Thursday, January 26, 2017

'This Is Us' Is A Show Made For People Like Me

I don't watch a whole lot of TV. I don't have Netflix or Prime (yet!) and little to no interest in TV programs other than shows that are either about politics or some crazy, fantasy crap like zombies or fat guys stranded on an island after a plane crash. In the last few years, my TV watching was limited to walking dead people and, embarrassingly (if I ever got embarrassed), bachelors and bachelorettes looking to get engaged on national TV. This TV season I picked up another show, and I just simply do not regret it one bit. 'This is us' has been such a treat I am seriously amazed. I am now left to wonder whether the show has universal appeal or just manages to capture my life somehow. The last time I thought that was when Ted Mosby took nine seasons to "meet the mother", unleashing all kinds of wise words on me. I think Jack and Rebecca from NBC's new show are about to do the same...

A show that tackles the development of racial issues in the US is a show for me, that's a given. I don't really know if the depiction is accurate because I didn't grow up in the States or the 80s, yet a show that is tackling racial issues in today's TV landscape definitely can't be a bad thing. Every time the show references racism, when Randall struggles or tries to find his identity in his white family, I wonder what all the closet racists America has so many of are thinking because I believe they might actually like 'This Is Us' as well. Obviously, the show has liberal writers, yet I am absolutely convinced non-liberals love it, too, and there is no problem with that. At the same time, I wonder how people love the show, approve its message, yet don't see anything wrong with inequality in today's society. Maybe, just maybe, the show at least makes them think about these things, and that's clearly why I love it.

If life teaches you anything it is that nothing can be expected, it just does what it wants. If you haven't learned that first hand, you simply don't know life yet. In 'This Is Us' the writers create 42 minutes of prose that captures exactly that. Within five minutes, the protagonists sometimes change their lives because that's how long it would take in real life, too. Within minutes of shock, we learn of deaths and engagements, and when these things happen time is not what matters. A death, an engagement, one single little freak out at the job can make or break our lives, and every day we make decisions that can mean anything for the rest of it. The characters in this show make these decisions every day, and I would dare say they live a pretty good life because of that: no routine, commitment to progress, no fear and, most importantly, love for each other. I can't help to think they are wonderful displays to follow in real life as well.

Of course, there are also a lot of parallels to my own life. As of this week's episode, I know the kids lose their father as teenagers which means eventually I will be watching a few very painful episodes because the same thing happened to me. I've also seen my fair share of people fall apart at the hands of cancer, so watching William dying won't be fun. I wouldn't know anything about a happy family life such as the Pearson's but I would know what it's like having a guy show up after 10 years saying he's always been thinking about "us", like Kevin did this week. I can't wait to see how that plays out on the show and if it will be anything like how that worked out for me. If so, that'd be awesome, but probably not good TV. With the show's commitment to not make the audience happy but show life the way it really is, however, I have at least a hope things will play out like they would in real life; even when it's a fairy tale and everyone would be rooting for the childhood sweethearts, sometimes saying no to the "dream partners" is the best thing one can do.

We're just half way through the first season but 'This Is Us' is already making an impact. Experience suggests that the show will fall apart after three seasons. Right now, I'm watching equal parts because I love Jack and want to marry him just like every other woman and because it's just a freaking heartwarming show, and I need some serious heat for that heart of mine that is surrounded by ice and freezing every time the TV is on otherwise (like, the news is about the worst thing to watch right now if you want to see good news, or even actual news at that). I simply enjoy shows that show a craft, and the craft I celebrate for this show is definitely writing. The writers of 'This Is Us' do well, and I hope they continue to do so. Good writing doesn't adjust to what people want to hear, see or read but what teaches us about whatever we yearn to learn about. I yearn to learn about life, and 'This Is Us' at least gives me the feeling it doesn't care if I like what's happening, but it will happen. Just like life!

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