My friends are aghast when I tell them just how few TV shows I watch. Part of the reason I don’t watch many shows is that I know the depth of my excitement when I find a show I like; the other part is I often cannot find a show in which I want to invest my time. Two years ago, I saw the commercial for “This Is Us,” and although I was skeptical, as I usually am for sentimental shows, I decided to tune in one Tuesday. I was glued to my couch the entire time. It did not occur to me that an hour had passed, and I was annoyed that I had to wait an entire week for another episode.
Two years have passed since watching my first episode of “This Is Us,” and every time I watch a new one, I have the same feelings I did the first fateful evening I watched. I have waited patiently for exactly six months and nine days for the show’s return, which was not an easy thing to do, as the last episode was one that broke me in two and left me reeling throughout the class I was nearly late for.
It is safe to say I am elated for the show to be streaming at my fingertips once again on my NBC app.
My intention here is not to analyze the behaviors of the characters or why the screen writers have included certain plots in these past two episodes, as I am always inclined to do. In consideration of the people who are at different stages of their viewings, I do not want to cause an uproar for revealing scenes of this new season. Instead, I want to examine why the show has broken and will continue to break the hearts of thousands each Tuesday.
Perhaps we see ourselves in the characters. Perhaps their painful, relatable experiences connect us and make us come back for more. There are many reasons why the show has won a Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award. One of the most significant reasons, however, is the show makes people take a moment out of their busy week and consider what truly matters.
The distinct intimacy in the show results from the writers’ tactful decision to revert from the past to the present time in the characters’ lives. We meet the “Big Three,” Kevin, Kate and Randall, as 30-somethings who are the same age as their parents were when they had them.
We can come to our own conclusions about why they have the attributes and predicaments they do because we see them at all stages of their lives. Dashing between the trio’s childhoods and adult lives is a striking reminder that the pains of our youth are scars in the future.
Early on, we are aware of a tragedy that resonates with the Big Three and their mother, Rebecca, forever. Jack, the doting father and husband, whose charm and kindness compel us to fall in love from the moment he arrives on the screen with his heavily pregnant wife, Rebecca, will die on the day of his birthday and the triplets’ birth.
The loss of a father and husband, or any family member, is not something far-fetched. Rather, such a loss is inevitable and for some, like Jack’s surviving family members, sooner than expected.
Rebecca must determine how she will move on from the loss of her soulmate. We see the moment she learns of it along with other characters’ realizations. Experiencing flashbacks throughout the show compels us to feel the emotions that come with the immense loss Rebecca, Kevin, Kate and Randall are faced with. She and the rest of the family think about what Jack would do, say and look like in the present, allowing us to get a glimpse into their minds as they think about the person they knew.
Many shows of today are “reality shows,” in which, for instance, millionaires cry about dropping their diamond earring into the waters of Bora Bora while on their honeymoons, (here’s to you, Kim Kardashian). Others travel across the world to meet their 90-day fiancé, often paranoid that their husband or wife-to-be is cheating on them with someone they are in contact with regularly and whom they actually know.
“This Is Us,” though, portrays a story more realistic than do many reality shows. Each of us has a story demanding to be told, and the show does just that on our behalf.
Of course, some of the circumstances are realistic but out of the ordinary. Randall’s story in particular is distinctive in that he was adopted by a white couple, who was in desperate need to bridge the gap between the stillbirth of one of their triplets, after someone left him outside of a firehouse.
Nevertheless, most of us likely have times that we feel as Kevin does, not knowing what to do with our lives and wondering what they would be like if we made different choices. We will probably look at the scale as Kate does and wish we were not tipping it over as we find ourselves to be. We will want to please the people around us and attain the recognition we crave, like Randall.
The world we live in is a bleak one, and it is challenging and sad. We are forced to put on a happy face and tell not only everyone around us, but also ourselves, that everything will be okay.
Having an outlet to release our emotions in a healthy way can help us become mentally sound, strong individuals who see more purpose in the world around them. My expectations are not too high because I have been able to relate to each and every episode in one way or another, either through the characters, their struggles or both.
My obsession with “This Is Us” is something I do not expect to lose anytime soon, even after the show has had its run, which I predict won’t be until many years ahead. I have found a resource for finding more about myself and the world around me, and for that, I am forever grateful.