Upfronts season is a time of endings and new beginnings, as networks announce which shows they’re going to cancel, and which ones they’re going to renew. But there’s one other highlight of Upfront week: new shows. And for NBC’s This Is Us, one trailer was all it needed to start a conversation.
In its first 48 hours online, the trailer for Dan Fogelman’s dramedy series, which features a pregnant Mandy Moore and nearly naked Milo Ventimiglia, hit nearly 15 million Facebook views, which set a new record by topping the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, which garnered 4.1 million views in the same amount time just a year before.
But now, the trailer continues to grow. Currently, the This Is Us trailer has more than 60 million Facebook and YouTube views. “I saw it when everybody else saw it,” Fogelman says of the trailer. “In this day and age we think the kind of things that catch on on the internet would be based on superheroes, and this couldn’t be more the opposite, which is very rewarding and very surprising all at the same time.”
For Fogelman, he’s hoping the response to the trailer is indicative that he was right in thinking there was a void in TV, a void of stories focused simply on the day-to-day lives of individuals.
“The characters are all turning 36 in the show. When I started writing it, I had just turned 38, so I’d just experienced that stage of life. I really had no plan. I sat down to write something that’s just the kind of thing I like,” Fogelman says. “I think there’s a void of it right now out there in the entertainment landscape, just shows that are about people and that will make you laugh and make you feel something. And the actors in the show are tremendous, so I think maybe we have it here this time.”
In terms of inspiration for the show, Fogelman pulled from much of his own life. “I have a lot of friends at that age who are all kind of going through pregnancies and raising families, that’s very much front and center in my life right now,” he says. “Weight has been something that has been a huge battle on my father’s side of the family, it’s just been a battle for everybody including my little sister. It’s something I’m conscious of and our family as a whole, so that’s been something I’ve always wanted to explore and get inside of in a way I don’t think TV often can and does. I don’t know that there was a conscious decision to write about these characters as much as that’s just what came out.”
Speaking to those Parenthood comparisons spreading across the internet, Fogelman says he wasn’t a viewer of the Jason Katims show, but he was a viewer of another Katims creation: Friday Night Lights.
“If you look at a show like Friday Night Lights, which I loved, my favorite moments of that show were just with Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton navigating raising a family and a marriage,” Fogelman says, shifting to another example. “I loved the politics and the structure of The West Wing but whenever it was about the relationship as friends and partners between Marty Sheen’s character and John Spencer’s character, those were always my favorite parts. Everybody’s got their touchstone characters and relationships but that’s the stuff that draws me to TV the most.”
And for those of you wondering about how representative the trailer is of the show itself, Fogelman says there are a few twists and turns in the show itself. “There’s a lot that goes on in the pilot, a lot that I think will get people talking about how people intersect,” Fogelman says. “There’s overlap and intersection [between characters]. Two of the characters are actually twins in the show, so that’s why they’ve been born on the same day.”
At the end of the day, Fogelman describes This Is Us as a show about people, and he’s hopeful that the positive reaction to the trailer means that they were right in thinking there was a void of this type of show on TV. But when he looks forward to fans seeing the pilot, Fogelman says the pressure is off. “I think if the show’s given an opportunity, people are going to really respond to it,” he says. “I actually feel very little pressure because I feel kind of unabashedly proud of this one.”