An emotional, heartfelt and charming debut; This Is Us gets off to a great start.
From the mind of Cars, Tangled and Crazy, Stupid, Love screenwriter Dan Fogelman, comes the new comedy-drama show This Is Us, starring Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley. With what sounds like a rather clichéd and perhaps cheesy and simplified premise, the show tells the story of several people who all share the same birthday. There’s Jack (Ventimiglia), whose wife Rebecca (Moore) is expecting triplets; Randall (Brown), a successfully married businessman with two daughters, yet conflicted over his biological father; and twins Kevin (Hartley) – a disillusioned sitcom star – and Kate (Metz) – an obese and troubled former PA to Kevin.
But while the premise may seem a little shallow on potential, the way it functions allows Fogelman to connect these characters in varying ways and perfectly set the show up for what is to come. As seen from Crazy, Stupid, Love, Fogelman knows how to develop characters and give them subtle yet thoughtful, believable backstories; by the end of this pilot episode, we care deeply for every one of them. And it helps that the performances are so strong, as across the board the likes of Metz, Ventimiglia and Brown inject warmth, humour and charm into their characters. But Fogelman’s writing doesn’t just excel when it comes to back story and development—the in-the-moment dialogue and interactions between characters feel truly authentic and believable, these don’t seem to be characters or caricatures spewing out every cliché in the book—they’re people talking having regular conversations and talking over their issues and situations. There’s a significant emotional heft behind it all and it only helps to make This Is Us that much more engaging and relatable. But in among all of the emotion and melodrama, there is humour and charm and This Is Us becomes a much more enjoyable experience because of it.
Whilst the cheese and on-the-nose melodrama is a little present, This Is Us gets off to a fantastic start and, most importantly, does what few other shows can do; it immediately leaves you wanting more. If the rest of the season can emulate the entertainment and likeability of the first episode, then This Is Us looks set to be a late contender for breakout show of 2016.
This Is Us is broadcast on Channel 4 on Tuesdays at 9pm.