Every week, since September 20th, I have looked forward to cozying down on my couch after the kids go to bed to watch NBC’s new hit show, This Is Us.
I’ve always had a longtime love of Milo Ventimiglia (always have been on Team Jess), and have admired Mandy Moore since I was a kid. The fact that they are in the show, as well as the fact that the show is produced by the same people who gave us Parenthood, well…I was intrigued from the beginning. It didn’t take me long to really fall in love with This Is Us and with the characters in it.
There is so much I like about This is Us, but I think the one thing that makes it particularly special is that it’s about life. It’s about people and the beauty that can be found in the messiness of every day living.
This is Us draws us in by introducing us to typical characters, allowing us to make initial judgments about who they are and the choices we think they will make based on their state in life. At the same time, This Is Us shows the audience again and again that these characters are much more than they first seem to be; they are complex, and rich characters who cannot be defined merely by their appearance or their present state in life.
(Warning, some spoiler alerts!) We meet Rebecca, a sometimes high-strung and selfish woman, yet we see her time and time again prove to be an incredibly selfless and devoted wife and mother. The Patriarch, Jack, is a kind and compassionate husband and father, but at times we are shown his weaknesses, such as his struggle with alcoholism. Despite his struggles, he works hard to remain steadfast for his family. Kate is a woman who struggles with her obesity, self esteem, and depression. Yet, at the same time, she is beautiful, smart, headstrong, and loyal to her family. As we get to know her life story, we realize her pains run deep, both physically and spiritually. Though her inner pains have the ability to get the best of her, she nonetheless continues to work hard towards becoming a better version of herself. Randall is the one who seems to have it all together: he has the perfect wife and family, and is successful and driven. However, he often crumbles under the weight of that perfection, and has to learn to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. Kevin is one of those characters that in real life we’d both love and loathe to be around; pretty to look at, but not a whole lot going on upstairs. Yet, the beauty of his character is his whole journey towards selflessness. As we see him progress through the show, we witness him grow; he learns, overtime, what it means to love authentically by dying to self, and as he grows, we begin to see his true depth. William, the biological father of Randall, is a character who is full of life, but at the same time on the brink of death. His terminal illness is a constant reminder for his son, as well as for the audience, that life is precious. Though William is an all around good-humored and kindhearted man, his life was shaped by a few really big mistakes he made. At one of his lowest points in life, we see him drugged out and abandoning his newborn baby on the step of a fire station. Yet, as we follow his life story, we come to learn about the pains he endured that led him to those mistakes, and how despite his losses and addiction, he was able die a dignified death, through the power of love.
Through detailed flashback scenes the audience learns that, oftentimes, preconceived notions of who these characters are and what led them to their present state, are not only wrong, but miss the point of personhood altogether: that humans are intricate and complex beings, worthy of dignity and love—no matter their walk in life. This is Us is a great show because it presents characters who are real; characters who mess up, sin, fall short, and fail. At the same time, the show exemplifies what it means to grow through these shortcomings, without sacrificing the pain and sorrow they have to go through to get there.
As the show progresses, I come to appreciate more and more the meaning of “us” in the title of the show. The “us” in the title of the show points, of course, to the characters in the show, but also to a more profound beauty–one that resonates so deeply in our faith as Christians. It’s a beauty premised on the great reality of life: that we are all in this together! From man to wife, sister to brother, parents to children; from the mailman, to even a stranger on the street: we are all in this crazy, chaotic, joyful, painful reality of life…together. I think this show is great because it pushes us beyond our own comfort zones to realize that people–all of us–are frail, weak, and broken. Though the show is not primarily a faith-based show, by presenting the frailty of humanity–in the family life, in mistakes made, in times of trial and suffering, and even through death–the show is able to exemplify a certain depth of human beauty. God meets us in our imperfections and in our frailty, and there, he teaches us what it means to love. We are both dependent and interdependent creatures; all dependent on the love of our God, and all interdependent on the love of each other.
I love this show because it is a great reminder that everyone has a story. No matter how you encounter someone or what you think they are going through, the reality is that you have no idea what lead them to be who they are today. Perhaps if you get to know them a bit better–get to know their stories–you may even fall in love with who they are. As Christians, this is what our faith demands of us! It demands us to recognize that no man is an island and every man is worthy of love. We are not solitary beings, but rather, we are all deeply connected.
Who’s watching??? Comment below with your ideas on what will happen tonight!