Take Me to the Pilots '16: NBC's 'This Is Us'

A great cast and some well-earned emotions make this NBC drama a potential standout.
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
'This Is Us'

[I'll remind you at the top of every single one of these: These entries are not reviews. They're gut reactions to not-for-air pilots that could change in big and small ways between now and September or October or midseason. Full reviews will come then. They'll be longer. And more carefully considered. The opinions may even change. Who knows?]

Show: This Is Us (NBC)
The Pitch: Crazy, Stupid Interconnected People? SharedBirthdayhood?
Quick Response: Introducing a big ensemble cast in short order is a complicated process and, for the most part, creator Dan Fogelman and his Crazy, Stupid, Love collaborators John Requa and Glenn Ficarra do a good job, aided by just a terrific ensemble cast. Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore have an immediate sweetness between them and they get to play off the spectacular Gerald McRaney, whose pilot role feels like a one-off, but really should be finessed into something more regular. It's an absolutely pleasure watching Sterling K. Brown operate here, both reinforcing how great he was as Christopher Darden in People v. O.J. Simpson, but also proving he's a performer of appealing versatility. Justin Hartley, who I'd never given any thought at all to as an actor, doesn't feel out of place at in a cast of this level in the slightest. The pilot's biggest weakness is in the introduction of weight-battling Kate, a weakness that doesn't reflect at all on Chrissy Metz's performance, but rather on an overreliance on easy stereotyping that the rest of the pilot avoids. Every other character in the pilot is a human first and maybe an archetype second, but she's introduced as The Heavy Woman first and then they try to backtrack into making what initially defined her not define her. Maybe that facet of the show will improve in later episodes to rise to the level of the rest of the pilot, which has a good amount of warmth, humor and emotion, mostly earned. The pilot does have a twist and it will be interesting to see how Fogelman uses that shift in viewer perception going forward. I can see how it could be a valuable storytelling thing or how it could be a needless gimmick. Fogelman also created Fox's Pitch, which also has a world of potential and also has a twist that may not truly have been necessary. We'll see.
Desire to Watch Again: Fairly high. I like the cast, I'm down with the premise and my tear ducts have been yearning for regular activation since Parenthood departed.

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Take Me to the Pilots '16: CBS' 'Bull'
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Take Me to the Pilots '16: Fox's 'Pitch'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: CBS' 'Kevin Can Wait'
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All of My 2015 Take Me to the Pilots Entries