This Is Us, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews
This Is Us, Channel 4
This Is Us, Channel 4
All-American soap, schmaltz and sexiness from the bottom up
Any show that starts with a shot of a naked bubble-butt is likely to grab the attention – especially when it belongs to Milo Ventimiglia – but, alas, the barefaced cheek of this opening gambit becomes all too symbolic. This Is Us scrapes the bottom of the barrel of American TV drama. However, its saving grace could be that it does so with irony – there are 17 more episodes to come.
Dan Fogelman, its creator, also wrote Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011). The cast of that movie, which includes Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore, suggests his work appeals to actors. It’s not so easy to see what attracted the likes of Ventimiglia (Heroes, Gilmore Girls) and Mandy Moore (Entourage, Grey’s Anatomy) to This Is Us, apart from the opportunity to shamelessly over-emote.
It tells the tale of four people – let’s call them Bubble-Butt, Butterball, Beefcake and Black – who are all celebrating their 36th birthday. Bubble-Butt’s wife (Mandy Moore) is expecting triplets. Butterball and Beefcake are twins. Chrissy Metz and Jason Hartley (pictured right) who play them provide the real interest, sending themselves up as they portray Kate, a lovelorn salad-dodger, and Kevin, a soap actor sickened by the schmaltzy schlock he stars in – mainly with his shirt off (hurrah!). Black (Sterling K Brown) is Randall, a wealthy businessman who tracks down his birth father only to discover that he is terminally ill.
Confused? You’re meant to be, because the final moments promise oodles of preposterous plot twists. The only cliché missing in this pilot is Mr (or Ms) Pink. No doubt representatives of the LBGT brigade will emerge as the sexual shenanigans grind on.
One of the perils of getting old (54 last month since you didn’t ask) is that you think you’ve seen it all before. This Is Us – perhaps deliberately – echoes Soap, the groundbreaking sitcom that ran from 1977 to 1981. For younger viewers: its gay character Jodie Dallas was played by none other than Billy Crystal.
The theme tune of This Is Us (all twangy guitars ) recalls that of Thirtysomething (1987-1991). Reviewing the first episode at the time, I slammed its schmaltz and sheen but, having fallen in love with the cast and fallen under the spell of its yuppy angst, soon recanted and vaunted my addiction. There is a place in the schedule for mindless pleasures – dramas that only require you to blink and not think. This Is Us – silly, sassy and sexy – has the potential to be one of them.
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