THIS IS US Review: “Pilot”

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Towards the end of the pilot of , a friendly OBGYN gives an emotional and moving speech to new father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) about how he has delivered so many babies because he lost one his own. It evokes a little bit of an eyeroll due to pure cheese, but is overall very sweet and resonant to both Jack and the audience. This is a pretty apt example of what the entire show is. Yeah, it’s cheesy, but loveable and emotionally sound.

This Is Us has been getting buzz on the internet since the first trailer broke the record for most views of a single television trailer. Then leading up to now, cast members and critics alike have been teasing it as an “event” and warning us about the big twist at the end of the episode. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty dang easy to see the twist coming. And that’s okay. If This is Us continues to play to its main strengths, the consistency of the characters and relationships will take precedence over plot elements.

THIS IS US -- Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Gerald McRaney as Doctor K, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

The pilot is told in four main vignettes about love, family, self-doubt, and Alan Thicke. And it’s everybody’s 36th birthday. It’s very Love Actually or more accurately creator Dan Fogelman’s previous work: Crazy, Stupid, Love. First is the story Jack and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) a very beautiful couple who are about to pop out some kids. The casting for this one was perfect, because we get two early 2000s heartthrobs coming together, which must have contributed to at least 5 million of the trailer’s views. They have aged gorgeously, and have lovely chemistry as a sweet couple who just want to be parents and are finally getting their wish.

Recent Emmy winner Sterling K Brown leads his segment as Randall, a very well-off family man who finally confronts his biological father (Ron Cephas Jones) for leaving him at a fire station. Right off the bat, Randall’s plot is one of the most compelling. He thinks he’ll know how to react when faced with his father, but ends up completely confused about his own actions. It’s how anyone would react in that sort of situation and Brown’s charisma and doubt makes us immediately root for him and this odd newfound relationship.

THIS IS US -- Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Ron Cephas Jones as William, Sterling K. Brown as Randall -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

The other two plots are the ones that have a clear intersection from the the get-go. Twins Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) are both dealing with big things. For Kate, it’s literally a big thing in that she’s trying to lose a lot of weight. She does this by going to a support group where she meets the funny and charming Toby (Chris Sullivan) and goes out with him even though she had resolved not to fall for a fat guy. Though Kate and Toby are lovely together and Metz does a great of showing her vulnerabilities, hopefully there is more this plot than a woman trying lose weight. Granted, it’s really great to have a main character on high profile show be over 200 pounds but it would be even better if that was not her defining characteristic. We should know more about Kate than just her weight.

Body image is not an issue for Kevin, as he is the often shirtless lead on a cheesy multicam sitcom entitled “The Manny.” Is this is NBC’s way of making fun of many of the incredibly rough comedies they have tried to put out in the last few years? (Looking at you, Undateable.) Kevin is unsatisfied, despite making a ridiculous amount of money, because there is no art in being the Manny. His plot, complete with a delightful Alan Thicke cameo is the most comedic of all four of them, which is a good note to have in this drama that will surely bring many tears in the future.

THIS IS US -- Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Chrissy Metz as Kate, Justin Hartley as Kevin -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

It’s very likely that this is NBC’s spiritual replacement to Parenthood, an emotional family tear-jerker, but they are banking on This Is Us getting more ratings. It is really nice to have a network drama as low-concept as This Is Us again, that actually prioritizes the character work over the genre. Even with the big twist, the biggest strength the show has going for it is that all the characters are such genuine people. This is not another morally complex anti-hero drama. This is about people who are trying their best, and it’s truly so refreshing to see that come back to network . Hopefully This Is Us can hold onto this forward momentum and play with it’s biggest strengths as an ensemble too keep bringing us all the emotions.

TB-TV-Grade-B+Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 10PM on NBC

Read all of our reviews of This is Us here. 
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Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
Follow Raina on Twitter: @ItsRainaingMen
Keep up with all of Raina’s reviews here.

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