It’s always about the little things in life.
I have to be honest with you: I cry a lot while watching movies. I get emotional easily if the acting is good, but this show took feelings and common struggles to a whole different level, one that I have never seen on screen before. It’s the story of an American family that turns routine into something interesting and relatable -quite magical at times-, while making you nostalgic about your past, your present and even your uncertain future. It’s the story of somebody else that also could be your own, narrated with such sensitivity that no tears will be held back. Here’s why I love This Is Us.
A couple of weeks ago my favorite TV show went to an end, and now I’m writing this article as some sort of therapy to move on with my life. So I can stop thinking about the Pearsons and those splendid six seasons that melted my heart in ways that I didn’t even know were possible. Because the truth is that I still feel a little unsteady after the last episode, that last season and that whole plot, to be fair. And I’m afraid that is mainly because no other show has ever represented life, love, family, and human relationships as raw and wonderfully as This Is Us just did.
The show started in September of 2016 and aired on NBC after FOX sold its rights, as they were concerned that the plot might not be attractive to the audience (Oh! How wrong they were). However, right now, six seasons and six years later, This is Us is one of the most important shows on the #1 cable entertainment network, with a 94% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes and 106 episodes broadcasted to millions of fans all over the world. Among those, me, my best friends and my little brother.
Who are The Pearsons?
So, the story is quite simple: there is a mom (Rebecca), a dad (Jack) and triplets (Randall, Kate and Kevin). A classic white American family, where one of the kids is adopted and black. So ok, maybe not the traditional American family we’re all used to seeing on television, but one that will change your life for the better. Because through the seasons you follow the story of the five main characters, as individuals but also as a family, while seeing their internal conflicts, their traumas, their dreams, and who they are as a result of their experiences and struggles.
Each episode shows you a little bit more about their lives by taking great leaps in time, jumping from one decade to another, while using frequent flashbacks of its main characters to let the viewer know what they're thinking of, or how this scene feels familiar to something that they already lived before. It details, somehow, the way they ended up in a certain situation or how they became the people they are now, with their new families, or at work or with a partner, or dealing with any sort of crisis.
The plot is so well elaborated that even the smallest details show you an important part of the personality and the inner self of the characters. That’s how even when one of the Pearsons does something stupid, you can see the reasoning behind it. You understand their complexity through their personal history and why the main slogan of the show -“family is forever”- is a constant during the six seasons, as they always go back to their family, their very first one.
In that way, you start to fall in love with each character, with their values but also with their flaws. The show is very honest in that matter, as it presents real human beings dealing with their own existence in the best way they can (and honestly, though: don’t we all?).
You can see how Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) try to raise three very different children on their own as their families aren’t too close to them, and how they manage to improvise some lessons on the way, just as everybody does when life hits you in the face. And by doing so, you end up feeling like you’re part of their family too. You want to take their values and make them your own, the same way you want to avoid their mistakes and learn from theirs.
“You make me feel like I’m home”
For me, This Is Us started as a show that I was watching while visiting some friends in the US. I actually binge-watched the whole first season in like two or three days, and I thought about continuing it later on. But that didn’t happen until a couple of years later, when the pandemic hit and I was trying to find something to spend some time with. As soon as I watched the first episode of the second season, I wondered why it had taken me so long to go back to the Pearsons, and I couldn’t let them go ever again.
I think the reason was quite clear: the story reminded me of my own family in a lot of ways, with the similarities but also with its massive differences. I would watch an episode and stay thinking about it for days after that, just wondering what I would have done in their positions, or making comparisons between what the Pearsons said and what my parents would have in their place.
I repeated this dynamic constantly until it became some sort of exercise that I would practice every week. By doing so, I gave myself some time and space to reflect about my own existence, my attitudes, my fears, my dreams, my traumas and my story too. In fact, it might sound a little bit crazy, but This Is Us gave me perspectives that I have never considered before, especially the ones related to parenthood, traumas and the whole healing process.
Personally, I have a complicated family history, so every time I watched the show I wondered about how things might be for everybody else and how everything could be totally different -for the best and the worst- if some stuff would have been different when I was growing up; how the details, paying attention and going the extra mile do count in the aftermath. How being present can last an eternity as love gets stuck with you in your heart.
“Just because you’re sensitive doesn’t mean you’re not strong”
Now, considering everything I’ve said before, you can probably understand why I cried so much while watching this show. On some occasions I even felt a little physical pain in my chest, as my heart was totally overwhelmed after 43 minutes of a rollercoaster of emotions, deep thoughts and concerns about a bunch of different topics. For instance, there’s a lot of episodes where they talk about racism and adoption, as there’s also some about alcoholism, grief and acceptance.
You can constantly see the characters going through challenging situations, where most of the time they have to improvise their answers or deal with mixed feelings about it. They represent life exactly as it is: as a constant big lesson that you go through by using the tools that your own existence and the people around you have given you. This is how This Is Us emphasizes the fact that every single decision and every single connection we make with our surroundings, form us as a person that otherwise would have made us into somebody else.
In my opinion, the most beautiful thing about this show is how they took something so simple as an average family and turned it into this wonderful story full of nuances, places to remember, moments that you want to revisit over and over again, and people you would love to hug sometime. To me, it's the most incredible way to see our lives through the eyes of someone else. It shows us that there's no perfection in human relationships or in any kind of family, and we still love the good bits of it, even if there are not too many of those sometimes. You still hold them tight.
The series also shows how every emotion is important, how suffering is part of the human experience, exactly as happiness and joy are, too. How every moment shapes us, and how kindness, caring and love are the main ingredients of every good relationship and the secret of a good life. I guess that’s the whole hype about This Is Us: the pursuit of a life that we’re proud of, even if we failed ourselves or the people we love at some point. Even if we need to touch rock bottom to end up stronger and wiser. Even if we have all the odds against us.
As you can tell, this was not a review about my favorite show but an ode to its intrinsic beauty, to its raw and sensitive plot. This Is Us did never disappoint me because it always had something else to amuse me with. At first, it was its incredibly smart storytelling and the constant plot twist that I fully fell for during the first seasons. Later would be the character's development through the episodes and the gorgeous casting selection they did to find the perfect fit for each character when they were children, teenagers or adults. And at the end, it was the way they completed the whole story focusing on love and the meaning of life.
I don’t think I will ever watch another series like this one, and I’m ok with that because somehow This Is Us gave me everything that a TV show could have given, and I’m sure that everybody who has watched it would agree too. And I know I didn’t say too much about the show and the episodes itself, but I didn’t want to give spoilers of a story that opens up so smoothly for the audience. I’d rather give you my deepest insight of it and let the magic happen whenever you decide to watch it. Just don’t forget to have a big box of tissues next to you and an open heart to let the Pearsons be part of your life.
My favorite quotes from This Is Us:
“I know it feels like you have all the time in the world. But you don’t. So, stop playing it so cool. Catch the moments of your life. Catch them while you’re young and quick. Because sooner than you know it, you’ll be old. And slow. And there’ll be no more of them to catch”
“It’s so strange, isn’t it? How, just like that, a complete stranger can become such a big part of your story. It’s actually kind of terrifying, you know? How a single cross with one person you’ve never met can change everything”.
“I really wish I had spent more time appreciating it when it was happening instead of worrying about when it would all end”.
“Sometimes you just got to do the right thing. You got to do the right thing, even if it’s not what you want”.
“The happiest moments will also be a little sad”