Immediately after watching the first episode of “This Is Us,” I knew it was going to be a hit. For a pilot episode, it’s pretty impressive. It introduces us to all the characters and their issues, struggles and anxieties, without telling us how they’re connected — until the very end, when you realize that they’re all family members. The viewer is, in the first 40 minutes, thrown on an emotional loop.
I liked the show. I watched most of the first season. But, eventually, I had to abandon it for the sake of my sanity. The sap factor in the writing, acting and overall theme is off the charts. It would make me cringe sometimes because it could be so cheesy and so overly emotional. Almost, sometimes, unnecessarily emotional.
However, the show is beyond popular; it’s a phenomenon. Many think the cozy warmth and love that radiates from the show is filling a void for many, especially in trying political times. Some say the fact that the show itself is pretty apolitical is a big drawing factor. There’s the appeal of Randall and his family, who depict a happy, successful black family (a la “Black-Ish”). Whatever it is, “This Is Us” has turned actors Sterling K. Brown and Chrissy Metz into household names, as well as relaunched the careers of tween sensations Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia.
Dan Fogelman, the creator of “This Is Us,” has a resume of films written that people just like: “Cars” and “Cars 2,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” and my personal favorite, “Tangled.” It seems as though “This Is Us” is his baby: He created it, and now it’s huge, so much so that he decided to imitate what he created into film form with his new movie “Life Itself,” which was just released last week.
The trailer for “Life Itself” shows Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde in a sweeping and vivid romance, as well as flashes of seasoned actors Annette Bening, Mandy Patankin and Antonio Banderas. Set to orchestral music, the trailer flashes a black screen in the middle with large text reading “We’re all part of a greater story.”
Similarly, ABC is trying its hand at another “This Is Us” knockoff, titled “A Million Little Things.” “A Million Little Things” follows four friends who met in an elevator and are Boston Bruins fans. Then, one day, Jon, who believed “everything happens for a reason,” kills himself. The other three friends are left reeling — why did spiritual Jon do this to himself?
The recurring themes of the cyclical nature of life reference something that viewers seem to need more of in their entertainment, whether it be spirituality, or reassurance, or just plain Christian values that Americans eat up. I think it’s great that people are looking for something so positive in their media. When flipping through networks, I often feel disenfranchised from everything. Too many crime shows, doctor dramas and crappy sitcoms — no emotion. However, does it all have to be this emotional?