TV Review - This is Us

By the end of the first episode, it's clear that this is going to be a family drama about four people who all share the same birthday. In fact, the first episode takes place all in one day, the 36th birthday of all four. The relationships between all four people isn't clear until the very end, which is meant to be a surprise but I'm going to spoil it.

Milo Ventimiglia (Gilmore Girls and Heroes) plays Jack and for his 36th birthday, he gets a Steelers towel, a cupcake and sex with his pregnant wife, Rebecca, played by Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember and Tangled). Yet, she walks into the bedroom fully clothed, while Jack is butt-naked. It's his birthday, but yet he's the eye-candy.

Unfortunately, his birthday fun is interrupted when his wife goes into labor. He then has to rush her to the hospital because she's having triplets. Things don't go well and they end up only successfully delivering two babies. The third dies. However, Jack and his wife adopt a third baby, a black child born the same day but abandoned by his father.

Those three babies are Kate, Kevin and Randall. Kate and Kevin were part of the original triplets. They're now fraternal twins. Randall is the black child who was adopted by Jack. They were born in 1980 on Jack's 36th birthday. The majority of the show takes place 36 years later on Kate, Kevin and Randall's collective 36th year.

Chrissy Metz (American Horror Story) plays Kate and on her 36th birthday, she goes on a date with Toby, played by Chris Sullivan (The Knick), a guy she met at a support group for overweight people or with eating disorders. Going on the date wasn't her plan, she does it because Toby was charming enough. Besides that, she was resisting eating fattening foods and feeling bad about getting on the scale.

Justin Hartley (Smallville and The Young and the Restless) plays Kevin, a sexy actor who is currently starring in a sitcom that requires him to be shirtless a lot of the time. He's very much like Derek Theler in Baby Daddy. Yet, Kevin wants to do more dramatic work with his clothes on, possibly opposite Alan Thicke. Unfortunately, people only want him to be the dumb, hot guy with his shirt off. Eventually, he has a meltdown on the scale of Christian Bale or Charlie Sheen and quits the production.

Recent Emmy-winner, Sterling K. Brown (The People V. O.J. Simpson) plays Randall. He looks like he's a Wall Street hot-shot, a stockbroker or something. Rare for someone African-American, but he makes a lot of money. He's very wealthy. He has a beautiful wife and two lovely daughters who both play soccer. However, his birthday is spent finding and tracking down his biological father who abandoned him 36 years ago.

This first episode is very well done, but the question is how will the series proceed from here. It seems likely that the series, written by Dan Fogelman and directed by Glenn Ficarra, Ken Olin and John Requa, will follow the lives of these few people. For Jack, based on the second episode, the focus will be possibly a struggle with alcoholism, as well as the loss of a baby, grief but also possible challenges of raising a black child, dealing with possible racism and racial tensions. How the narrative unfolds will determine whether it's worth watching.

For Kate, it looks like she'll have a more dramatic version of Mike & Molly, or else The Fault of Our Stars for fat people and minus the cancer. For Kevin, he's having an existential crisis about his career as well as fame and fortune. His story line could be a version of Entourage minus all the male douchery. For Randall, he has a chance to build a relationship with his biological father and possible biological family, which could cause conflict with his adoptive family.

The acting and directing are good thus far, especially the direction in the second episode, directed by Ken Olin. Olin directed the series Thirtysomething and Brothers & Sisters, and the quality of those shows is brought to this one, but we'll see what happens.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLS.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Tuesdays at 9PM on NBC.


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