2016 brought with it a new crop of television shows— from Netflix’s smash-hit Stranger Things to extra-cheese sitcoms like Man With A Plan— television’s surprising dark horse came, not in the form of a highly-praised Netflix drama, but from NBC’s This Is Us. When it first debuted in September of 2016, This Is Us was an ambitious family drama with a lot to prove— at first glance, the show follows a similar blueprint to 2010’s Parenthood, another NBC production that took its final bow in 2015— but 10 episodes in, This Is Us has blossomed into its own beast, with the Pearsons earning their rightful spot among the rest of TV’s famous fictional families. If you’re not watching it yet, here are 5 reasons why you should be:
1) The characters are real and their struggle is honest
One of the most challenging things about writing any family— whether you’re aiming for the audience of 2006’s Brothers & Sisters or chasing after Modern Family’s passionate viewership— is a juggling act to capture honest emotion, real situations, and raw chemistry. It doesn’t always happen right away— if ever— but luckily, This is Us has worn its heart on its sleeve since the pilot. Each member of the Pearson family is a wildly-different individual with their own stack of woes; what makes this show works is that, despite their differently-shaped edges, when you bring them together, they click effortlessly into the same puzzle. Extra points to Justin Hartley (Kevin), Sterling K. Brown (Randall) and Chrissy Metz (Kate) for being able to play adult siblings who bear the weight of their family’s brand of dysfunction as if it’s a suit of armour used to repel and entice others.
2) The way they tell the story
Incorporating flashbacks into a series to enhance the narrative isn’t anything new— hello, Arrow— but it works especially well for This Is Us, as it adds depth to the characters and enriches their back-stories. It would be so easy to blame Jack and Rebecca for their children’s various pitfalls if you weren’t treated to the flashbacks of their younger years. It’s not a cautionary tale but rather a nugget of wisdom: sometimes, you do the best you can, but the worst still happens. Also, the writers deserve heaps of credit for making Kate her own person, rather than the stereotypical “fat woman.” They also deserve all possible awards for showing off Randall’s status as Golden Boy, but also revealing how complex and damaged he is just beneath the surface, despite the outpouring of unconditional love he’s had since the day he was born.
I don’t care who you are, if you’re not in love with Jack Pearson (played by Heroes alum, Milo Ventimiglia), you’re lying. Thanks to the flashbacks, we completely understand (and agree with!) how Rebecca fell in love with Jack; the chief reason being his ability to “take the sourest lemon life has to offer and turn it into something resembling lemonade.” He’s not perfect, but he’s pretty damn close.
4) The Green Arrow, bruh
I bet you thought you were the only one to remember Justin Hartley as Smallville’s very own Green Arrow. Truth be told, his previous role as the Emerald Archer is why the author of this article even bothered with This Is Us. Still, Hartley has given perhaps the best performance of his career as Kevin Pearson, and even if he doesn’t don the hood again, he’ll always be a superhero to us.
5) Is the way they use emotions even legal?
Without getting too specific and ruining your future enjoyment, if you watch This Is Us, prepare for your heart to grow three sizes. Tucked neatly between all the ongoing drama and childhood trauma are threads of emotion. You need only pull to unravel the whole thing, whether it leaves you crying or laughing is an entirely different story. Props to the writers (again) for handling what would otherwise be an unwieldy family saga with fluidity and grace rather than just focusing on the negatives.
This Is Us returns to NBC on January 10th 2017 at 9/8c.