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To say that NBC’s This Is Us is already one of the fall’s most anticipated series would be an understatement. With the trailer having amassed more than 7.2 million streams on YouTube, the cast and producers of the Dan Fogelman-created dramedy offered their explanation for the early success as well as offer a larger overview of what to expect from the multiple-family series during its time at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour stop Tuesday.
The hourlong dramedy is described as a unique ensemble that follows characters all born on the same day. It stars Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore as parents, Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz as siblings and Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones as a son who reunites with the father who gave him up for adoption.
To hear Fogelman tell it, the overwhelming response to the trailer can be chalked up to a few things — starting with star Ventimiglia’s, ahem, assets.
“We’re showing his ass in every episode!” Fogelman said before joking that he planned to have the Gilmore Girls favorite appear naked in every episode.
The Galavant creator noted that he sees This Is Us as a “dramedy version of Lost, where you have to understand how everyone is connected and move forward.”
The pilot features a major twist that does indeed reveal as much (and we won’t spoil it here) and Fogelman hoped that viewers would head into the series unspoiled so they can feel the emotional reveal for themselves.
“I think about that I have a great, great grandfather out there somewhere who I never met nor know his name but in his own way, he affected my life: there’s four interconnected stories and they each get equal time,” he said. “One story will impact the others. It’s about the growth of these people as we jump around in time. It’s ambitious and for network TV, it’s groundbreaking TV to explore the condition of the human family.”
This Is Us comes as many networks have largely abandoned family dramas like Jason Katims‘ Parenthood and Friday Night Lights in favor of more procedurals (NBC is home to six Dick Wolf shows) and genre fare (like time-travel series Timeless). Fogelman noted that his desire to make a more uplifting family show came from a desire to “entertain and uplift a little without being soft” in a world dominated by heavy fare (a la last year’s Oscar crop) and negativity in the news.
“The world has grown more cynical,” he said. “I watch movie screeners at the end of every year and it’s become a slog for me sometimes. It’s all so dark and cynical … maybe it’s the right time for a show with hope and optimism that will make you cry and make you feel good. I didn’t get into this business to make something that makes people feel worse.”
As for what to expect beyond the pilot, Fogelman noted that episode two will feature the kids born in the premiere but now at age 7. Also expect to see Katey Sagal and Brad Garrett playing an agent and network executive, respectively, for Hartley’s character, an actor who quits his wildly successful series on a whim.
This Is Us premieres Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 10 p.m. on NBC. Watch the trailer below.
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