"This Is Us" Crying Forever, BRB
What is it about television shows that make us cry? The first one that I can remember, way back in the 80s, was "St. Elsewhere," a hospital drama I was way, way too young to be watching. The finale showed what happened as the hospital was closed forever, culminating in the reveal that the entire show took place in the imagination of a young boy with autism. I cried, because the show was excellent, I was a young, hyper-emotional child who cried at everything, and of course because the show was written TO make us cry, like so many others that followed. I have cried at "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" when Buffy sang about wanting to feel alive. I cried at "ER" when Lucy was killed and Carter was wounded. I have cried at "Grey's Anatomy" so many times I have lost count. "Parenthood" was so sob-worthy I would carry a box of Kleenex around with me for the express purpose of being used during that show. And now that all of those shows except "Grey's" are off the air, I, like so many others, have "This Is Us." And whoa buddy, what a weep-fest this show is.
THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE INCLUDES SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST FIVE EPISODES OF "THIS IS US."
The premiere of "This Is Us" promised one thing. Three pairs of people, at least one of each pair turning 36 years old, were somehow connected, although we didn't know why. There were the twins, Kate and Kevin. Kevin was a hunky actor in a soul-sucking job as a sitcom star, Kate was his unofficial personal assistant, entwined a little too tightly with her brother's swanky life, while at the same time struggling with her weight. Then there were Randall and Beth, a married couple. Randall begins the show searching for his birth father (he was adopted at birth) whom he finds with mixed emotional results. Finally there were Jack and Rebecca, a married couple about to welcome triplets on Jack's 36th birthday. The whole pilot episode revolved around the three pairs of characters, and we wondered the entire time how these six people fit together. We knew it was coming, but what WAS it? And the results? Were a four-tissue wailing tears extravaganza. When we realize that Jack and Rebecca are set in the past, 36 years ago, and are not only the parents of Kate and Kevin, but ALSO the adoptive parents of Randall, WELL. I don't know about you, but it took the better part of the day for me to pick my jaw off the floor.
The following episodes have dealt with very topical issues: Kate and Kevin are very enmeshed, and Kate's independence from her brother and her new relationship with Toby takes her on her own emotional journey, while Kevin dramatically quits his Hollywood job and moves to New York to be a "real actor." Over with Randall and Beth, Randall gets to know his biological father William, who challenges Randall to do some real self-exploration as not only the incredibly successful perfectionist he is, but also as a Black man raised in a white family. The flashbacks to Jack and Rebecca not only show us the tribulations of their relationship, but also a look at the children as they are raised by their loving and flawed parents.
The show, in my humble opinion, is brilliant. It also makes me cry every time. Like "Parenthood," which many viewers compare it to, "This Is Us" tugs at the heartstrings, sometimes manipulatively, but remember, this is television, and that's kind of what they do, right? When we cry at a TV show, it's a good thing. Stay with me here, I have a theory. Our world can be rough. Our lives are hectic and stressful. When we are able to sit for an hour and immerse ourselves in a program enough that it elicits an emotional response, that is, in my opinion, a level of self-care. We are able to put our lives on the briefest of holds and become emotionally involved in a fantasy. Crying at television can sometimes be jarring, especially if we are not "criers" in our real lives. But sometimes our emotions need an outlet that can't be shown in everyday life, but can be shown in the guise of reacting to a TV show. Any way we can express emotion in a cathartic way is at its core, good, and if that means weeping over "This Is Us" instead of in front of our boss or kids, well, so be it. There's nothing wrong with crying at television. And "This Is Us" is the perfect conduit for that.
I don't know about you, but I never miss it. Sniffle.