Sterling K. Brown- enough said
A great twist
Some genuinely felt emotional moments
Some cheesy dialogue
Some stereotypes that just didn't sit well
One-dimensional female characters
The pilot for This is Us delivered the expected feels, and a twist we totally didn’t see coming
You’ve been seeing the commercials for it, and in fact, the official preview has almost 9 million hits on YouTube. Despite emotional, overtly tearjerking shows not being particularly trendy these days (there’s nary a dragon in sight!), This is Us has to be one of the most keenly anticipated shows of the fall season. But NBC is clearly banking on the fact that you’ve got a void to fill after Parenthood, and despite a few heavy-handed moments, This is Us really gets in a some great sucker punches. Will this be on our watch list for the rest of the season? Stick with us to find out!
Happy 36th Birthday- For the entire cast
Here’s the setup: the people we’re meeting all share the same birthday, and though the title card told us that there’s no known connection between people who share birthdays, this is a television show so we’re not fooled. As a side note, some of you geniuses maybe did figure out the connection between them, but we are not those people. The song playing through the opening, Sufjan Stevens’ fantastic “Death with Dignity” is pitch perfect. We meet Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and his very pregnant wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) who go into labor at his very private birthday celebration; Kate (Chrissy Metz), an overweight woman struggling with intense feelings of self-loathing; Randall (Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown), a high-powered man searching for his biological father; and Kevin (Justin Hartley), a television actor clearly struggling with his swinging bachelor lifestyle. At first meet, the main characters are all likable & charming, and who doesn’t want to see Milo Ventimiglia without his shirt on? Thanks, NBC (nice to have you back on TV, Milo).
“I think we can skip the sexy dance this year.” -Rebecca
After the initial meet, we spend a little time with each character. The best part about the This is Us pilot is how quickly we end up identifying with each individual character. You might think you identify with one over the other, but to be honest we were surprised at how much we connected with every single one of the characters. Watching Kate take off her earrings before stepping on a scale butt naked? Yeah, girl. We’ve been there. Being completely unsatisfied and misunderstood at work? We dig that, too. And Randall watching his daughters play soccer was pretty great, too.
This is How You Deliver Triplets??
The only thing that was a real head scratcher was the delivery of the triplets (and this is probably when we should’ve expected that twist we talked about before). Why were they letting this woman deliver triplets naturally? They’re not rushing in to a c-section? It just seems crazy. And poor Gerald McRaney is saddled with the the clunkiest dialogue in the show, despite getting in a good joke or two. The medical stuff was a total fail and took us out of the episode. In hindsight, we get it. Still, it didn’t make the first fifty minutes any less confusing.
“Want to be fat friends?” -Toby
At Kate’s weight loss support group we meet Toby (Chris Sullivan), a decent looking guy with a penchant for mocking the other group members. The scene is kind of sweet, and though we quite like Toby and he gets some of the best zingers in the episode, the whole “fat girl falls for fat guy” is getting pretty old. We’re actually tired of seeing dumpy looking guys getting hot women, but any time there’s a woman on a tv screen bigger than a two, she’s only falling for/getting another bigger guy. It’s pretty tiring, and it’s pretty old. Don’t get us wrong- we like Toby. Chris Sullivan is witty and charming and great in the role. But we’re tired of feeling like zaftig ladies are only attractive to big guys. Additionally, we’re not given any information about Kate and what she does for work. Kevin’s a big movie star, Randall makes scads of money in the financial sector, but Kate’s only defining characteristics at this point are that she’s fat, she’s self-deprecating, and self-loathing. This is Us, so far we like you and you’re pretty good, but we think you can do better! Note that none of this is Chrissy Metz’s fault. She needs better material to really spread her wings.
So that’s what meeting your father for the first time feels like
After having clearly thought about it for a long time, Randall paid a private investigator to find the biological father that left him at a firehouse thirty six years before. The meeting is painful and raw, and our biggest acting kudos for this episode go to Sterling K. Brown. His work, in both this scene and a later scene when he brings his biological father to meet his wife & daughters is really great stuff. Moving & funny, filled with both bitterness and longing, and ultimately how distressed and confused he is by his own conflicting feelings. Try to hold in your feelings when he can’t explain to his wife why he brought home the father who abandoned him, I challenge you. MVP award, Sterling!
“You’re right. I did just wanna say screw you and get out of here. Screw you. …Do you want to meet your grandchildren?” -Randall
Back with Kevin on the set of his show about a “manny” (that’s man-nanny for you all that don’t appreciate mashing and shortening words like everyone else does) and there’s an amusing cameo by Alan Thicke. Kevin’s killing it in a scene that finally allows him to stretch his acting chops, and when it’s triumphantly over and his boss tells him they’re going to do a watered down version, Kevin has an epic meltdown in front of the live studio audience that’s naturally filmed by everyone and he walks off. In an age where a good celebrity ranting meltdown is everyone’s favorite viewing, it rang absolutely true and was amusing. We want to see more of this from Justin Hartley (even though, like the director of his fictional show, we really want to keep seeing him without his shirt off).
Finding love and, a double loss
While Rebecca’s delivery takes a wrong turn (nobody saw that coming- or everyone did), we head on over to check out Kate and Toby’s date. Things are going pretty darn well- so well that Toby is pretty pissed he won’t be invited in at the end of the night and makes a pretty bad joke. We would’ve slapped the snot out of him, she changes her mind and invites him in, but hey… different strokes? Things are getting real for Toby and Kate when a drunk Kevin bursts in after his rant goes viral. This scene, like the scene earlier in the episode between Kate and Kevin, are the strongest work they do in the episode. Their screen chemistry is pretty darn great (we almost thought these two might be the item from the preview) and we like their easy manner with each other.
“I kinda feel bad for Alan Thicke…” -Toby
Back to Rebecca and Jack, and the awkward Dr. K just comes right out and tells Jack that his third baby died, and honestly he seems pretty blasé about it. …Dr. K has some pretty stellar bedside manner, y’all. We wish he was our doctor (or, you know, we don’t, because he’s the worst doctor ever). Jack’s inability to process the death of his third child prompts Dr. K to confess the lost of his own child. We suppose this moment was supposed to be sweet and meaningful, but we were still angry at Dr. K for being sweet and funny and confident and then basically killing a baby and then having an awful bedside manner. Or maybe it was the “doctor as wise old sage” that was irritating? Either way, it wasn’t our favorite scene, but we can imagine it might be a little tissue-inducing for some of you. Not so much, Dr. K.
The Twist we DIDN’T SEE COMING
We’re back with Randall and his father William, and things aren’t so hot for William. He’s dying, and Randall is clearly affected. Quickly back with Kevin and Kate, and it’s clear they’re closed always there for each other. Kate recounts a story about the “bad thing” that happened to them, and we’re suddenly back with Jack looking in the nursery window at his kids. This is where the twist happens, and honestly, we were totally blown away. It’s one of those television moments where you think, “How did I miss that?” When we re-watched the episode, we had a few moments where we thought we were total morons for missing it, but honestly we didn’t see it coming at all (and we can spot a twist!). It’s so good we’re not going to ruin it here in case some of you haven’t seen it. We implore you if you’ve seen the show, don’t spoil it for friends! Maybe you didn’t like it as much as we did- we don’t care, because we cried and cried. The background song was perfect (Labi Siffre’s “Watch Me”), and we had chills and feels for days. Well played, This is Us. Well played.
This is Us gives a strong introduction to some interesting characters (especially Sterling K. Brown’s Randall), and we’re interested in seeing how the twist will inform the show going forward
A strong premiere outing for This is Us. We liked the characters, loved the twist and really liked the music in the show as well. We’re curious to see how their lives develop and definitely interested to watch their lives intertwine in future episodes. We could’ve done without some of the cheesier dialogue and Kate, Rebecca and even Beth need some serious time spent with them to make them more than cardboard cutouts with boobs, but overall, we’re in. That twist… It was the hook to end all hooks! Without the twist this episode doesn’t play nearly as well, and you can get obsessed and bogged down by the seemingly wacky, out there medical decisions, but the last five minutes of the show were so satisfying that we genuinely forgive almost every other silly thing in the episode.
- Just from costuming alone (and by the way the costuming was pretty damn good), how did we not figure it out???
- Please, please throw in a complication love interest for Kate that isn’t also fat
- Please do something with Kate other than make her stare longingly/sorrowfully at food
- To us, Randall is the most interesting character in the show thus far, how do you else feel?
- Will Gerald McRaney continue in the show? Will there be more sage doctor moments?
- More of the Rebecca/Jack relationship would be great
This is Us Review [1×01]: “Pilot”