I’m a reluctant fan of NBC’s This Is Us. I didn’t want to like it. At times I have let two or three episodes build up because there are a lot of emotional moments and it was like I couldn’t face what comes next. Even though I didn’t know what was coming next. But there was one thing that was always coming next… the story of how Jack Pearson died. By the way, that’s not a spoiler. Anyone who has watched two episodes knows that Jack is dead, but we are tantalized by not knowing.
Family dramas have been around as long as television. Without thinking too hard so many come to mind. The western families on shows like The Virginian, The Big Valley, and Bonanza were popular once upon a time. Family dramas like Thirtysomething and Parenthood and …well… Family have proliferated television fare, I think, because they present a reality that we all face. There are no perfect families. There are hard decisions to make and heartbreaking issues to face together. We learn to draw together and gain strength through the trials. And sometimes they defeat us.
In that way This Is Us is no different than most family dramatic shows. The writers are excellent and the portrayals are just so rich. So even though I don’t like to cry at television shows or movies, there’s seldom an episode that doesn’t bring a tear. I guess that’s not all bad. But I’m going to make a controversial statement that This Is Us fans are going to hate.
After the Super Bowl we learned just how it was that Jack Pearson came to be dead. Because This Is Us travels frequently back and forth in time we have already observed what life was like with Jack and how the family has survived the death of Jack. Now please let that be it. It was a great story.
What is This Is Us without the subtext of the mystery of Jack’s death? I think either they can try to exploit that in a third season or they can try to drum up another subtext for the next few seasons. But how often do we love a great series only to see it fall into shambles as writers try to come up with compelling story lines for seasons long after the real story is over?
One good example is the show Lie To Me. Fantastic first two seasons. Then new writers come aboard, change the main character’s demeanor, make the show more graphic, and it was over. I’m streaming Body of Proof on Hulu these days. Two great seasons and then season three is just not bearable. Some cast changes, a change of personality in the main character, and now I’m just watching it out of some kind of sense of duty. One more example (and this could result in more hate!). West Wing was one of the best shows I’ve ever watched. But that last season? More than dreadful. Horrible. I could barely finish the series.
This Is Us could just turn into a soap opera with endless handwringing and pointless conversations. They could put the characters through a variety of situations unrelated to Jack’s death – but what would be the point? The story of This Is Us is over. Can’t we just be content with a couple of seasons. Let us love the characters as we do now and enjoy repeated viewing.
I know I run a risk here. For one, alienating my friends who are This Is Us fanatics. Or it could have a fantastic third season and I’d look like a doofus who’s just writing to hear himself tap on the keyboard. It could be one of those multi-year breakout shows that just never grows old.
But I don’t think so. This Is Us … That’s it. We know. We saw. We wept with you. We loved your family. We loved your flashbacks and forward flashes of the future. The storylines have all concluded. Kevin has made amends, even with Jack. Kate is in love and willing to be loved. Randall is going to surpass his dreams of being father of the year. That’s all we needed to know. We have closure.
Of course, I am going to watch the third season. Don’t judge me.