"This Is Us" is a new dramedy from Dan Fogelman, the writer of "Crazy, Stupid, Love," or, as I know him, the creator of "Galavant," a criminally under-watched comedy that was unceremoniously axed by NBC after two seasons of midseason glory (Seriously people, fire up the Hulu machine and watch it because it's hilarious).
Filling the hole that's been left after "Parenthood" concluded, "This Is Us" nestles into that post-"Voice" time slot, offering something wholly different to viewers who had just been wondering what was on Miley Cyrus' shirt and what in the world was on Alicia Keys' head. In a flurry, set to the oh-so-subtle sounds of Sufjan Stevens, we meet the cast, all tied together by sharing the same birthday.
Jack and Rebecca
When we meet Jack and Rebecca (OK, first we meet Jack's butt), a couple pregnant with triplets played singer-actress Mandy Moore and "Gilmore Girls'" Milo Ventimiglia, Jack is wearing only a terrible towel (boo, Steelers) while his comically pregnant wife does a dance out of the Mae West canon.
As Jack starts to get frisky — guess what — Rebecca's water breaks. They're off to the hospital, where they find out that their OB's appendix burst and they're left with Dr. K (Raymond Tusk from "House of Cards") to deliver their baby. It's slightly terrifying for the couple, but he tells some bad jokes and acts very un-Raymond Tusk-y and all is well, for now.
But as Rebecca goes into labor and delivers her first child, something goes wrong. After escorting him out of the room, the doctor lets Jack know that Rebecca is fine but they lost the third child in delivery. In the hospital hallway, Dr. K tells Jack of his own personal tragedy in the first tear-jerking moment of the season.
Kate and Kevin
Next, we meet Kate, as she stares down a birthday cake, then takes off everything that could possibly add an ounce before approaching the scale. Somewhere across town, her twin brother, Kevin, an underachieving actor making his living in a horrible network sitcom, is being serenaded by a couple of floozies at a beach house in Los Angeles.
As he regales them with stories of the Challenger disaster, he's interrupted by Kate, who needs his help after she'd fallen and couldn't get up (this was not sponsored by LifeAlert). Despite initially appearing to be your typical Hollywood bro, Kevin comes to his sister's rescue, and simultaneously tells her to "Lose the Weight" while offering her some definitely not low-fat froyo.
At Kate's overeaters anonymous meeting, she meets Toby, and sparks start to fly. After their date later that night (not wasting time, clearly), punctuated by bad jokes and YouTube videos, Kevin interrupts them, drunk after he quit his sitcom job in spectacular fashion.
Randall ("The People Vs. O.J. Simpson's" Sterling K. Brown) is scouring the internet, searching for his biological father from his cushy job in a high-rise. After telling his wife the news at their daughters' soccer games, he confronts his father, who left him on a fire station doorstep when he was a child (the show admits this is the most cliché thing, ever).
In an emotional scene, Randall's father shares his sadness at not remembering the day he left his child and, after a fiery exchange, Randall takes his father home to meet his family, surprising everyone — especially his wife, who looks at him with the same eyes as my mom when I "cooked" dinner when I was 13.
Randall has a brief mental breakdown and, once he gathers himself and put the kids to bed, he tells his father the story of his adopted parents finding him at the hospital. Shortly after, his father tells him he is dying. Randall tells him to move in. And we have tear-jerker moment No. 2.
Over a glass of 150 calorie wine, Kevin and Kate reminisce of their father and it's slowly revealed that, in fact, Jack and Rebecca are Kevin and Kate's biological parents and the adoptive parents of Randall. (Their scenes took place in the past.)
I have to admit, I did not see that coming, but it makes Jack's awful wardrobe explainable (brown and orange, anyone?) and they did an excellent job of slowly revealing it. Good job, Fogelman.
All in all, it was a good pilot that did enough to bring us back for a second week, even before the surprise ending. Next week it looks like we get some drama between Randall's wife and father, and a Katey Sagal sighting. See you then!