Once I decided to stop watching The Walking Dead, I started looking for another show to watch. Enter This is Us, which multiple people recommended. Being a network show, I’ll admit I was skeptical. Most of my recent favorites (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Better Call Saul, Narcos, etc) have been on cable or Netflix, and I was a little premature in my belief that smart TV only came places other than the 3 big networks. So I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly I became engrossed in the lives of the characters. The show has a reputation for being a tearjerker, so perhaps some people consider it a TV version of a “Chick Flick”. However, I can attest that it is well written, has interesting dialogue, and is extremely realistic in its depiction of life, whatever stage that might be.
So with that being said, here are a few scattershot thoughts on the first season:
- Really the main time I thought the series’ “network-ness” showed was the pilot, which had a few hokey moments, but pilots often do. Shows are trying to find their feet and often change later once they settle into the season. If you want proof of this, go back and watch the pilot of ER, and see how vastly different the tone of the show was even in Season 1. I think Benton actually cracked a joke and smiled in the pilot-that should tell you all you need to know.
- My introduction to Mandy Moore was like most people-through her beginnings as a pop singer. Can’t say I listened to her music then, but I knew who she was. Later I saw A Walk to Remember, and actually became (and remain) a fan of her album Amanda Leigh, which is full of thoughtful acoustic and piano pop, with a twinge of 70s singer/songwriter thrown in. She is really good in this role. My least favorite moment of hers from the season: Rebecca telling Jack about the tour after his romantic gesture at their old apartment. Really, Rebecca-you had to tell him then?
- I like how the show is masterful at revealing things that you didn’t necessarily see coming, like how modern day Rebecca is married to Miguel, Jack is dead, and that Rebecca knew William years ago. It is definitely a talent to weave the plots from the past into the plots in the present, and have it resonate as real instead of cheesy. They do it wonderfully.
- The relationship between Randall and William was probably my favorite of the whole season. Man, those two guys can act (Sterling K Brown and Ron Cephas Jones). So it’s no surprise “Memphis” was my favorite episode out of the 18. Again, they managed to take a highly charged and emotional set up, but not rely on clichés or easy resolutions. Case in point- they never told each other they loved each other, but they still were able to say and do things that easily conveyed their true feelings. I also enjoyed seeing William’s past life; if there is ever a spinoff, I’m in from the start.
- Most impactful Randall moments-finding the letter his mom wrote William, his nervous breakdown due to stress, Kevin helping him, and quitting his job.
- My favorite minor character arc-Dr. K struggling with and finally accepting the death of his wife.
- I love some of the moments of humility they showed-Rebecca admitting she doesn’t know how to groom Randall’s hair, Kevin letting Miguel wear the Thanksgiving hat, and Jack asking his abusive father for money.
- Fun fact: Timothy Busfield (of Revenge of the Nerds and Thirtysomething fame) directed the episode “The Right Thing to Do”.
- I don’t mind the Sophie and Kevin arc. But it did strike me as odd that she took him back so soon. Also thought that he would turn down Ron Howard, after what he had just said to Sophie about not messing things up again.
- The show did a great job of building up to the season finale, “Moonshadow”. I (and I’m sure many other viewers) thought we would see the death of Jack, so I was dreading every scene. My mind went into overdrive about all the possible ways it might happen. The most obvious seemed to be by drunk driving, but then I thought maybe Rebecca would wreck the car. Then I thought he might return to that card game with the mafia-type guys 20 years later and be murdered. Then I was engulfed in a horrible sense of foreboding during their screaming argument. In the end, I was relieved that the death was put on hold, even though I want to know how it ultimately happens (and why Kate thinks she is to blame).