September 27, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “This Is Us”


THIS IS US:  Tuesday 9PM on NBC

Last season, THIS IS US was the artisanal brewery of network TV.  It didn’t fit into any of the conventional franchise genres, which made it feel hand-crafted and special.  Instead, it mixed the old-fashioned sentiment of a family soap with state of the art trickery derived from multiple timelines and teased-out plot twists.  Viewers loved it:  the ratings started big, and got bigger.

In season 2, series creator Dan Fogelman and his staff understandably had no reason to re-invent their wheel.  Tonight’s season premiere (written by Fogelman and directed by Executive Producer/director Ken Olin) picked things up more or less where they left off.  The present-day action took place on the 37th birthday of the Pearson siblings.  Kate (Chrissy Metz) was pursuing her season finale goal of becoming a professional singer.  Kevin (Justin Hartley), back in LA to do the Ron Howard movie we heard about in the finale (Howard contributed another cameo, although Kevin doesn’t appear to be starring in Howard’s real-life Han Solo prequel), coped with the absence of his old/new girlfriend Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge, now a series regular), and also with Kate’s somewhat jealous fiance Toby (Chris Sullivan).  And Randall (Sterling K. Brown) sparred with wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) about his hope to adopt a third child as he’d been adopted.  Just to add the final touch of syrup to the mix, the episode had narration by Randall’s late biological father William (Ron Cephas Jones, still a regular), in the form of a poem about love he’d left for his son.  The real action came in the flashbacks, where parents Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) dealt with the aftereffects of his breaking up her singing tour, and where we appeared to learn a critical fact about Jack’s eventual death:  it seemed to be in a house fire, which may or may not have been linked to his confessed alcoholism.

It was all very smoothly handled by Fogelman and Olin, and the cast went through its paces expertly.  One may wonder–as one did last season–whether particular storylines (usually Kevin’s) are all that interesting.  In addition, mileage will vary on the sheer sugar content at times, as where Beth not only went all in on adoption, but suggested taking in a troubled teen rather than a baby.  But This Is Us has gotten very good at layering its sweet with its tart, well represented in the premiere when Kate stormed into her audition to declare that she wouldn’t be deprived of a job because of her weight, only to be conclusively shown that she just wasn’t as good a singer as the more conventionally pretty woman who’d gotten the job.

Eventually, This Is Us may run out of steam, especially as it has to reach farther and with more strain for its plot twists.  For now, though, its machinery is working nicely, and in a season where the new shows have so far been, if anything, more rote than usual, its singularity sparkles even brighter than it did the last time around.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."