There is no sophomore slump here. NBC's This Is Us, the best drama on broadcast television, hasn’t lost any of its emotional power or keen behavioral insight in its second season. Sterling K. Brown, as Randall, continues to shine, giving one of the most popular performances on television at the moment. The story of prescriptive drug dependency the writers have skillfully crafted for Kevin has made Justin Hartley an unexpected award contender. Kate's pregnancy was tough, tender and above all truthful -- and it gave Chrissy Metz yet another opportunity to show why she deserves so much ongoing praise. (Hartley, Metz and Brown are pictured above.) It's all good, and it belongs on everyone's Best of 2017 lists.
And yet, for several reasons I can’t shake the feeling that this marvelous show is succeeding despite itself.
For example, wouldn’t This Is Us – so highly praised and beloved by millions because people can so easily identify with it – be even more powerful and relatable if one of its main characters (Kevin, as it happens) were not a former sitcom star? That’s not us. That’s them.
And what about the escalating media obsession over the circumstances surrounding the death of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia, truly superb in the role)? That is so not what this show is about. The writers appear to be running with it … planting all kinds of clues as to how and why he died. I suppose TV shows have to deliver larger than life drama to keep viewers hooked … and to stand out among the hundreds of scripted TV properties jockeying for everyone’s attention these days.
Conversely, the story of Kate’s short-lived pregnancy and the impact it had on her -- and fiance Toby (Chris Sullivan, above left with Metz) -- found great grace and compassion in its exploration of a deep despair most people have experienced, either directly or through the misfortune of a loved one.
Even with those complaints I’ll still point to this show as one of the best on TV. That’s how good it is. But I want it to be more The Waltons than Six Feet Under. Making the ordinary extraordinary is an uncommon accomplishment in television drama. This Is Us has come closer to that than any other dramatic series in years ... some would say ever. I want it to stay there. It's too good and too important not to do so.
Previously in the Top 25 Programs of 2017
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