What drew viewers to the deceptively simple show 'This is Us'?

'Us' features no superheroes or explosions. Yet the trailer for the NBC TV show 'Us,' which premiered on Sept. 20 and depicts everyday people with relatable problems, became a huge success. What about the clip appealed to viewers and will the trailer's success translate to viewership numbers?

Ron Batzdorff/NBC/AP
'This Is Us' stars Susan Kelechi Watson (l.) and Sterling K. Brown (r.).

The new NBC program “This Is Us,” which centers on seemingly ordinary people facing everyday problems, debuted on Sept. 20 after winning over many potential viewers with a trailer that may have lacked big names and had a quiet premise but still found a huge fan base online.

“Us” stars Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, and Sterling K. Brown, among others, and includes the stories of a husband (Mr. Ventimiglia) and wife (Ms. Moore) who are expecting triplets; an actor (Justin Hartley) who is frustrated with his career; his sister (Chrissy Metz), who is attempting to lose weight; and a man (Mr. Brown) who meets his birth father for the first time. Most appear to be linked by sharing the same birthday. 

(Spoilers for the premiere follow…) 

At the end of the series premiere, it is revealed that the story of the married couple who are about to have children is, in fact, taking place decades before, and the actor, Kevin, and his sister, Kate, are the children of Ventimiglia’s character, Jack, and Moore’s character, Rebecca. Brown’s character, Randall, was adopted by Jack and Rebecca. 

But before “Us” got attention during the fall TV season for its premiere twist, the show was already winning over potential viewers with a trailer. The trailer’s success surprised many industry watchers. 

In reporting the numbers for the “Us” trailer, Deadline writer Nellie Andreeva noted that the almost 70 million views for the clip through YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms as of late May “are staggering totals that not only dwarf any new series trailer, they put the low-key ensemble dramedy with no famous title, mega stars or special effects into blockbuster movie territory.” 

What drew viewers to this clip and so perhaps to the recent premiere?

Creator Dan Fogelman said he wanted to make a show that was positive and inspiring in an entertainment business that often has tougher themes. 

“The world has grown more cynical," Mr. Fogelman said during this past summer’s Television Critics Association press tour. "I watch movie screeners at the end of every year and it's become a slog for me sometimes. It's all so dark and cynical … maybe it's the right time for a show with hope and optimism that will make you cry and make you feel good. I didn't get into this business to make something that makes people feel worse.” 

And Los Angeles Times writer Mary McNamara called the series’ first episode “a lovely and lyrical premiere, studded with everyday detail … If creator Dan Fogelman …  seems addicted to turning-point sentiment, the performances and the pacing keep each story from getting stuck in the stickiness … ‘This Is Us’ appears to be full of appealing characters.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to What drew viewers to the deceptively simple show 'This is Us'?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today