The countdown is on ’til the return of This Is Us on Tuesday September 26.
I used to watch Parenthood and I, along with the rest of America, relied on the stories of the Braverman family to meet my ugly-cry quota each week. So when Parenthood went off the air in January of 2015, I was in a major show hole. I missed the characters, the authentic storylines, and the heartstring tuggings I received each and every week. (Raise your hand if you got through a single episode without crying?)
Sure, I tried other shows. My husband and I started watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix because Lauren Graham’s Lorelai Gilmore kept us connected to Parenthood’s Sarah Braverman. But, the need for a family-inspired drama with excellent storytelling and characters to root for persisted.
Until last fall. Enter This Is Us.
I looked forward to this new show from the very first preview.
It’s hard not to be a fan of Mandy Moore and we’ve loved Milo Ventimiglia since he played Peter Petrelli on Heroes and surprised us when we saw his younger self show up as Jess Mariano in Gilmore Girls.
(Side note: my husband and I get told a lot that we resemble Mandy/Rebecca and Milo/Jack. And if you kind of squint and imagine us about 10 years younger, I think they’re onto something.)
But, it was the tears welling up in my eyes as I watched the preview that really made me hopeful. After a year and nine months, I was ready to cry on a weekly basis again.
My first assumption about the show was that it would be similar to the movie Crash. (Remember that film about several different characters whose lives collide on a fateful day?) I knew that each of the main characters shared the same birthday, and I thought this was a creative way to introduce each one and we’d follow them with crossovers occurring as the series progressed.
Now, if you haven’t seen This Is Us, first of all, what in the world are you waiting for? Hop to it and binge-watch immediately to get ready for Season Two. Secondly, you should probably consider this your spoiler alert and stop reading.
The last five minutes of the first episode of Season One, when it’s revealed that Jack and Rebecca’s story line is set in 1980 (first clue being when the police officer lights up his cigarette in the middle of the hospital’s maternity ward) and that Kevin, Kate, and Randall are their triplet children who we’ve gotten to know in present day: Mind. Blown.
I watched the episode initially on my own and then forced my husband to watch it the next night. I didn’t even watch the TV during the last five minutes the second time around. Instead, I watched his face while the realization hit him, and it was worth every second.
This Is Us continued to surprise viewers in Season One. Episodes ended with cliff hangers. The story lines visited several time periods in the Pearson family’s life. We cheered on Kate as she tried to lose weight and as Toby won her heart. And we rejoiced as Kevin became less self-absorbed and demonstrated real compassion for others.
But the real heart of the show were the relationships between Jack and Rebecca and Randall and his biological father, William. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Randall held William while he died or when Jack walked out of the house in the season finale after his argument with Rebecca.
We’ve come to love these characters, and as we prepare for the Season Two premiere on September 26th, we’re left asking all sorts of questions.
Will Jack win Rebecca back? Will we see flashbacks on how he wooed her initially? How does Miguel (Jack’s best friend and Rebecca’s eventual husband) factor into the situation? And, for goodness sake(!), when are we going to learn how and when Jack died?
Will Kate marry Toby? Is her singing career about to take off?
Will Kevin continue his good-guy streak and remarry Sophie or will his visit with Ron Howard lure him back into the Hollywood lifestyle which caused them to break up the first time around?
Will we see more of William in flashbacks? (Please oh please oh please oh please let us see more William.)
Will Randall and Beth move forward with his desire to adopt a child (see clip below)? It seems complicated given her great relief after their pregnancy “scare” during Season One. But, the loss of William (and his job) might loosen Randall up a bit. Maybe we’ll find him staying home while Beth goes back to work. And I’d love to see flashbacks of Randall and Beth’s backstory.
Season One will be hard a hard act to follow, but I’m hopeful, in the way I always am at the beginning of a new tv season, that the stories of the Pearson family will continue to inspire, motivate, and encourage us. The characters aren’t perfect, but in their flaws they are real and good, which beckons to the best versions of ourselves saying, “This is us.”