Last night I watched the first episode of This Is Us on Tenplay.
I started watching it in the usual way I consume all TV these days, with my mobile phone in one hand and my eyes flicking between my TV screen and my Facebook newsfeed.
But after a few minutes I put my phone down. I put my phone down and I allowed myself to be sucked into the This Is Us world.
There was something about this new drama that made me pay attention.
The show centres around four main characters who are all turning 36. That might not seem like a significant number, but as someone first approaching their mid-thirties, I can tell you 36 seems like a deadline. An age when you need to have your shit together.
And that’s a feeling that is shared by the show’s four integral players.
There’s Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), whose wife Rebecca (played by Mandy Moore) goes into labour with triplets on his 36th birthday. We follow Jack and Rebecca’s story throughout the episode and find out that one of the triplets is stillborn.
We are then gifted with a heartwarming cameo by Gerald McRaney, who plays Rebecca’s OB-GYN. With homespun eloquence and a twist on the “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” adage, McRaney’s character plants the seeds for Jack and Rebecca to find something life-affirming in tragedy. It’s the kind of speech that simultaneously makes you want to grab life by the balls and cry into your couch cushion for the rest of the night.
Then there's Kate, played by the amazing Chrissy Metz, who at 36 thinks she has 'eaten her dreams away'. Kate is facing a struggle that is familiar to so many people, she's grieving for a life that she never had, and she is trying to create a better life for herself. But it's not easy, it's bloody hard.
We then meet Kate's brother Kevin (Justin Hartley), an actor who is dissatisfied with his superficial career. He plays the main character in a sitcom called the 'Man-ny', a job that requires him to have his shirt off most of the time. He ends up imploding on set and becomes a viral internet sensation.
And lastly, we're introduced to Randall (Sterling K Brown), a successful black broker and family man who's searching for his biological father. He finds him, but does he really find what he was looking for?
The lives are these four characters are linked and throughout the episode we start to understand why. But it's not until right at the end of the episode that it's all tied together.
I REALLY don't want to give away this ending. I watched this episode without reading up on the plot of the show first, and I advise you to do the same.
Watching that last scene made me gasp out loud and cry a little. Not out of sadness, but because it was bloody beautiful. It filled my cynical little heart up with hope.
The thing about This Is Us is that it's not like anything else we're watching on TV at the moment. There's no zombies, no violent battles, there's no crazy reality TV contestants, they haven't spent millions of dollars on production.
This Is Us stands alone on it's powerful story telling and it's ability to draw us into a world that both comforts us and pulls at our heartstrings at the same time.
For me, it's a return to the early days of American drama. The days of Izzie Stevens and Denny Duquette on Grey's Anatomy. The days when you would wait a whole week for your favourite TV show to air, bawl your eyes out, and then do it all again the next week.
It's not groundbreaking, but it's a heart-wrenching drama that's beautifully told.
It's medicinal, it's comfort food for a post-Trump world. And I think it's exactly what we need right now.
Please do yourself a favour and watch This Is Us.
We need to talk about This Is Us on The Binge.
You can watch the first episode of This Is Us on Tenplay now.