The Beauty of “This is Us”

I don’t watch T.V.  very much.  We don’t have cable, satellite or any other expanded t.v. options so our selections at home are very limited.  We might turn on reruns of M.A.S.H. or Andy Griffith in the evening but to sit down night after night and flip channels is something we haven’t done for decades.   Somehow we’ve found favorite shows however;  Superman: The New Adventures of Louis and Clark, Family Matters and Full House was our unwind time each weekend when we were first married.  Monk and Psych in later years on DVD because we found them well after they were on t.v.  There were some others along the way.  Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, Diagnosis Murder (yes there’s a theme here) and every so often an evening of flipping channels.

That’s how I found “This is Us.”   Of course by now I might have found it because the nation seems to be buzzing over the drama of the simple life of Jack and Rebecca.   I didn’t even know what it was when I ran across the first episode I watched, and I certainly didn’t understand the flash back scenes,  but as I watched that first night, I was hooked.  Here was a t.v. show that didn’t seem to have an agenda.  They didn’t portray the men as bumbling idiots who could barely tie their shoes without help.  It was a story of a normal family facing life every day.

This is Us is very different from a lot of programming.  It is one of the few shows where the men are not portrayed as bumbling idiots. Jack and Randall are painted as the leader of their homes and as men who make mistakes.   Toby, even though unmarried to Kate, has stepped up to be the man in her life.  He’s smart, thoughtful and supportive.  Kevin?  We’re all still waiting to see where he’s gonna land aren’t we?  Still he’s not portrayed as stupid; he’s portrayed as a man with a past that haunts him.  Those are two very different things.   I appreciate that very much.

Why does it work?

I believe “This is Us” works because of the common, real life scenarios the writers give us each week.  The  drama that comes could be our very own drama.  Every day “normal” type drama that happens in a family.  Marital ups and downs, a daughter that struggles with being confident, a son that breaks a leg playing football, even the way Jack died, I won’t give spoilers, but it is something that could happen to any of us.   There isn’t anything superheroish in either of them, it’s what parents do.  It seems superheroish because this isn’t our culture anymore.  Our culture is more self serving than other serving, in marriage in parenting, in the workplace.  But those of us that live like the Pearson’s know it’s just what you do when you’re a committed married couple in love with each other, raising kids and doing the best you can to teach them to be respectful, responsible and honorable as they grow up.  You face life as it comes, sometimes laughing until you cry, sometimes pushing through the pain for the better of the family, other times dealing with outside influences,  having late night talks with the teenagers, or “discussions” with the spouse.

This is life.

Jack and Rebecca are normal people living their life every day.  They are committed to each other and face their problems head on, together.  Even at the end of the last season when Jack leaves, you knew it wasn’t over.  You knew they’d work it out because that’s what the Pearson’s do.  They don’t bail when things get tough.  In fact, they seem to thrive in the difficult times.   That’s why Jack’s death couldn’t be climatic.  It could only be normal because that’s what the show is; normal, everyday life of a family facing life as it comes to them.   I wonder if the commitment comes because Jack didn’t have that commitment in his own home growing up?  He was strong and resilient.  He learned from his parents mistakes and decided that he would not live that way.

And then there’s Miguel. Jack’s best friend.  They had been through a lot together.  We got a little glimpse into how him and Rebecca reconnected, but we’re missing a lot there.  I for one would like to know more.  It almost seems as he’s gotten Jack’s seconds but he’s secure enough in his own skin to understand that love like Jack and Rebecca is a very rare and beautiful thing.  What he and Rebecca have definitely works for them.  He is her man.  Her support and her protector, even from her own son when necessary.  Miguel and Jack; very different but very similar at the same time.  I’m hoping the writers develop this story line a little more than they have done so far because in it’s own way the love he shares with Rebecca is also very rare and beautiful.

What it Lacks

The one aspect the program lacks is the spiritual. You never see the Pearson’s experiencing the Sunday morning  rush.  The truth is, in reality, very few families stay as committed as the Pearson’s do without a connection to God.  Without a foundation, without a moral base families generally have no reason to stay together when times get hard. It often seems easier to bail, blame the other person and find someone new than it is to stick together and fight for what is already there.

Of course I don’t know what the writers intended but here’s what I see.  Jack went through AA and has some sort of connection with a “higher power.” Does he (and the family) attend church?  Do any of them have a relationship with Jesus?  I don’t know but I do believe the “higher power” influences the Pearson home…it had to.  But we know it didn’t influence the family for a permanent heart change .  Kate and Toby are great together, but as wonderful as they are, they’re making babies and playing house instead of committing to each other. I realize this is very 21st century and I’m actually kind of glad they writers have done this. It shows the current cultural climate and I believe that’s very important.  Kevin’s life also portrays a disconnect from the spiritual realm.   “JackandRebecca”  seem to have an uncommon love.  Kevin and Sophie seem to  have that same kind of connection but they can’t seem to make it work.  They lack the commitment.  They can’t be together and they can’t be apart.  Even now I have a feeling that it’s not over…and I wonder if they’ll ever make it?  Maybe after Kevin works through some of his stuff they’ll come back together and be stronger. Randall and Beth seem to have the most stable home life of the three, which I think is interesting on many levels.  And I wonder if it’s because his personality is more determined and focused and if part of it might be because he’s faced more hardships than the olders.

The Crock Pot

I can’t not mention the crock pot.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might want to jump over this section).  The writers gave Rival a bad wrap.  I’m not an electrician, but I know enough about electricity to know that Crock pots don’t go up in flames and burn down houses; even crock pots with faulty switches.  It might flip a breaker or blow a fuse but to flame up?  No way.  We know the smoke detector needed batteries, we know fuses blew in that old Pearson home, but again, I think it’s very ordinary.  Many families do what the Pearson’s did.  It’s not uncommon to forget to buy the batteries, or to even have  the batteries without taking the time to put them in the smoke detector.  The fact of the matter is with or without working smoke detectors everyone got out of the house alive.  But I’d like to think fewer homes are without smoke detectors or batteries this week than were two weeks ago.  Complications from the fire might have killed Jack but even now we really don’t know do we?  It seems Jacks heart might have already been weak.  If it hadn’t been smoke inhalation would it have been something else?

Wrap Up

I know I’m doing a lot of speculating for a t.v. show that’s not real.  But I’ve also watched t.v. shows and movies for years to see what can be gleaned from them, be it good or bad.  We were the parents that would stop a movie to discuss a character’s choice with our children when they were younger.  I believe our kids are the better for it.  I know I’m better for it!  Why pass up an opportunity, whether real or fake to learn from it?

I believe “This is Us” resonates with so many because either you’re living the ordinary life with a family you adore or because you wish you were living the ordinary life with a family you adore.  For me, we’re living the life.  We face most outside adversity on the same page, and we’ve certainly faced our share of it.  We strive to raise our kids to be respectful and responsible.  Each of them have made a profession of faith, been baptized or will be soon (Shane has the privilege of baptizing Tabitha this coming Sunday).   Each of our children strive to serve others before themselves.  They’ve seen their Momma and Daddy struggle with their faith and stay committed.  They’ve seen their Momma and Daddy struggle with their marriage, because ALL marriage have their moments, and stay committed  They’ve seen their Momma and Daddy stand firm and come out stronger when they’ve been attacked by those outside the walls of their home.  Shane and I have done our best to model Christ’s love to each other, to our children and to those outside our walls. Our goal in life is to glorify the One, True God.

For those that don’t have this kind of family, I pray that God can use this t.v. show to give hope that it is attainable.  I pray that it will move people to search for what is missing and turn hearts to Jesus.  I pray that God will use this show to bring people to Gospel preaching, Bible teaching churches where marriage and family is valued.   Yes!  God can even use a fictitious t.v. program with writer’s and actors that have no Christian faith to bring people to himself.   (disclaimer: The truth is I don’t know if any of them have a faith in Jesus, I haven’t seen anything to indicate it).

To God be the Glory!