This is terrific.
After a simultaneously mortifying and adorable opening scene, Jack’s wife Rebecca goes into labour, which means a difficult, complicated birth and a lot of tears, both on the tv and all over my jumper, sofa and anyone within ten feet of my tear ducts. It’s not just the hospital baby drama we’re crying over either, as, elsewhere, overweight Kate (normally I would never describe anyone that way, but one of the few flaws the pilot does have is that Kate and her storyline are both wholly defined by her size), objectified Kevin and abandonment issues Randall all do a spot of tear-jerking themselves, while simultaneously making massive, potentially life-altering choices of their own. All of which adds up to an incredibly warm, funny and moving way to kick off what might be my new tv obsession.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a drama pilot about normal people dealing with normal life – as opposed to aliens, vampires or some other element of the supernatural/ superhero variety – as carefully, beautifully-crafted as this one. On one view, it’s maybe too beautifully-crafted, with its willingness to sacrifice a bit of realism for a really good gag or two – the sequence with Kate and the cake and the post-its is cute and it made me laugh, for instance, but Kate is obese not amnesiac, guys, she’s not going to forget she wrote the second post-it, come on now – or for the big twist, which, while brilliantly-executed and exceptionally clever, is, if I harden my heart and (try really hard to) think about it objectively, somewhat contrived.
But who cares about all that? A little artifice is more than worth it, when you get a script and performances that are so tender, heartwarming and utterly irresistible in return.
Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore are absolutely adorable together – since they’re married in the show, would it be wrong to ship them in real life? Because that’s not going to stop me. Sterling K Brown’s Randall, meanwhile, is perhaps the most interesting character, but Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz make Kevin and Kate a lot more fun and likeable than they should be, and Gerald McRaney’s wonderful guest turn as Dr Kotowski is just the best. THE BEST.
Of course, there will be people who’ll find the whole thing too sappy and sentimental, and that’s fair enough. But they’ll be the ones missing out. Me? I sobbed, I laughed, I sobbed some more, and I love love loved it all.