“You weren’t just my great love story, you were my big break.” – Jack Pearson
This is a review of the first season of This Is Us.
After an early morning mass on Palm Sunday and a light breakfast, I made myself comfortable in bed and watched the first episode of This Is Us. I had no idea who was in it or what it was about, so just imagine my surprise when a perfect ass of a man came into view in the 36th second of the episode (I did play it again for the sole purpose of checking the time, no more, no less). What followed the perfect ass are perfectly toned back, perfect pectorals, perfect abdomen and a perfect Pirlo-like beard. This is not a pornographic film, so the unmentioned perfect body part is covered by the terrible towel. The Terrible Towel is the name of the towel. Really.
And he had the perfect winning smile and the perfect sense of humor. Omigod. Fanned self.
I thought that This Is Us was a comedy show starring a group of male friends who aim sexual innuendos at attractive women whose self-confidence directly depends on how many men they sleep with in a week. Of course, I am off target by 200 miles. The perfect body parts got my full and undivided attention, but it was 60% of the main characters that made me stay for the long haul.
This Is Us is a series about the family of Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia), whose perfect body parts I listed down in an almost creepy way in the introductory paragraph, and wife Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore), and their three children, Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown).
At the onset of the show, on August 31, 1980, which happened to be Jack’s birthday, hence the nakedness in the opening scene, the couple was having triplets, having conceived them in the heat of a make-up sex in the bathroom of a bar called Froggy’s, during Super Bowl XIV. One of the triplets, a boy, was stillborn, but Kevin and Kate survived. Kevin was older than Kate by two minutes. Bent on having three kids, Jack decided to adopt an abandoned African-American baby, which they ultimately named Randall. Kevin, Kate, and Randall are collectively known as The Big Three.
The storytelling of This Is Us is non-linear. It jumps from the day the kids were born, to the present time when The Big Three are 36 years old, back to when they were nine or ten years old, then at 15, and lastly, when their parents met for the first time. Despite the time travelling, it was easy to follow the story because of the size of the kids (hehehe) and Rebecca’s atrocious hair and make-up in present time. The hair and make-up people of the show should do something about it in succeeding episodes. It is distracting.
The Big Three were well, big, in more ways than one. Kevin was a semi-famous mediocre TV actor in a semi-famous mediocre show called The Man-ny. Kate was literally more than big; she was obese and the personal assistant of Kevin. Randall was a big boss in (what I think is) a finance management company.
Of the three, only Randall was a well-developed multi-layered character. He had a job, a beautiful family (with adorable daughters to boot), a biological father who was dying, and mental breakdowns, on top of being adopted by a white family in one of the whitest neighborhoods in the country. Meanwhile, Kevin was mediocre. He was stereotyped as the skirt-chasing lothario with above average looks and very defined arms. Other than that, he was meh. Fortunately, the finale showed flicker of hope for his character, a better path to self-discovery. Whilst Kate’s weight loss journey was interesting for the first two episodes, it became boring once she was attached to over-the-top boyfriend Toby Damon (Chris Sullivan). I will sound insensitive when I say how many times can they discuss food issues, calories, and exercises in 18 episodes? Too many to mention, and by the time they crossed 20, my attention span for this particular story arc shortened by half.
For me, the compelling parts of the show, aside from Randall’s bits, were the scenes that involved Jack and Rebecca. This Is Us shows how Jack and Rebecca struggle to take care of their babies, keep an eye on them since there were more kids than parents, put them through school, and let them grow in a loving home, all the while supporting each other as partners.
Jack and Rebecca sacrifice their youth and individual dreams for their children’s sake. Jack did not pursue starting his own company, so he could use the money to enroll young Randall in a school for gifted children. Rebecca stopped singing at bars to take care of the kids from day 1 to year 15. They did all these without losing the romance that kept them together for over two decades.
No one can deny that Jack and Rebecca were model parents, but one was just a little better than the other. Jack was my favorite parent, and his perfect body parts had nothing to do with this decision.
Jack was the greatest dad in the world because he was sweet, he treated the kids equally (that horizontal group hug in the pool area was just too cute for words), he built houses for a living but was not above bedazzling a Madonna-white glove. Every time he said something, it was worth at least three hugot lines. These hugot lines made me cry like a baby. It was not a one- or two-time cry. It was multiple cries between pabebe-singhot-singhot-cry and Oprah’s ugly cry. The Kleenex tissue I had was depleted by the time I reached young Jack’s story.
The fight between Jack and Rebecca in the finale meant another box of tissue. Although it was overdrawn, it punctured my heart with a spell-forged Valyrian sword much like Ned Stark’s Ice in the most wounding way that even Manchester by the Sea did not succeed in doing. Ventimiglia and Moore were incendiary in the scene. The constant shouting and talking over one another must have been draining for them, but it was spectacular (albeit a tad too long).
Jack’s monologue that followed it twisted the Valyrian plunged in my heart. When Jack said, “you weren’t just my great love story, you were my big break”, I was a wreck. The weeping exceeded Oprah’s ugly cry and went straight to hagulgol level. Ang sakit sakit. Regardless of his drinking and general dubiety of Rebecca’s singing career, I placed Jack Pearson on a pedestal together with Tywin Lannister and Juan of La Isla Mínima. They do not share the same traits; I just love them to pieces, warts and all.
This Is Us is a good show about family, yet it is more than that. It has physical and mental abuse, racism, obesity, and homosexuality front and center. These touchy subjects are tackled with great care and in a mostly positive light. Three out of the five main characters are likeable enough to make watching 18 episodes worth the trouble. And of course, the feels produced by the conversations. They just do not go away. I can still remember 10-year old Kevin saying, “because I love her” to his parents to justify why Kate’s bestfriend was sitting beside him and not with Kate. It was the sincerest declaration of love.