This is Us (Season One).
I don’t review every show on network television that I watch but This is Us just finished its first season and the entirety of the first season is streaming now on Hulu Plus so I wanted to give you all a reason to check it out.
We follow a lot of individual people in this ensemble cast and throughout the first episode, you’re discovering how they’re connected. I’ll try to remain spoiler free in that regard.
First we follow a married couple (Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia) as she is about go into birth. Our episodes jump through time a bit, so we get to see this couple throughout their first encounters, raising their children, and even many many years later. We follow another married couple (Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson), who are raising two young girls and attempting to connect with Brown’s birth father for the first time, all while Brown is also a workaholic struggling with anxiety. Next we follow two siblings, one an actor in a hit sitcom (Justin Hartley) and the other a woman struggling with being overweight and finding love (Chrissy Metz). These stories all intertwine and connect in really interesting ways, which over the first few episodes will all make sense.
This is Us is one of my favorite television shows right now, though I have a habit of falling for shows that sharply decline after their first stellar season. I’m hoping this show doesn’t pull an Empire or even a Heroes, another Ventimiglia project.
Here’s the thing you need to know though. You must be a sucker for crying. If you are hesitant to open your heart and experience these peoples’ lives in the most raw and realest of ways, you won’t enjoy this. It will come off as overly dramatic. Your thoughts on this show hinges on your enjoyment of this sometimes unbearable emotional torture.
This show succeeds because they have a great cast that can pull off some exceptional writing. These overly dramatic events seem real and plausible because the cast play as perfect, like we’re watching these events unfold in real life. I instinctively want to shout out the best cast members but it’s very hard to highlight just a single one or two. They all have moments to shine and bring you to tears. This show is very similar to Parenthood, which also brought together an ensemble cast that worked very well together.
If I had to pick a favorite, different than picking the best, I’d say Sterling K. Brown is a highlight, especially his story arcs involving his birth father (Ron Cephas Jones) and attempting to connect with someone that you’ve spent your whole life wondering about. This is a beautiful story here and one that will have you crying nearly every episode.
This show also smartly plays with time, showing you flashbacks and moments in history, even giving you mysteries to try to predict. The structure of the show keeps it fresh and interesting. This structure, combined with great writing and a stellar cast, makes this show consistently solid.
What doesn’t work?
Like I said, your enjoyment is based on if you like stories that punch you in the gut every episode. I relish in that sort of emotional torture, so I find this show to be right up my alley. It’s real and raw, though of course ramped up to make it entertaining for television.
And while the first season is 18 episodes, some of it is spent in subplots and side stories that maybe don’t contribute to the end goal. There will be a few episodes every once in a while that sends one of our leads on a new journey, just to have them return to the status quo soon after. You could use the word “filler” and I wouldn’t object. It’s rare but it’s there.
This is Us is something special. And now that you can catch the entire first season on Hulu Plus, there’s no reason for you to not give it a chance. It’s enjoyable but it’s also heartbreaking. In the end though, you’ll feel hopeful. The ensemble cast is perfect, the writing is raw and real, and the structure of the show keeps the storylines interesting. This is likely the best show on television right now.