When it was originally on: 2016-present
Original Network: NBC
Where you can stream it now: Hulu or NBC.com w/cable authentication
Had I seen it before: Yes. I’ve watched up to the infamous Crock Pot episode, but haven’t kept up since.
Why I picked it: This Is Us has one of my favorite tv pilots, and it’s also written by one of my favorite writers, Dan Fogelman. I liked this one so much, I’ve actually read the script for it. I stuck with This Is Us through the first season or two, but haven’t kept up. Maybe that’s because there’s no longer the same buzz, and so the fear of spoilers isn’t as great. Maybe I’ve just found other stuff to watch. Who really knows?
Either way, This Is Us is an NBC drama that managed to cut through the noise and become hella relevant in an era when the Big Networks are becoming less and less relevant with each year. Fun fact: not only has This Is Us been nominated for the Best Drama Emmy for all three seasons, it’s actually the ONLY hour-long program from any of the Big 4 Networks to be nominated for that Emmy since the advent of made-for-streaming television. NBC is so grateful, it buys this show in bulk: the initial renewal was for two seasons, and after that it was renewed for three. That success alone makes it worthy of The List, regardless of my personal affinity for it.
What I liked: It’s so easy for ensemble shows like This Is Us to have a lot of one-dimensional characters in the pilot. Oftentimes, there simply isn’t that much time to develop 5-6 characters in 42 minutes. Yet somehow, the This Is Us pilot gives us the following:
- Jack and Rebecca
And for each of these characters we get to see 1) something that makes them likable and endearing 2) each encounters a new, unexpected challenge that they’re going to have to deal with in super
Jack and Rebecca have many cute couple-y moments, from Jack insisting Rebecca is sexy despite her hella pregnant state. They also lose one of their babies. Tune in next week to see how they deal with that.
Kevin, despite being super rich and famous, walks away from two sexy ladies who are implicitly offering him a threesome so he can go be a good brother to Kate. He also has a meltdown at work that puts his whole career in jeopardy. Tune in next week to see how he deals with that.
Kate is introduced She also meets a new love interest, Toby, and it’s also mentioned that Kate isn’t used to having anyone interested in her in this way. Tune in next week to see how she deals with that.
And Randall is a great father and husband who’s worked hard to make something of himself despite being abandoned by his biological father. He meets his biological father for the first time in the pilot, but learns that his biological father is dying. Tune in next week to see how he deals with that.
For only 42 minutes, there’s a LOT of characters here that feel fairly fleshed out, and I’m decently invested in all of them. I understand their worlds. I understand the internal struggles that help define them. That’s not easy, but it’s done well here. I also won’t give away THE TWIST, but I will say the first time I saw the pilot I was caught off guard, and I thought it was executed quite well.
What I didn’t like: It’s actually really hard for me to think of anything*.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes! The first time around, I quickly watched most of season 1 soon as I could. It’s a show that knows how to punch me in the gut and make me feel something, and that’s what I love about television.
*This is not to say the show is absolutely perfect. I’ve heard many criticisms of This Is Us that I think are legitimate but 1) those criticisms aren’t really evident in the pilot and 2) those aren’t my original criticisms, so I don’t really feel like they belong here. It is called Butcher Thoughts after all.