I am a self-proclaimed television show junkie. On average, I watch more TV than any person probably should to the point where I can remember exactly what happens in every episode. The list of television shows I watch weekly and have binge watched on Netflix is long. However, as an avid TV show viewer, I can easily discern the difference between a show that is absolutely amazing and one that falls short and I only watch when I’m bored and nothing else is on. Few shows have excited me as much as NBC’s new show This Is Us.
Over this past summer, I remember watching a trailer for a new NBC drama called This Is Us on Facebook. Everyone was sharing it; it went viral. After watching the trailer, I knew I had to see this show if only to see Milo Ventiimiglia from Gilmore Girls and Justin Hartley from Smallville. I may have originally been drawn to the show because I recognized a few of the actors from their past work, but I stayed for the story and the extremely creative way in which this story is told. Like I said, I watch a lot of TV, but I have never seen a TV show uses flashbacks so effectively to move the story forward. Dan Fogelman is the creator of This Is Us. In the past, Fogelman was a screenwriter for the movies Tangled and Crazy, Stupid, Love as well as others. In television, he has found the most success with his two most recent TV shows This Is Us and Pitch. This Is Us tells the story of a family with triplets. The shows transitions from the past to the present telling the story of the family when the triplets are children and when they are thirty-six year old adults. This treatment of time not only allows the writers to give the viewers a more complete understanding of the characters, but it also allows the writers to continue the story of characters that are no longer living in the present time. As the first season of the show is set to conclude in a week, it has already earned numerous award nominations and has already been renewed for two more seasons. This Is Us started out as an abandoned script for a feature film which Fogelman originally titled 36. Much of This Is Us is autobiographical. Fogelman drew most of his inspiration from his family, friends, and life experiences. According to Gardner, “childhood is a powerful ally” for the creative individual. (31). Fogelman’s childhood shines through the characters of This Is Us. The mother in the show, Rebecca, was inspired by Fogelman’s own mother who passed away eight years ago. Fogelman’s sister Deborah served as inspiration for the character of Kate, who similarly suffers weight and self-image issues. In creating the show and its characters, Fogelman also researched areas in which he did not have personal experience. He spoke with an expert on transracial adoption to perfect the character of Randall and his storyline. I have not watched an episode of this show without crying, but Fogelman did not intend to make people cry with his show. He wanted to move people and provide them with a reflection of their own lives. Fogelman is the master of both emotion and plot twists. The first two episodes end in plot twists that would keep the most stubborn viewer watching to see what happens next.
According to Gardner, “the creative individual is a person who regularly solves problems, fashions products, or defines new questions in a domain in a way that is initially considered novel but ultimately becomes accepted in a particular cultural setting” (33). The idea of a television show centered on a family is not a novel idea, but the realism Fogelman brings to the show is. Sometimes, I find this show more relatable than actual reality television shows. Fogelman’s ability to portray characters and storylines that everyone can relate to adds to the success of the show. Through Fogelman’s creation of a family TV show, he was able to remind viewers of the importance of overcoming life’s obstacles and disappointments with love and the people that matter most at your side. And that is something everyone can relate to.
You can watch the trailer for the show here.