I am a sucker for heartwarming, family friendly shows. I’ve watched a wide range of them in my TV life, ranging from the cheesy (I’ll publicly admit I enjoyed “Full House”) to the smart (“Parenthood”). When “Parenthood” went off air, I thought the family friendly format was officially dead, as nothing could replace it successfully. That’s why “This is Us” was so special when it came along. It showed that heartwarming shows still could go on air, despite the popularity of more gritty dramas. While many people-like myself-first started watching “This is Us” to fill the void “Parenthood” left, the show quickly became its own distinct identity and enjoyable beyond merely as a fill-in for the latter show.
The show focuses on Jack (Milo Ventigmilia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore), and their three children Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown). What makes “This is Us,” unique from other family shows we’ve seen on TV is the storytelling format. The audience gets to see the characters at different stages of their lives in each episode. Each storyline-the past and the future-weaves seamlessly together and fleshes the characters out more than the traditional linear storytelling model. The audience gets to really know the character by seeing all different sides/ages. This tactic is what keeps people vested in the characters and wanting to see more.
The first season of “This is Us,” captivated audiences because of the underlying message of hope and optimism even as the characters faced incredibly painful and challenging moments. Season one dealt with issues such as meeting a long lost father dying of cancer, overcoming self-esteem issues, and navigating career changes. These are issues the general public deal with on a day-to-day basis, so one would think the audience wouldn’t want to watch a show that reminds them of their own problems. However, the relatability is what keeps people engaged. People inherently want to connect with others who face similar issues and “This is Us” provides this outlet. The show makes people feel less alone in an increasingly isolating world stemming from social media, busier schedules, etc.
The second season – which premiered in September- continues to build upon the solid storytelling foundation and peel back the layers of each character. Whereas the first season gave the audience a general understanding of the characters’ personalities, the second season takes a certain trait for each character and provides more context. We learn that many of Kate’s insecurities stem from her inferiority complex to her mother. In Season one, we find out Jack has an alcohol problem. Season two, however, gives hints to how it started and just how much a struggle it is for him to overcome it. The biggest reveal, however, is with Kevin. His storyline has been one of the strongest ones this season, particularly with how it sheds light on suppressed emotions and childhood memories. What I found most interesting about the writing for Kevin is that it initially goes down a worn out plot device, but ends up framing it in a different manner.
Every episode in season two is full of surprises. One of the most emotional episodes in the series – one that had me bawling from beginning to end- was a few weeks back. This episode, called “Deja Vu,” really touched me because it dealt with emotional trauma and personal weaknesses, and the importance of having a loving family to help guide you through those. So far, the second season is off to a great start. NBC has got itself a gem, and should continue to let it shine.
You can catch “This is Us” on NBC on Tuesdays at 9/8c. What do you think of the Season 2 so far? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured photo credit: NBC