The hit NBC drama “This Is Us” ended its first season on March 14 and while some critics find the show saccharine, others say the set of episodes were heartfelt and emotionally satisfying viewing.
“This Is Us” stars actors including Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, and Sterling K. Brown as the members of a family. The program jumps back and forth between the lives of parents Jack (Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Moore) raising their children in the 1980s and 1990s and the three children, now grown, with struggles of their own in the present day.
The program, which debuted last September, has become a big hit for its network and has been renewed for two more seasons.
“This is Us” depicts of the lives of ordinary people, subject matter that sets it apart from the latest legal drama or superhero TV show.
Vulture writer Maggie Fremont wrote after seeing the pilot that she was already invested in the story of the show, writing, “Even with [the] time restraints [of the pilot], the characters already feel lived-in and multidimensional. I believe they each have a history. Most important, I want to know more about them. That’s a tall order, and that’s where ‘This Is Us’ excels.”
As the season continued, themes of adoption (as adopted son Randall (Brown) met his birth father), self-esteem (as sister Kate, portrayed by Chrissy Metz, worked to lose weight), and marriage (as Jack and Rebecca argued over her decision to pursue a singing career) unfolded.
Did “This Is Us” stick the landing? Now that we can look back at the complete first season, did those behind the program create a satisfying set of episodes?
Some critics find the show too saccharine, with New York Times writer James Poniewozik writing that “the series fishes through the Pearsons’ lives for heartbreaking, heart-filling moments, shamelessly but effectively, like an extremely well-produced Facebook moments slide show” and Vox writer Todd VanDerWerff writing, “ ‘This Is Us’ emphasizes moments of tenderness and comfort. But it still trades in moment-based storytelling, complete with the model’s inherent flaws.”
And there seemed to be some displeasure among viewers and critics that the season one finale did not reveal the solution to one of the show’s mysteries: how father Jack died. USA Today writer Robert Bianco, however, liked that the finale didn’t provide an answer – “ ‘This Is Us’ is not a mystery, and providing a solution to a puzzle is not the point,” Mr. Bianco wrote – and he seemed satisfied by the first season of the show as a whole.
“The finale solidified This Is Us' status as one of the season's best series, and one of the few that attempts to explore the intricacies of everyday life without relying on a procedural hook or falling into cheap, grim pessimism,” he wrote. “In a way, it's a ‘Little Women’ for our times, a sentimental drama that captures the joys, twists and traumas of family life in all its glory. There's no question it's manipulative, but it's also heartfelt, well-observed, well-cast and unusually inclusive. And it’s not afraid to build itself around a hero in Jack, who is all the more interesting for not being the perfect guy he first appeared to be. Which just makes him more perfect. Because on ‘This Is Us,’ that's life.”
Entertainment Weekly writer Amy Wilkinson also felt that the show wrapped up in a strong fashion, writing, “We’re no closer to finding out the details of Jack’s untimely death. And by that estimation, the season 1 finale of 'This Is Us' may have left many wanting. But what it did do – and do well – was reaffirm why we care about Jack (and Rebecca) in the first place. Because just as their marriage seemed to be at its weakest, the beating heart of the show was at its strongest.”