This Is Us just finished its first season and it’s already been renewed for two more. When it started, people all over the globe couldn’t stop talking abut how emotional it gets them, but now that we’ve seen it all… is it pulling at our heartstrings for all the wrong reasons?
You can ask any staff member here at Hypable and they will tell you I love a good, depressing story. Give me a TV show or movie where characters die or heartbreak happens and I’m all about spending the next few hours of my life bawling my eyes out. There’s just something about them that clicks with me, and I love it when a show isn’t afraid to pull out all the emotional stops.
That’s partly why I fell in love with This Is Us, and why a large part of their audience fell in love with it too. But as I look back at each episode and event throughout its first season, along with their social marketing posts, I begin to wonder… how legitimate are the story lines, and how many of them were to just mess with us?
Too many sad things happen for no reason
Any good story teller will tell you that if you want to invoke an emotional response in your readers (or viewers, in this case) then there should be a good reason for whatever turmoil you choose to bring upon them. Sure, you can just kill people off or break people up but without a good reason you’re leaving readers confused and wondering why.
And if you don’t explain why something is happening immediately you’ll have a good plot to stretch along and keep people wondering until, hopefully at some point, you finally give them that explanation they’re been waiting for.
When it comes to This Is Us there are plenty of story lines that have made us cry or shocked us but have blown over so quickly I’m left wondering… why? Here are just a couple of examples:
I’m still waiting to find out why they bothered giving Toby a heart attack. His relationship with Kate was finally getting back on track and it was great seeing him bond with Kate’s family, then disaster happens.
The only reason is to juxtapose against the whole “nothing bad ever happens on Christmas Eve” story. Which is cruel considering he survived and it totally blew over within a couple of episodes.
Toby’s heart attack also sped up his relationship with Kate, which I think has moved along at a quick enough pace. They’ve already broken up and gotten back together and broken up and then gotten engaged. This is definitely a relationship I wish they pulled the Grey’s Anatomy Meredith/Derek slow burn with instead – and now that This Is Us has two more seasons, maybe that’s something they can start pulling off now.
There’s also the whole Kate/Toby/Random Guy Whose Name No One Can Remember “love triangle” they tried to push on us. It lasted for one, maybe one and a half, episodes and there was no reason to let it happen other than to upset viewers. They knew we were rooting for Toby and Kate, and if they wanted to split them up then okay, it’s a decision I don’t like but it’s entertainment. But then that also blew over extremely quickly and I’m wondering if they wrote it just to make us cry for no reason.
Additionally there’s the amount of relationship drama Kevin has been put through. The poor guy has burned through three women in one season and I’m really hoping his relationship with his ex-wife flourishes again throughout season 2. Especially because we’ve been so emotionally distraught by his previous two relationships (hate her, love her, don’t pick her, pick her, it’s been a wild ride) but now those are all null and void now too.
Finally, and most certainly not least, is the whole drama with Jack’s death. They built up this mystery all season long and gave us hope for an answer in the finale, but then that finale totally bombed. This one is particularly annoying because in the second-to-last episode Kate ends it with saying “I’m the reason my dad died.”
That’s quite an emotional punch to pull on us when we’re all wondering what the cause of his death has been, and they don’t even come close to telling us what happens in the final episode. Yeah, it makes for great television now that we have to wait, but great television can very easily turn into poor storytelling and This Is Us is walking a pretty thin line between the two.
And it looks like they’re too proud of the pain they cause
For a TV show it’s a great thing to be known as dramatic, entertaining and emotional. That’s what people want when they watch TV dramas — they want to connect with the characters and they want to feel all the feels.
This Is Us should be proud of how they make their audience feel, it’s definitely quite an achievement. They have managed to pull in so many people that their Paleyfest panel was the highest attended in Paleyfest history.
But, personally, I’m not sure they should be so proud about every single episode being a tear jerker when not every single one has to be. Here’s a handful of tweets that show off just how proud This Is Us is to make you cry:
— This Is Us (@NBCThisisUs) March 18, 2017
— This Is Us (@NBCThisisUs) March 16, 2017
— This Is Us (@NBCThisisUs) March 15, 2017
Of course, it may be an overreaction on my part but it’s concerning that a show is so happy to make you cry without really focusing on why they’re making you cry.
I love a good cry on a TV show like anyone else, but I would rather those emotions be meaningful and not just random one-offs. If you’re going to put a character through a heart attack I expect his health to be pretty central in the next few episodes, like when Parenthood put Zeek through one.
What do you think? If you’re a viewer of This Is Us you’ve likely gotten at least a little emotional at one of their plots, but do you think it’s because the story is so good you can’t help it? Or is it because the writers simply know how to push your buttons without a real reason?
Does ‘This Is Us’ make you cry for all the right or wrong reasons?
Let us know in the comments!