Television viewing audiences have proven that no matter how sad or tearjerking a dramatic TV program is, they will still watch it religiously if the stories, characters, writing and acting are top-notch. I’m of course talking about “This Is Us“. ABC’s new drama “A Million Little Things” is putting that theory to the test. Just how much crying are we willing to do in order to be entertained?
The title comes from a tagline that appears at the beginning of the program “Friendship isn’t a big thing… It’s a million little things”. An ensemble cast of TV veterans tells the story of four friends who met by chance 10 years ago when they were stuck in an elevator. Over the course of 2 1/2 hours they shared their life stories with one another and discovered a common passion for the Boston Bruins hockey team. One of the four Jon suggested they get season tickets together and they been attending the games and building a friendship ever since.
However in the opening scenes Jon played by Ron Livingston is completing a business deal over the phone, stepped out onto the balcony of his office, and jumps off killing himself. The remainder of the episode deals with the other three friends trying to come to grips with his suicide. Naturally they wonder how they could’ve missed any signs of depression and they are wrestling with the guilt over their failure to prevent this tragedy.
Each of the three surviving friends has a complex story of their own. Eddie Saville played by former “Grimm” star David Giuntoli is a recovering alcoholic who is cheating on his wife. He gives a memorable eulogy of his friend revealing the back story of how they all met and some of the history of the friendship. Rome Howard played by Romany Malco is a filmmaker who makes TV commercials but longs to make more significant films. He’s carrying some secrets of his own. Finally we have Gary Mendez who is played by James Roday. You will recall him as Shawn Spencer on “Psych“. He is recovering from breast cancer and we are reminded that yes… men can get breast cancer. He’s a bit of a womanizer and picks up a woman at his cancer survivors support group, has sex with her in a bathroom, spends the night with her and then brings her as a date to the funeral of his friend.
Filling out the ensemble cast includes the wives and girlfriends of the friends. We have the widow Delilah Dixon played by Stephanie Szostak who you might recall from the USA Network series “Satisfaction“. Rome Howard’s wife Regina is an aspiring restaurateur is played by Christina Marie Moses seen recently in “The Originals“. Maggie Bloom is the girl that Gary brought to the funeral. She is played by Allison Miller who is been recently seen in “13 Reasons Why“.
There are a few plot twists and revealed secrets that I won’t discuss. But I will say they will give ample opportunity to move the story along in future episodes.
It’s interesting to see James Roday in a serious role much different from his character from “Psych”. Although he does have a few comic lines it is for the most part a straight dramatic role and he handles it well. Similarly David Giuntoli’s character is significantly different from Detective Nick Burkhardt in “Grimm” and he handles it well as well.
Overall it’s well-written, well acted, heavy drama and while the comparisons to “This Is Us” are unavoidable, I’m not sure it has the charm or heart of “This Is Us”. It doesn’t have the family element or the children’s stories that are at the core of “This Is Us”. So if that is what you are looking for, you won’t find it at least not in the opening episode. But other than that this has potential to be a big hit if it can move on with the stories of the characters and not being stuck in the issues surrounding the suicide.
Unfortunately I don’t have room for it in my schedule but I’m giving it a very strong “Recommended Watchable” rating. If you’re looking for a good cry check it out.