This Is Us: The TV Show that doesn’t shy away from real life issues.
Written by Molly Dine.
Premiering in 2016, This Is Us is an American drama series which has received praise and awards for its detailed plots and hard-hitting, truthful stories. Big in the USA; This Is Us has picked up a few Emmys in its 6-years of run time. However, this show somehow isn’t as popular in England… and it should be.
This is Us follows a set of triplets – titled the ‘Big Three’ by their father – throughout their lifetimes, as well as telling the story of their parents: Jack and Rebecca Pearson. Born first, Kevin’s initial story arch focuses on him growing tired of the life he has made for himself as a famous actor, distanced from his family. Next was Kate, who we see struggle with her body image since childhood. Kate often finds herself reaching towards food as a comfort, but develops a new source of enjoyment in her growing relationship with Toby, who she met through fat club (their words, not mine). The final of the Big Three is Randall, who was adopted by Jack and Rebecca at birth. Randall faces difficulties growing up in a white household as an African American man, constantly seeking the attention of any black person he comes across in hopes they’ll be his birth parents. This sticks with Randall into his adulthood, the only of the triplets to have a family of his own at the age of 36. Yet still, something is missing from his life.
With the series coming to an end later this year it’s time someone tried to push this drama on a new audience – you’ll be guaranteed laughter, tears or a warm fuzzy feeling inside after each episode, so please (if you wanted anything new to watch) give this one a go.
As much as I can push this onto you, you need to know what you’re going into. Whilst this show has loads of family moments it also tackles the more difficult subjects people face in a day-to-day life. I’ll try to hold off on the major-spoiler moments (I myself only on season 3, whilst my mum is waiting every week for a new episode to release), so don’t worry about having the show ruined for you. Anyway – now I’ve given you a disclaimer, here are the most moving topics and storylines you’ll be seeing if you watch This Is Us. (Do it…
Randall’s Anxiety and Depression.
In season one we get to see Randall find his birth father (yay!) But he’s dying from cancer (ney!) With this Randall takes him in – his wife reluctant to let a stranger that abandoned her husband into their home. Due to the short amount of time they have left together, Randall holds all the anger in that he has keep close to his heart for the past 36 years surrounding his birth-parents. He want’s William (his father) to have his last month of life be the best one possible, warming to each other after a few episodes. William eventually settles into the family, growing closer with Randall’s wife and becoming a grandfather figure to his children.
However, everything builds up inside of Randall: every time William goes for a wander; every time William refuses to take his medication; every time William discusses stopping his cancer treatment. When the pressure of his life becomes too much, Randall breaks – leading to an emotional scene in his work office in which his brother, Kevin, has his own moment… dropping his Broadway play to go and comfort his brother.
Randall’s mental health struggles are represented throughout the show, with scenes where you can tell he’s about to crumble. The fact that This Is Us tackles male mental health, showing moments where Randall is weaker than the front he puts up for his family, is a factor that makes this show what it is. This is just one example of a matter that isn’t represented enough – but Randall shows that it’s okay for a man to cry and that, in the end, letting it out takes a whole lot of tension off a person.
Kate’s Weight Struggles.
As I mentioned in the introduction, we witness Kate going through a journey with her weight throughout the duration of the show. Ever since childhood she’d been made to be wary about the food she consumes; her mother pushing her towards more healthy options whilst her brothers would eat cookies and other snacks. Then, after a turning point in her teens (a major spoilers, so I won’t go into too much detail with that), she begins to binge eat. This is where her real struggle begins, not being able to deal with her emotions in any other way.
In some of the most recent episodes I have watched, Kate and Toby go through the journey of IVF, after failing to conceive and carry a baby in the traditional way (which Kate blames herself for). Issues surrounding Kate’s weight are brought up, with her doctors being worried she won’t be able to successfully have her eggs transferred. Alongside this, Kate has to deal with a depressed, sad boy, Toby – who comes off of his medication in hopes to get some stronger sperm, so his wife doesn’t have to go through a life-threatening operation. In the end, he wants to put Kate before having a child – which is something else that leads Kate to binge eat and struggle with her weight.
Something that I must praise the creators of this show for is that Kate – so far – hasn’t lost the weight. Because, in reality, it’s not that easy and takes a great amount of time and effort. Yet, weight loss may be in the future for the character; with actress Chrissy Metz’s contract having a clause requiring she lose weight as her character does. In an interview with TV Line during the first season of the show, Chrissy said, “In our contract, it did state that that would be a part of it, to lose the weight in the trajectory of the character as she comes to find herself,” which the actress saw as “a win-win for me.”
Jack and Kevin’s Hereditary Alcohol Abuse.
A young man usually looks up to his father, but for Kevin and Jack it didn’t quite work out like that. Growing up, Jack’s father was an addict – abusing his kids and wife as well. Due to this environment Jack spent a lot of time away from home, trying to find a job after returning from the Vietnam war. During his 20s he meets Rebecca – love at first sight, as he’d told the triplets years later. However, not everything was easy sailing, as when the kids were toddlers, he turned to alcohol to cope with the stress of being the money-maker of the family
We witness Jack overcome his urges, then fall back down the rabbit hole again… and then again; showing the not-so-perfect portrayal of how you can’t just get over an addiction and then never have any difficulties with substance again. We don’t only see how his crave for alcohol affects him, but also his family – and history repeats itself again 20 years later with his son, the oldest of the triplets: Kevin.
Kevin lives a lavish life: parties, girls, money and alcohol at the click of his fingers. Yet, when Kevin has a breakdown during a live taping of the sitcom that he stars in at the beginning of the show, he too takes a journey down the rabbit hole. He spirals – trying to find his way in the industry, not wanting to become a deadbeat actor with his only claim to fame being a show that humiliated him. At the same time, he longs to be with the girl who’s heart he once broke, getting her back for a while, then losing her again. Kevin is represented as the furthest apart from his family, physically with him moving around all the time and mentally – not as attached to his mother and father as his other two siblings. The only family member he’s close with is Kate – and with her going through her own stuff he relies on alcohol to get him through his hard times.
Kevin’s storyline is a close one to me, not because I rely on substances, but because his storyline ends up featuring counselling. There’s a whole episode in which he has an open discussion with his counsellor and family… and a lot of emotion is created. Everything he’s been holding back towards his parents is released – and whilst it causes some tension, ultimately it is better out than in. Another thing I would like to note is that, like Jack, his addiction is not simply a storyline that is finished once he’s left rehab and decided to stop drinking. We still see scenes that focus too long on alcohol bottles, as Kevin has a battle with himself on whether he’ll stay strong or give in to his urges. Kevin’s addiction delivers some of the most heart-shattering scenes where I really must give props to the actor that plays him.
Rebecca’s Postpartum Depression.
As I said earlier, Randall was adopted. However, before he became a part of the big three (joining Kevin and Kate) there was originally Kyle. The whole decision to adopt Randall came after Rebecca lost her third baby during childbirth. Jack saw him, laying right next to his two children, in the hospital after someone had brought him in. For Jack, it all clicked right then. He pictured the life they could give that child, how much love he would bring to the family. However, for Rebecca it didn’t feel very right at first. Something was missing from the picture that Jack was painting for her of a nice, happy family: the child she had carried for 9 months.
During the first few scenes of the series, we see Rebecca detached from the two babies she birthed; as well as the child she had just adopted. There’s a really heart-breaking scene when she originally finds out she had lost a baby, that may trigger some people at home – but, it is a key development in Rebecca’s story as she becomes the best mother she can be. Yes, maybe Rebecca is one of my favourite characters and yes, maybe I’m bias; but her storyline is one of the best. We witness moments throughout her lifetime, before kids, raising her kids and after her kids have flew the nest. Despite losing a child Rebecca is strong throughout, a kick-a** women in TV if I’ve ever seen one.
-Sterling K. Brown – Photo by John Kopaloff on Getty Images.
-Chrissy Metz – Photo by Rodin Eckenroth on Getty Images.
-Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia – Photo by Jean-Baptiste Lacroix on Getty Images.
-Mandy Moore – Photo taken by Lisa O’Connor.
-Lead image by Cottonbro on Pexels.