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This Is Us: Season 1
When the NBC show This is Us started showing preview clips and teasers ahead of its 2016 release, the schmaltz was evident; it was going to be a show that tugged on heartstrings, and touched on several different lives, across a multigenerational landscape. It was popular and emotional, and even a little polarizing at times, and received a bit of critical acclaim and some awards to boot. Naturally as its next (second) season is getting underway, the last (first) is available to view on DVD to give people the chance to get up to speed as quickly as possible.
I'll try to be tidy on this and say the show looks at three families, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia, Rocky Balboa) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore, Tangled) are a couple in the 1980s who are parents to three kids. The kids grow up to be Kevin (Justin Hartley, Smallville), a charismatic actor, Kate (Chrissy Metz), a talented singer with appearance concerns, and Randall (Sterling K. Brown, American Crime Story). Randall is unlike the other Pearsons in that he's not white, he was adopted by Jack and Rebecca, and he deals with his birth father while being a father of his own family.
Not many shows could successfully juggle A,B and C storylines, and supplemental interactions and subplots with a lot of adeptness, but the show manages to do that. Because it bounces from house to house and throws eras into the mix, the aspirations of that storytelling are doing well. The timeline jumps aren't entirely disheveling, but they're offset by the earnestness of the ensemble. I was skeptical of Moore's appearance in the show in some portions (and as you see the show you'll see what I mean), because it demands a range that I didn't think she was capable of, but she handles it pretty well, and she has depth to it with most of her "adult children" too with one notable exception.
The exception is Brown. In between his work as Chris Darden in the 2016 ACS show and here, Brown's work is like watching Jordan against the Trail Blazers, where he shrugged his shoulders. It's dialed in on that show and in this one, his relationship with his adoptive brother Kevin is authentic, his confusion and then eventual embrace of finding his birth parents his a compelling and emotional journey, and seeing the stress play out with his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson, Louie) is tangible. Brown recently won an Emmy for his work in Seasonn One and for good reason, it's a roller coaster of emotions both joy and pain, of someone trying to figure out who he is, and serves as the best representation of the title of the show.
Sometimes there are moments of emotional fatigue inherent in This is Us, which is to say that you know that at some point during Season One, you're gonna cry. You may cry a lot, depending on how much you relate to one scenario or another, goodness knows there's a bunch of them. But the performances delivered from people like Brown, Moore, Metz, and Chris Sullivan (who plays Kate's boyfriend) make the tears worthwhile because they feel real, or at the very least they resonate more than recent shows have been able to do because the journeys the characters endure are relatable to most. Boy oh boy, where does This is Us go from here?
The show's 18-episode, first season run is spread over five discs and all are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, consistent with their original broadcasts. And like their original broadcasts they look great. The show looks a little brighter palette wise in the newer eras, compared against the yellows and browns of the older ones and juggles the variety well with little to no artifacts or haloing. Edge enhancement is virtually nil and the source material is as pristine as can be. Excellent viewing whether you're a fan of the show or not.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for all episodes. It's a dialogue-driven drama at its core and thus, sounds clear, consistent and well-balanced. The show has a fair amount of original music from Siddhartha Khosla (from a band called Goldspot) and it is a little more robust in the satellite channels. Environmental noise like cars whizzing by include channel panning, and directional activity is also present and the show conveys a nice layer of immersion to it. It's not dynamic but not expected to be, and sounds good on the whole.
Something called "The Aftershow" which spends a few minutes looking back at each episode from the season, appears on each episode. Feh.
The vision that This is Us sets out at the beginning would appear to be complex, but the development is simple, and the execution of them is top notch. As the second season of the show unfolds, now is a good time to see what the show has done to get to that point, and it is a treat to revisit Brown's work over almost 13 hours of material. Technically the show is fine though it lacks in the extras department. But it is appointment viewing nonetheless.