(Disclaimer – This brief review should not be understood as a full endorsement of the show or future episodes of the show. It is not kid-friendly. It does deal with some themes that could be understood as inappropriate. Watch at your own risk!)
This week, a new show, entitled “This is Us,” premiered on NBC. My wife and I were admittedly in the dreaded “show hole” following our binge of the Netflix hit, “Stranger Things,” so we gave this new “dramedy” a chance. We were not disappointed. Without spoiling it for others, this evocative show draws viewers into the narrative with snapshot scenes from the seemingly distinct lives of three individuals and a married couple awaiting the birth of triplets. In each case, the featured character is struggling with a sense of their identity: Will I be defined by my weight? Will be I defined by my career? Will be I defined by my past? Will I be defined by my situation? And while there are certainly moments of comedic levity, the first episode pulls few punches in terms of relevant themes. From the abandonment of a child to the genuine struggle of obesity to the anxiety provoked by uncertainty to the frustration of parenting, “This is Us” resonates in an entertainment culture constantly plagued by a lack of gravitas.
Echoes of Creation
As a Christian, a husband, a father, and a pastor, I enjoyed the show and intend to watch it again next week. Furthermore, I believe the show reflects several pervasive desires and questions in our present culture. Without ever mentioning humanity’s need for God, I believe “This is Us” unsuspectingly echoes what Pascal referred to as the “God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” As the characters’ attempt to find their identity and purpose in the grand narrative of life, “This is Us” subtly undermines the postmodernity reflected in much of Hollywood. For “This is Us,” purpose does exist, taking the characters and audience on a journey to realize their meaningfulness in relationship to others.
Where will “This is Us” take its audience in the weeks to come? Who can tell, but at least for now, its coherence depends upon a worldview that assumes purpose and dignity in this life without ignoring the pain and tension that many of us face on a daily basis. This is a commendable and encouraging trajectory that could provoke some important conversations around the water cooler and in the living room. When the opportunity comes, I would encourage you to take the conversation where “This is Us” may unwittingly be pointing us.