Nominated for eleven primetime Emmy Awards, NBC’s This Is Us took the world by storm when it aired last fall. Here was a family show that covered everything from weight loss to race, addiction to fame, and America embraced it in a way few network shows have been embraced since TV’s viewership split. While there remains a broad range of half hour comedies, the idea of the prestige drama has moved firmly towards cable and streaming networks, and watercooler shows don’t really exist anymore. This Is Us is as close as it gets.
The show’s title may be cutesy, but the tears that fall each week, like clockwork, are real. It’s a show that’s dependable for a cathartic cry, that finds the relatable in the specific, and avoids falseness at every turn. In telling stories that expand across multiple generations, memory is tapped for both the joyous and the bad times, while structurally, each episode touches on the past and the present. That’s real life. Who we are is heavily entrenched in who we were, and if there’s one thing every tissue-carrying fan of This Is Us knows, there’s no end to the ways memories wade into our thoughts.
Here are 15 occasions when This Is Us had us bawling on the floor.
15. The pilot’s surprise twist
It’s hard to say which was the greater feat. Few pilots in recent memory have been better crafted than This Is Us’ for delivering a closing montage of such magnitude, but for all that construction, it wouldn’t have amounted to much without the cooperation of the media. Somehow, they were able to keep the twist under wraps until the pilot aired.
There’s a reason Kate, Kevin, and Randall have the same birthday. Jack and Rebecca weren’t their peers. Jack and Rebecca were their parents. When one of their triplets was born stillborn, they adopted Kyle, and renamed him Randall. Today the trio live on different coasts, but they were raised as siblings, and the tough to surprise modern viewer doesn’t put it together until the show deigns to tell us.
14. Kevin trying to secure the same diner booth he always sat in with Sophie (“I Call Marriage”)
Kevin may have caught us off guard declaring his love for Sophie after spending episode thirteen, “Three Sentences,” pining after two other women, but it’s how he follows-up on that speech that Kevin proves his heart’s in the right place. Able to convince Sophie to meet him at the same diner where they had their first kiss (eighth grade school trip to the Statue of Liberty) and convinced themselves they could make long distance work, his plans meet a brief snag when, who should be sitting at his booth but Marla Gibbs (The Jeffersons).
Giving one of those longwinded pitches where it’s obvious he wants something from her, Gibbs ultimately makes her price easy – one napkin autograph for the booth – and Kevin, ever impatient, obliges. Admittedly, if he hadn’t rushed, the lava fries wouldn’t have been ordered in time, and those are his secret weapon.