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First 2017 'This Is Us' episode reveals Toby's fate following strong ratings

The new NBC hit show 'This is Us' returned for its first episode of the new year on Jan. 10 and revealed what happened to character Toby (Chris Sullivan). At the end of last year, the program's ratings impressed industry observers.

'This Is Us' stars Mandy Moore (l.) and Milo Ventimiglia (r.).
NBC
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The NBC hit drama “This Is Us” returned for its first new 2017 episode on Jan. 10 after a very popular fall run.

The show debuted in September 2016 and centers on one family, telling stories from the 1970s and centering on parents (Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore) raising three children and in the present day, with each sibling (Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, and Sterling K. Brown) navigating their own challenges. 

At the end of the program’s last episode before the December holidays, Kate’s boyfriend Toby (Chris Sullivan) was taken to the hospital. Spoiler alert: In Tuesday's episode, viewers saw that he recovered and Toby and Kate become engaged. Meanwhile, in a narrative that took place in the past, parents Jack and Rebecca found out that they are having triplets and struggled with the news. 

“This is Us” returns after having strong ratings success in 2016. For what is often referred to as the fall finale ­– the last episode before an end-of-the-year break – “Us” topped its previous total viewer high, drawing 10.9 total million viewers. The record had just been set the week before with the Nov. 29 episode. 

Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University and author of “The Plot to Save Socrates,” noted last year following initial ratings success that this sustained drawing of viewers is the best scenario for a TV show. 

When ratings keep growing after the series premier, Professor Levinson said, “this is what people who run television want to see.”

More often, ratings fall off after the debut. “And if it keeps declining after three, four, five episodes, you know that you don't really have a winner on your hands,” he said. By contrast, “Us” demonstrated early that it “has legs,” he said. 

By drawing more total viewers in the middle of its first season than it did on its series premiere night, “Us” is showing that new fans were still seeking the show out for the first time.