an addict. Although he was planning on confronting his father and giving him a piece of his mind and storming out, he ends up inviting him home to meet his grandkids. Brown recently won an Emmy for playing DA Christopher Darden in American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson
Next we have Kate played by Chrissy Metz. She is a seriously obese woman who is struggling to deal with single life in a world where an obese person is a social outcast. She ends up going on a date with a man she met at an obesity support group. Although comparisons to the recently canceled Mike & Molly are inevitable, they play this one much more seriously although there is some humor as well. Metz was most recently seen in American Horror Story as the fat lady in the carnival.
Finally we have her twin brother Kevin who is played by Justin Hartley also celebrating his 36th birthday. He is an actor starring in a bad sitcom called Man-ny where he plays a male nanny. During the taping of an episode he has an emotional meltdown and storms off the set because it is such a ridiculous show. Hartley is a veteran of soap opera The Young and the Restless and Revenge but I remember him mostly as Oliver Queen in Smallville.
Other than the fact they are all celebrating their 36th birthdays it is not immediately apparent what the connection is between these four people except that Kate and Kevin are brother and sister. There is a big reveal about two minutes from the end of the show that explains the connection all of these people and it will leave you very much surprised yet very much pleased. It is a very clever bit of storytelling.
All four of these major characters give memorable performances in this opening episode and I already see a guest star Emmy nomination for Gerald McRaney as Mandy Moore’s OB/GYN.
Be sure to watch this episode before watching any others so that you get a clean viewing of the plot twist. Check it out on demand or watch for reruns if available. The critics are raving about this show and you can count me among their numbers. This is quality television from beginning to end. On my TV rating scale this one is a definitive “Must-See“.