Our country is in chaos. Do I need to say goodbye to 'This is Us'?
With all that is going on in the world, do sensitive souls need to step away from melodramatic television?
No, NBC is not cancelling “This is Us." In fact, a couple of years ago, the network believed in it so much it did something it almost never does, renewing one of America’s most watched dramas for not just one season, but three. It should air at least through 2022. The Emmy-nominated show, featuring one Pittsburgh family’s life through the decades is a critical and cultural smash hit.
So, the Pearsons will be with us for awhile, I’m just not sure I can be there with them . I’m not sure my sensitive little psyche can take it. I don’t need to tell you, it’s been a tough week in America — a riot on Capitol Hill, the National Guard called in to ensure a safe inauguration and the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. Some of us turn on the television to get away from it all and “This is Us” delivers some escapism by letting us spy on a family of beautiful people as they navigate life’s ups and downs. But lately we’ve had way too many downs with these people.
See their smiling faces in this promotional photo?
Yeah, they pretty much don’t do that anymore. Their faces are closer to an 8 on that “How much pain are you in” chart you see at the doctor’s office.
It’s getting to be doom and gloom every week with this maudlin bunch. I find myself channeling my inner Cher in “Moonstruck” slapping Nicolas Cage, telling him to “Snap out of it.”
Maybe, as I watch the events unfolding in the news these days, I get a little annoyed at the problems this family gets their collective knickers in a twist about. Case in point — one of the newest characters is a woman named Madison, Kate Pearson’s friend, who had a brief fling with Kate’s twin brother Kevin. She’s pregnant now with twins. The two, who hardly know each other, have decided to make a go of it and try to be a family.
As Kevin and Madison are quarantining together, we find out Kevin, an actor, has to shoot a film in Vancouver. The couple starts talking about their future together, and to make a long story short, Madison starts whining that she doesn’t want Kevin to drag her and the babies off to his movie locations around the world. Let me see if I understand this correctly. You stumble into married life with a gorgeous, rich movie star man and you gripe that he might take you to the south of France for the Cannes Film Festival? What does Madison not understand about “Hello room service, I’ll take some strained carrots and a bottle of Chardonnay, s'il vous plait?”
Angst all around for these people.
This past week, Randall took us on the emotional roller coaster of his birth mother’s story. Let’s just say it was very dark and very heavy. I know deeper souls than I found it touching and poignant, complete with full-circle moments capped off by Randall’s primal scream in the lake. Given my state of mind right now, I just can’t go there. My sensitive brain is sputtering to make it through the day. I’m not sure 'touching and poignant' is currently in the cards. I just need mindless television now.
Where are Chuck Barris and Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine when we need them most? (People under 40, I apologize for the reference, but do me a favor and watch this highly, entertaining clip.)
And to top it all off, in previews of next week’s “This is Us” episode, it looks like Kevin gets in a car accident on the way to the hospital for the delivery of the twins. Let’s blame Madison, shall we?
In addition to the depressing episodes, I even find myself annoyed with little things during the show. The soft, instrumental music they play behind some of the scenes is distracting. Just shut off the music and let me hear what the actors are saying, even if it's depressing as all get out. I realize this equates to “You kids get off my lawn!” I accept that. That is what 2020 has done to me.
I’m even annoyed by the most adorable couple on the show, Toby and Kate. It’s a small thing, really. But have you ever noticed how they’re constantly calling each other “Babe"? It reminds me of arguably the funniest 30 minutes of television ever produced, The season four classic episode of “The Office” entitled, “Dinner Party.” Amazing, Babe.
There is still much to love on “This is Us.” Beth Pearson, Randall’s wife, is nearly perfect in her ability to occasionally uncoil her tightly wound husband. I also find myself cheering for Mandy Moore’s character, Rebecca. The woman lost her husband when someone forgot to unplug the Crock Pot, for heaven’s sake. How can we not pull for her? Now she has to deal with her angst-ridden millennial children. I feel your pain, Mandy/Rebecca.
In the end, I don’t think I can bring myself to quit you, “This is Us.” I might just need to follow Ross and Rachel’s lead and take a break. In fact, mental health professionals advise sensitive people to carefully choose what entertainment they consume during stressful times. In fact, it’s one reason that during the start of the pandemic, Nielsen ratings showed more Americans were turning to classic old television shows like “Little House on the Prairie” and “I Love Lucy.” Reruns brought comfort, and when they happened to be comedies, also gave us something to laugh about.
I would say these are stressful times, wouldn’t you? So “This is Us,” I think we need to spend some time apart. I am worried that it could become permanent. Last time I took a break was when “Grey’s Anatomy” started killing off their entire medical team. I have never gone back to the show, which must now be in it’s 53rd season.
“This is Us,” I don’t want you to become another “Grey’s Anatomy.” I want you in my life every Tuesday night. But, at least while our country is in crisis, can you try to put smiles back on our faces by returning smiles to the Pearson’s faces? Maybe just show them that episode of “The Office.”