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This Is Us Season 1

May 3, 2017

I finally got around to finishing the first season of This Is Us on NBC. It’s one of the few new network series this year that actually earned a following, and I can see why.

The obvious first thing to note is that This Is Us has certainly taken up the baton from Parenthood of Most Overtly Sentimental TV Show. In fact, the show ramps up the tear jerking significantly. Watching Parenthood I could set my watch by the big misunderstanding/argument/blowup at the start of the second half, and the emotional resolution with five minutes left. You could always see it coming, but you never cared because they usually pulled it off just fine. This Is Us doesn’t follow quite the same formula week to week, but if anything it packs even more emotional punches into each episode.

So I’ve been thinking about that kind of emotionally manipulative approach to TV. And the thing is, at least in these two cases, it mostly works for me. My “cool” self–the one who wants to make sure everyone knows I have sophisticated taste–always makes sure I caveat my recommendations of these shows: oh, you know, I never feel so white and middle class as when I watch it, or, yeah, it’s not essential watching, but it’s not bad. I’m sure there are people who just aren’t interested in the schmaltz. I tell myself I’m just being a responsible critic by explaining the full story.

But it’s probably just as much a feeling of bashfulness. And I can live with that. HBO’s Girls ended last week. Part of the thrill of watching that show was having a hot take on the latest bottle episode, or evaluating the strange and contradictory feelings it made you confront in yourself. That’s the kind of series that makes it easy to feel superior for following and impressing others with your insight.

The enjoyment of This Is Us is simpler and less sophisticated. It’s about seeing a family of people who love each other butt heads, get angry, and get through it. Over and over again. And it’s incredibly satisfying. I guess I need that in my life more than I sometimes realize. Don’t get me wrong–it’s a balancing act that could go wrong if handled poorly. (Ha! There’s my inner cool guy again.) But like Parenthood before it, This Is Us is nailing it so far. I’m embracing it.


From → TV

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