One rule of my blog: I don’t do spoilers. However, I think there is a statute of limitations on what constitutes a spoiler. If you haven’t seen the twist at the end of The Sixth Sense or The Crying Game by now, I won’t feel bad if I spoil something. You’ve had decades, people! However, what we’re talking about today is of a more recent vintage, so this will be spoiler free.
I don’t get a lot of time to watch television. I tune in to a sports show for a few minutes in the morning while I eat breakfast, and have my dirty secrets, like Survivor and Big Brother. Dawn and I often watch documentaries at night, because that’s what interests us both. (She’s a better person than me and doesn’t enjoy watching blindsides and backstabbing in her shows, like I do.) Sitcoms definitely don’t do it for me, unless they are from the UK, like Detectorists, which is so slow moving and offbeat, I won’t even try to talk you into watching it. (Unless you’re feeling adventurous, then both seasons are on Netflix.) I don’t watch Game of Thrones, Westworld, or any of the superhero shows. I gave up on Breaking Bad after one season. That’s how hard to please I am.
Typically, I’ll watch the first episode or two of a new series with Dawn, then tell her, “You can go ahead and watch this while I’m writing,” which she does. That was my plan for This is Us. It was a pity watch, so I could tell her that at least I tried it. And now, here I am, like most everyone else who has watched it, anxious for the second season to arrive.
I tend to give up on shows for one reason: predictable writing. If I can tell the arc of a show after the first episode, if things are too heavily foreshadowed, or, God forbid, cliche, that’s it for me. I’m gone. This is Us is one of the least predictable shows I’ve ever watched, which is a big part of its attraction.
Here’s a fact: most writers are not great to watch shows or movies with. We tend to mutter things like, “Oh, I see how that will play out in the third act,” or, “See, they’re trying to establish a character arc for this guy so he can be redeemed later in the season,” or, “Oh, they Saved the Cat right there, didn’t they?” In short, we’re obnoxious. Okay, maybe it’s just me.
At three or four different points in the season, I turned to Dawn and said, “Here’s where they take their first misstep of the season. I see where they’re going now.” Each time I was wrong, which made me happy. As an example, a lot of people were sure how the season finale was going to go. An event which had been foreshadowed throughout the season hadn’t been resolved, so that was the time, right? Nope.
For me, it’s the best-written show on television. An interesting structure that is used to great effect, intelligent storylines where people aren’t doing something just because the writers needed them to, and enough laughs and tears to get me through until the new season starts in… six long months.
It tackles “issues,” I suppose, like race, body-shaming, and so on, but it never feels like an After School Special. It feels like that imperfect family many of us would have loved to grow up in.
I know a lot of people grieved when Parenthood went off the air. If you loved that show and haven’t found something to take its place, you might find it in This is Us. For us, I think we might watch Season One again, just to soak it all in.