This Is Us s1 ep 1

This is terrific.

imageAfter 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.

imageIt’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.

imageMilo 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.

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10 thoughts on “This Is Us s1 ep 1

  1. Jed Bartlet December 7, 2016 / 11:23 pm

    Yes, yes, yes. I also loved it all. It gave me that delicious feeling I get when I know I’m being manipulated, but it’s done so skilfully that I can even enjoy that knowledge. Beautifully balanced for a pilot – not too many new characters, but no-one hogging the screen. No tears yet, I’d have to admit, but they’re all strangers to me just now. The tears will come soon.

    Regarding Kate – does the show define her by her size, or is it that the character defines herself by her size? (Or, even if I’m right, is that a distinction without a difference?)

    As for Gerald McRaney – if he’s not at least nominated for the Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a drama, something has gone VERY badly wrong. He was extraordinary.

  2. Snoskred December 7, 2016 / 11:39 pm

    I loved it as well. I’m a few episodes ahead of you, and I can confidently state you will continue loving it. Just so well thought out and that twist in the pilot was amazing.

    Given my love for this and also for the two seasons of The Missing where they played with time so much, I have to say I am surprised this kind of time concept is not more commonly used. I do think given the success of this show, we might now see a rash of pilots next year where this is A Thing. And I don’t think it would be a bad thing. There are so many interesting stories that could be told this way.

    Dr Kotowski was my favourite thing about the pilot. However since then I have also seen Westworld, and I would be very surprised if that show did not get All The Nominations next year. πŸ™‚ Particularly Louis Hertham as Dolores’s father, I should think will be in Best Guest Actor.

  3. Kay20 December 8, 2016 / 1:23 am

    You can tell this has roots in Parenthood.

    And I think the upcoming episodes are even better because the characters are more well rounded. I cried buckets in a recent episode and I didn’t expect Mandy Moore to be this good.

    Stellar TV.

    • CJ Cregg December 8, 2016 / 9:15 pm

      It’s very Parenthood-adjacent, isn’t it? I had better get some more tissue boxes in….πŸ˜‰

  4. e December 8, 2016 / 5:45 am

    Well made, but too overwrought for me. Watched ep1, recorded ep 10, and I think that will be enough for me. (It’s coming back in the new year.)

    Since I’ve only watched the first ep, I’m in a surprising position to respond:

    The twins Kate and Kevin are defined by their bodies, and both in a negative way. Each of them is asking if there’s something else intrinsic to them that makes them worthy. And while the signed poster was shown on Randall’s wall, it’s their shared birthday and what, no triplet group phone calls? What’s up with that? And since they didn’t call dad, is he out of their lives or is he dead?

    I didn’t catch on, honestly, until the cigarette, and then once I saw the TV I was all “oh, right. ‘Us’ is our family: two parents, three kids.” And then I thought it just hammered things way too fast, way too sentimentally. And no way do you just walk out of a hospital, even in 1978 or 1979, with a kid who isn’t yours — or with kids born 3 months premature (which those kids in the baby room were not) — and take on an addicted-from-birth baby in addition to two high needs premies.

    Also, when your wife has an incredibly high risk pregnancy (which yes they knew about in the ’70s), you don’t make her dance or insist on sex. It’s called “bedrest”.

    My favorite part was the soccer game, with the flip & cheers and even that was staged and a little too much on the nose. Randall’s real dad seemed a little too with it just to be a 4 months clean, about to die guy.

    So in the end, I think I’m going to stick with space ships and androids and holistic detectives and superheroes and telenovelas and sports shipping (because shippy detectives won’t be back for a while) and skip the slice of life family tear-jerker. Nashville’s coming back on a new channel I hear. I may pick it back up and pretend this past season never happened.

    • CJ Cregg December 8, 2016 / 9:14 pm

      I wondered about the lack of triplet/parent calls, but I suppose all of that could have happened offscreen? Kate was supposed to have a party that we didn’t see happen either so maybe there was more happening that day than we saw? I think it’s more likely the parents are dead than estranged from the kids, though – Randall had his photo of them out on display and was quite happy when his biological dad picked it up, and Kate quoted her dad about the “sourest of lemons” fondly, which I thought suggested there was no ill feeling there.

      I also had the same thought about the “just take this random additional baby home” thing but just decided to ignore it tbh – as I said, the show did sacrifice a bit of realism in service of the twist.

      Good point about the parallels between Kevin and Kate, but I think the difference between them is that we could see from the pilot that he has goals and thoughts that don’t relate to his body or to changing his body – he wants to be a good actor, he wants to do good work, he wants to be taken seriously. Kate, on the strength of the pilot, anyway, just wants to not be overweight. I hope the next few episodes give her a job/ some goals and an identity beyond that.

  5. CJ Cregg December 8, 2016 / 9:20 pm

    PS – Jed and Snoskred, let’s consider this the first meeting of the Gerald McRaney/ Dr Kotowski Appreciation Society. All welcome πŸ˜€

  6. Jed Bartlet December 8, 2016 / 10:53 pm

    And Sufjan. Lovely, lovely Sufjan.

  7. Bill December 9, 2016 / 9:44 am

    Can I join the Gerald McRaney/Dr Kotowski Appreciation Society please?!

    I actually liked the Kate storyline most in this episode, whilst she may feel that her weight defines her, I think it was made clear that she is an attractive, funny, loving person with a lot more to offer than she may think.

    I am also going to agree with Jed about Sufjan, loved the opening so much more as a result.

    I am entirely prepared to overlook the flaws, as I think it did a nice job of setting the scene for the characters. No tears from me, but that’s only a matter of time I think.

    • CJ Cregg December 10, 2016 / 12:05 am

      Consider yourself the latest member of the GMcR etc Society, Bill – next step, T-shirts and an AGM πŸ˜†

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