Dan Fogelman is here to make you cry. The diabolical producer — late of Galavant and Grandfathered — is debuting two heartstring-tugging series this fall: the “what if a woman made the major leagues?” drama Pitch on Fox and the “it’s everyone’s 36th birthday!” drama This Is Us on NBC. The latter of which is, ostensibly, why you and I are here today. I’ll be your companion for this first season outing, ready to hold your hand and pass a Kleenex, as needed. (I’ve already expensed a 36-pack from Costco. Shhh, don’t tell accounting!) Let’s get the sobfest started!
As I mentioned above, the series’ conceit, on its face, is a pretty simple one: We meet four seeming strangers as they all turn the age of 36. The Birthday Bunch includes:
- Jack (Milo Ventimiglia): Jack is both a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (hence the Terrible Towel loincloth) and the owner of a fine set of glutes. He is married to the very pregnant Rebecca (Mandy Moore), who is carrying triplets. Despite her reservations, Rebecca agrees to give Jack a sexy birthday dance in keeping with their annual tradition — with lacy lingerie on top of her clothing. And it’s totally turning Jack on… until Rebecca’s water breaks…
- Kate (Chrissy Metz): We meet Kate in front of her refrigerator, which is chock-full of tempting items plastered with finger-wagging Post-it notes like “Throw this crap out” or “Do not dare eat this cake before your party, Kate. Love, Kate.” (Who buys their own birthday cake?) Anyway, it’s a rather clichéd way to introduce a character struggling with her weight, and the scene continues as we watch Kate weigh herself, going so far as to take off her earrings as though those extra few ounces will make the difference. I’m hoping for nuanced character development here. We’ll see.
- Randall (freshly minted Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown): Randall is some sort of important businessman. We know this from his corner office (which is basically the size of my Brooklyn studio) and the mess of scary-looking graphs and charts cluttering his computer desktop. He’s married to Beth, and they have two young daughters: one adept at soccer and the other a French braid enthusiast.
- Kevin (Justin Hartley): And then there’s Kevin, who — with his impossibly square jaw and even more impossibly chiseled abs — looks like he walked straight out of central casting for a Freeform sitcom. In fact, he is the star of just such a TV series called The Man-ny. But he’s having something of an existential crisis about his career path. He’s pretty sure The Challenger explosion (yeah, the one way back in 1986) really messed him up. “Maybe that’s when I realized that trying to change the world just leads to being blown up into little pieces all over Florida,” he theorizes. “Maybe that’s how I ended up as The Man-ny.” Or is he The Nihilist? As he contemplates his fate, he gets a call from his sister…
…Who is Kate! The two are siblings. And after falling off the scale (quite literally), she calls her brother to come over and console her.
RELATED: This Is Us: Before They Were Stars
“We are deep in the threes,” she tells him, as he arrives with a gallon of ice cream to ice her bruised foot (and ego). “How did I get here?” Kate desperately wants all the trappings of her parents’ life: a career, a husband, children, but feels like her weight has stymied her.
“I ate my dream life away,” she sighs.
NEXT: Ghost dad