Throughout the 2016-2017 TV season, actress Emma Caulfield will be keeping a TV diary on EW.com. An alum of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she is no stranger to intense fan bases and is herself a passionate TV watcher. She’ll use this space to talk about what she’s loving, hating, or tolerating. Although she’s previously written only about post-apocalpytic shows, here she writes about NBC’s fall hit This Is Us, which will air its fall finale Tuesday night…
I love fall! It’s my favorite time of year! Leaves magically change into crispy rainbows, fashion houses release their clothing equivalent of Oscar bait, and “television” releases new shows for viewers to devour along with their pumpkin spice lattes. (Or wine in my case, dry full-bodied, from the cellar I still don’t have. WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!) Where was I? Right, it’s my favorite time of year, except for Christmas which is my MOST favorite time, but that’s in winter. You know, I’m just going to pretend Christmas is in fall. If the church moved it, then so can I. Good plan, Emma! Ignore the truth for the sake of convenience. It’s worked out super well for you in the past! (“Hi, Emma. It’s Dr. Burke, your therapist. Just checking to see if you can come in this Monday at 3?”) Whatever Dr. Burke. I do what I want. Get off me. Anyway… fall.
Wrapped in my All Saints coat, cozy socks from Target, and pajama bottoms from H&M (not sponsors), I sat down with my fat glass of red wine (Bonterra Cab) and watched the much-hyped new show This is Us. I had a Parenthood-sized soul-hole that needing filling, and This Is Us was to be my panacea. NBC even gave the freshman show Parenthood‘s old time slot. It must be great I thought! I was so excited — I desperately needed a new TV show happy place. Even my glass of wine tasted like it was going through the motions watching old CSI episodes. Sad Emma. But then 10 p.m. on Thursday came and This Is Us was finally here! Happy Emma! This is Us! This is it!! This Is…. Okay?
Let’s go back to Christmas for a second. Opening up presents Christmas morning, though mostly awesome, can sometimes be disappointing. Instead of that ONE thing you asked for and really wanted, you end up with a bunch of filler gifts. You’re grateful for your presents of course, but ultimately you’re let down and wonder, does anyone in my family listen to me? Does anybody here under the mistletoe KNOW ME AT ALL? “I saw this and thought it just screamed you,” says your mother. You ask yourself, “But why mom? Am I a hooker clown?” Meanwhile, YOU bought THE EXACT thing SHE asked for cause YOU actually listen!
Hold on a second… (“Hey, Dr. Burke. It’s Emma. Are you still free Monday? And maybe Wednesday, too?”)
Anyway, that was how I felt after watching the pilot.
There were things I really enjoyed about it (Sterling K. Brown, Ron Cephas Jones, Sterling K. Brown), but the rest of the Pearsons were not the Bravermans, and I was hoping my mother kept the receipt for that bejeweled feathered hat she thought looked “just like me.”
But then, just as the door was about to close on network TV’s latest disappointment, something happened. I remembered you can’t hurry love. No, you just have to wait. (Thank you, Phil Collins.) I remembered how hard it is to put a show together. I remembered that unless it is truly awful, I will give a show three to four episodes to see if it finds its groove. Sometimes my initial impulse to bail is accurate. But sometimes I find, as in the case with This Is Us, that Stella had her groove the WHOLE time, and it was ME that had the problem. Maybe if I had viewed it initially as its own body of work, and not as a replacement for Parenthood, I would’ve seen what I see now: This show is better than the gift you asked for. It’s the gift you never even knew you wanted! Forget receipts and wondering if you were adopted, your family GETS YOU, and there’s no place like home Dorothy!
Why is this show so good? I could write a review of Sterling K. Brown’s work as Randall Pearson and let that stand as THE reason to watch. Brown’s work as the black, adopted part of the white Pearson’s triplets equation is so human, honest, fierce and alive that I feel like I’m invading his privacy. The scenes between him and his dying biological father William (the excellent Ron Cephas Jones) are so !!!! A better person could find the right words. For me, I offer, SIGH.
These people feel real to me. I care hard. I root for them. I root for all the Pearsons.
There’s Rebecca (the lovely Mandy Moore). “I never want kids Jack!” “I desperately want kids Jack!” You see Rebecca is afraid, figuratively and literally, she’ll stop singing NO MATTER what life she chooses. (She doesn’t. Come on it’s Mandy Moore!)
There’s Jack (the talented and handsome Milo Ventimiglia), who also happens to be a good crier, subtle and affective. The more he cries, or tries NOT TO CRY, the more manly he becomes. He may even ugly cry, cause supporting three kids is hard, but that only makes him hotter. (Wait is that my husband? “Oh hey babe, I didn’t hear you come in.”)
Where was I? Oh yeah, Kate (Chrissy Metz)! “I’m fat and won’t date a fat guy,” she says in the pilot. It’s my understanding that Metz is required to lose weight along with her character. Knowing that makes me anxious for both Chrissy the actress and for Kate the character. Once I had put aside the obligatory “isn’t she brave” reaction, I got to what matters. Chrissy Metz can act. The, “I told you I couldn’t date a fat person” scene? Oh man. She chose her life over love and food. Damn. That’s some cable realness.
Lastly, there’s Kevin, played by Justin Hartley. If I’m honest, I found his story line to be the weakest at first. Then I gave him, and the story line, a minute and got my ass handed to me along with a box of Kleenex. I love it when that happens! Famous for playing the title character of a dumb show called The Manny, Kevin just wants to be seen. More importantly, he wants to be great at something. He knows that his desire may never be sated, but that forces him to try even HARDER. (Where’s the damn Kleenex?!)
I LOVE THIS SHOW!! Wait, did I discuss fully my love for Randall and Sterling K. Brown? Hold up let me scroll… Yeah, okay, I gushed. Back to my conclusion…
I will always love Parenthood and there will always be a hole where the show once inhabited. But just like the Pearson family, the heart finds room for more. (Too Hallmark… remember to delete later.) It’s like, you can love your deceased spouse but still get remarried and discover the sex is better with the new guy! (Double check with editor on that. Could be too offensive.) Anyway, there’s one more episode until the winter break. Lame. It’s likely a Christmas episode, though, so NOT LAME! Looks like Christmas actually is coming early this year.