Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show – here This Is Us – in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The show was created and written by Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love). Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who directed Crazy, Stupid, Love, directed the pilot. The trio executive produce along with Charlie Gogolak (Kyle XY) and Jess Rosenthal (Fire with Fire).
The Cast & How You Know Them: The ensemble cast includes Sterling K. Brown (The People v. O.J. Simpson), Justin Hartley (Smallville), Ron Cephas Jones (Mr. Robot), Chrissy Metz (American Horror Story), Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember), Chris Sullivan (The Knick), Milo Ventimiglia (Gilmore Girls), and Susan Kelechi Watson (The Blacklist).
The Premise: Several people who have the same birthday deal with tumultuous life events and turn out to have lives that connect in sometimes unexpected ways.
What Works: The cast is great, and they have strong, believable chemistry. The pilot did a good job of getting the audience immediately invested in several different characters’ stories. I knew going in that there was a twist, so I was watching for it, and they laid the groundwork well; I guessed it a little before it was made clear, and it was definitely satisfying and intriguing. This pilot absolutely left me eager to see more.
What Doesn’t: I’m suspicious of shows that rely too heavily on their ability to make the audience cry every week, and this one will have to keep its tearjerker moments balanced with humor and interesting storytelling to keep me engaged long term. The set-up and twist limit the show’s options in some ways that are hard to talk about without spoiling, but as long as the show lets itself evolve it should be okay.
Our Favorite Line: “Maybe that’s when I realized trying to change the world just leads to being blown up into little pieces all over Florida.”
You Might Like This if you like multigenerational family dramas like Parenthood or Brothers and Sisters.
(Photo courtesy of NBC.)