Anyone who does not want to be caught blubbering like a baby while working out on an elliptical machine should not watch NBC’s “This is Us.”
I made that mistake last week.
The series is touted as a heartfelt, family drama about the trials and tribulations of Jack and Rebecca Pearson and their triplets, Kevin, Kate and Randall, over a period of 37 years.
But, in reality, it is one weekly hour of mental and emotional cruelty. If you haven’t shed enough tears watching the evening news over the past year, then just switch over to NBC on Tuesday evenings, or Hulu Plus anytime, and wallow in the Shakespearean-level tragedy that is the Pearson family.
Jack and Rebecca, more in love than any married couple ought to be, are the parents of triplets Kate, Kevin and Randall. In the first episode, we learn that Randall, an African-American newborn found abandoned at a fire station, is adopted by the Pearsons to replace one of the triplets who died at birth.
The series switches back-and-forth in time, and viewers see the children develop into adults in the shadow of their father’s death.
In season one, the adult Randall finds his birth father, a former drug user and poet dying of cancer, and brings him back to his home to die. Randall holds his father’s head in his hands as he dies, telling him “I’m here. It’s all right.”
Tears steadily flowing here.
Kate, who has struggled her entire life with her weight and body image, is a frustrated singer hoping to launch a career fairly late in life. She finds Toby, the greatest guy in the world who thinks Kate is wonderful, and the two begin a relationship. But Toby has a heart attack and Kate suffers a miscarriage.
Insert more tears here.
Kevin, a successful actor working in a comedy he despises, struggles with drug addiction and guilt over things he said to his father just before his death. He longs for his one true love – his ex-wife Sophie. Kevin wins back and then loses Sophie again thanks to his irresponsibility.
Throughout the series, viewers learn that Jack’s sudden death about 20 years ago has gravely affected each family member in a different way – from Rebecca in her remarriage to Jack’s best friend, to their children, who can’t put their father’s death behind them.
In a series of flashbacks, viewers are offered glimpses into the circumstances surrounding Jack’s death. And now, NBC promises that all will be revealed on Super Bowl Sunday.
We do know this, thanks to last week’s episode. It involves fire, a dog and a Crock-Pot. I plan on watching that episode alone – preferably with the lights out and plenty of hankies on hand.
Now in its second season, “This Is Us” was created by Dan Fogelman and stars Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia in the leading roles.
Since its launch in 2016, it has received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations and awards, and Sterling K. Brown, who portrays Randall Pearson, has picked up an Emmy, Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice Award and an NAACP Image Award.
I have often wondered if I actually enjoy the emotional train wreck that is “This Is Us,” or if I am being needlessly manipulated. After all, there are other series that are just as good, if not better, that don’t require tissues. Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” comes to mind.
But in the end, I guess we all just want to wallow in someone else’s misery, and shed a few cathartic tears. However awful life seems to be, at least we don’t have it as bad as the Pearsons.
Those with a strong constitution can watch “This Is Us” on Tuesdays, or anytime on Hulu.
Susan Campbell may be reached by email at email@example.com.