‘This is Us’ a comforting story of connection

By Hudson Smith

('This is Us' Official Facebook Page)
(‘This is Us’ Official Facebook Page)

Family is one of the most popular themes for many television shows. Most successful series on cable television focus on friendships that act as a newfound family. However, “This is Us,” NBC’s new dramedy, emphasizes the importance of one’s roots and upbringing. Blood relation or not, a person’s childhood drastically impacts who they will come to be in time.

“This is Us” unfolds as if the audience is entering into a new relationship with the series, slowly learning more and more about its past with each date/episode. What has been revealed in these first few dates is shocking and extremely entertaining. Revolving around four central character plots, the show delves into the importance of family. Each character faces their own struggles, and whether they are with obesity, abandonment, alcoholism or complete disillusionment with their career, the characters turn to their families for help.

The appeal of family is nostalgia. Everyone has some sort of dysfunctional family, and watching one on screen provides an outlet to see a family be able to work out their turmoil – unlike most realistic situations. If only life could be scripted, and a solution to relationships could magically become available. The conflicts in “This is Us” arise from a character’s own insecurities, rather than a reaction from another person’s actions.

The show opens with the separation of each main character. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) are the head over heels couple expecting their first child. Then there’s Randall (Sterling Brown), a man that finally finds the identity of his biological father who abandoned him as a baby.

The dreamy Kevin (Justin Hartley) hates his career because he is only known for his perfect body. It definitely does not hurt to look at him, but that is his main conflict in the show thus far. Only his family sees past his handsome features and recognizes his talent and depth.

Lastly, there is Kevin’s twin sister, Kate (Chrissy Metz). Unlike Kevin, Kate feels her body is inhibiting any success and just wants to feel comfortable and secure in her own skin.

“This is Us” does not break the recent trend in series focusing on larger casts, stronger actors and less plot, but it goes a little further. The connection between the characters is not given immediately unlike most. This adds momentum to the plot as to what motivates the characters, and leaves the audience wanting to find out more with each episode.

Tears and laughter will mix together here as they did in “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” series writer and creator Dan Fogelman’s earlier work. Fogelman’s talent lies in his ability to link characters and their lives together seamlessly.

He also is able to dig deep into the forbidden mystery of relationships. The nervous and uncontrollable laughter that erupts from Randall when trying to explain to his wife why he has brought the man that abandoned him as a helpless infant into their home is a perfect example of Fogelman’s talent at exposing trauma and other less visible struggles.

These characters have an incredible human and realistic quality to them. Most of the actors gained their experience in melodramatic series or movies, and demonstrate their mastery in intricate and complicated performances.

Everyone has their troubles, and sometimes it is nice to escape into someone else’s as a distraction. “This is Us” not only provides that sweet escape, but also a comfort that it will be there for you, just like family.

Hudson Smith can be reached at [email protected]