The se­cret of This Is Us

Why is This Is Us so pop­u­lar? The an­swer is sim­ple, dis­cov­ers

The Press - The Box - - FREE-TO-AIR -

Com­pared to other TV shows, the gram­mat­i­cally chal­lenged This is Us should not be a hit. In a land­scape clut­tered with net­work, satel­lite and stream­ing se­ries that fea­ture fly­ing dragons, killer zom­bies, graphic nu­dity, mas­sively staged pe­riod pieces and glitzy gim­micks from time travel to super pow­ers, the show has cap­ti­vated view­ers with sim­ple sto­ries of three sib­lings told through dif­fer­ent points in their lives.

This Is Us has de­fied the odds sim­ply by tak­ing beau­ti­ful writ­ing and mix­ing it with su­perb act­ing to cre­ate a show that is warm, won­der­ful and a winning fam­ily drama.

NBC en­ter­tain­ment pres­i­dent Jen­nifer Salke calls This Is Us ‘‘as good as any­thing we’ve ever had’’. And this is from a United States net­work that gave global view­ers Friends, Cheers, The West Wing, The Cosby Show and ER. Salke is so im­pressed with the se­ries, she’s ordered two more sea­sons.

This Is Us fol­lows events in the lives of the Pear­son fam­ily. Kate, the char­ac­ter played by Chrissy Metz, is deal­ing with the phys­i­cal and emo­tional pain that comes with obe­sity, while Kevin (Justin Hart­ley) is strug­gling to be taken se­ri­ously in a world where he’s only been judged on his looks. Ster­ling K Brown’s char­ac­ter, the adopted brother Ran­dall, is bat­tling his own is­sues while con­nect­ing with his bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther, who is bat­tling ter­mi­nal can­cer.

Be­cause the se­ries looks at the life of the sib­lings over the years, even the par­ents, played by Milo Ven­timiglia and Mandy Moore, go from the fi­nan­cial strug­gles of young cou­ples to deal­ing with cracks in their mar­riage. They try to be the best par­ents they can be while rais­ing three chil­dren with dif­fer­ent needs.

View­ers have not just em­braced the show for its en­ter­tain­ment el­e­ments – the con­nec­tion goes much deeper.

Fans tell Ven­timiglia, who plays the car­ing fa­ther of the sib­lings, that the show is im­por­tant – more than just an­other TV show.

‘‘I think it’s fill­ing a void, par­tic­u­larly in a tele­vi­sion land­scape that does get cyn­i­cal, that does get dark, that does get rid­dled with zom­bies, that is more hope­ful,’’ Ven­timiglia says. ‘‘I think to be a part of some­thing that’s good and hope­ful and in­spires, as an artist, it’s in­cred­i­bly sat­is­fy­ing.’’

Se­ries cre­ator Dan Fo­gel­man is cer­tain the struc­ture of show­ing the fam­ily at dif­fer­ent points of their lives has been a ma­jor rea­son for the suc­cess. So far, he’s been able to write at least one sur­prise into each episode that has gen­er­ated even more ex­cite­ment for the show.

The big­gest sur­prise came in the se­ries opener when, in the fi­nal minute, it is re­vealed that the story was un­fold­ing in the past dur­ing the birth of the sib­lings. The episode cre­ated an ex­plo­sion on so­cial me­dia.

‘‘It’s re­ally re­ward­ing to be in the zeit­geist in that way. We all have done this for a very long time and worked very hard on a lot of stuff. It’s very rare that some­thing just lands with peo­ple in a way that has peo­ple talk­ing the next day,’’ Fo­gel­man says. ‘‘It’s in­creas­ingly rare in our en­vi­ron­ment where there’s so much on. So we have a plan. I re­mem­ber when we first started com­ing out, some peo­ple were writ­ing, ‘They’re front load­ing too much’. We know where the se­ries is go­ing and how we’re go­ing to keep peo­ple on their toes.’’

This Is Us isn’t the first fam­ily drama to con­nect with view­ers. Pro­grammes like 7th Heaven, Sis­ters, thir­tysome­thing, Gil­more Girls, Par­ent­hood, Life Goes On and Eight Is Enough earned solid rat­ing num­bers with real life plots. The dif­fer­ence is that most of those shows didn’t have to com­pete with such a crowded land­scape. And, none used the struc­ture of telling the sto­ries through the years to of­fer in­sight into the char­ac­ters.

Key to telling these sto­ries are the in­ter­ra­cial and adop­tion is­sues through Brown’s char­ac­ter. That puts Ron Ce­phus Jones in the mid­dle of one of the most emo­tional plots of the se­ries as his char­ac­ter tries to bond with the son he aban­doned years ago while also deal­ing with his fight with can­cer.

Jones sug­gests one rea­son the se­ries has be­come so pop­u­lar is that peo­ple are see­ing their own emo­tions re­flected back at them.

‘‘So many peo­ple have ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple in their fam­i­lies that are deal­ing with can­cer and this hor­rid dis­ease, also. So it gives peo­ple a chance to open their feel­ings up about it, the frus­tra­tion of hav­ing some­one in your fam­ily deal with this,’’ Jones says. ‘‘The way it’s writ­ten and what we’re able to do with it, it’s rare. We’re in rar­efied air, and I feel very blessed.’’

Moore, who calls work­ing on the se­ries the best job she’s ever had, be­lieves This Is Us has con­nected so deeply with view­ers be­cause it fills a void of fam­ily pro­gram­ming on the net­works, where pro­ce­dural sto­ries, comic book char­ac­ters and le­gal dra­mas are more the norm.

Her fel­low cast mates agree. Ger­ald McRaney, who has been a guest ac­tor play­ing the doc­tor who de­liv­ers the sib­lings, has been around TV long enough to see fam­ily dra­mas come and go. He sees the key to the show be­ing the con­flict that goes on be­tween good peo­ple.

‘‘At their core, these are good, de­cent peo­ple,’’ McRaney says. ‘‘I think a lot of peo­ple in the coun­try want to be re­minded of the good­ness that’s in us. We have seen a lot of stuff about all of the evil that peo­ple do to each other.

‘‘Peo­ple are tired of feel­ing cyn­i­cal about life and it’s time to en­joy it again. I’m glad that a show like this has been a hit.’’

It seems This is Us is a suc­cess be­cause it IS us. – TNS

This is Us 9.45pm, Wed­nes­day, TVNZ2.

This Is Us has de­fied the odds sim­ply by tak­ing beau­ti­ful writ­ing and mix­ing it with su­perb act­ing to cre­ate a show that is warm, won­der­ful and a winning fam­ily drama.

View­ers have not just em­braced This is Us for its en­ter­tain­ment el­e­ments – the con­nec­tion goes much deeper.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.