Over in the "TV Shows I Am Binging" thread, I noted that I got hooked on This Is Us, which led to a quick discussion over the show's merits and a pledge to talk about the latest episode. We threw out the idea of having that conversation in the "What Are You Watching Right Now?" thread, but I decided to start one dedicated to the show. Although I titled it "Season 4," I'm not going to limit my observations to that season alone,

So far, it's just been me and Jeff, but I welcome anyone else to join in -- especially Tracy! We've seen too little of you here in the Comics Cave!

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Going back to the previous episode, which focused on Kevin and Madison, he's been staying in her garage so he can be close to their kids. Which made me wonder, and not for the first time: Just how much money does Kevin have?

It also made me wonder what happened to the trailer he had when he was camping out next to Nicky's raggedy old trailer.

It also made me wonder about his status as an actor. Certainly, doing a dumb sitcom like The Man-ny isn't a sterling achievement on any actor's resume, but he moved up a notch or two with the play The Back of an Egg, and must have solidified at least B-list status with the Ron Howard movie.

Of course, he then blew it with the indie film, and walking out didn't help, since it cemented him as being a "difficult" actor who walks out projects. But I find it almost as frustrating as Kevin does that he supposedly doesn't have any better prospects than doing a revival of The Man-nyIf that's the case, he needs a new agent.

If I was one, I'd try to position him for things like ensemble dramas or TV miniseries, or ensemble movies like Valentine's Day or New Year's Eve, not lame sitcoms. Of course, one reason Kevin is taking seriously the notion of doing The Man-ny  is that it's a job with (somewhat) regular hours and doesn't require traveling, which appeals since he wants to be close to his kids. If he wants that, he should go for things like The Rookie. Or something acting-adjacent, like the way Mario Lopez hosts Access Hollywood or, say, being a voice actor. 

But to present things as "do The Man-ny" or "do Hallmark movies in Toronto" is an utterly false choice.

This Is Us is a very manipulative show. It's always very obvious when we viewers are being manipulated, but I generally don't mind. For example, Toby is a character I generally like. in last week's episode, however, he purposefully went against Kate's advice and disrupted Jack's nap schedule. Not the end of the world, but I came away thinking nothing short of the death penalty would be an appropriate punishment. 

Kate wouldn't (and hasn't) cut Toby some slack for that mistake (but we've already established she's a horrible person), but I do. Toby spends half the week away from his kids; I can understand not wanting to spend the limited time he has at home with the boy asleep for most of it. 

That said, the babysitter was really useless, wasn't she?

Speaking of fathers making mistakes, there's Randall. Yes, he and Beth were rightly furious as the subterfuge Déjà pulled to go see Malik. Yes, Déjà ought to be punished for it. But Randall took it too far with a declaration that she won't be seeking Malik any more (well, anytime soon). 

Randall's mistake here -- and he admitted it in his conversation with Déjà -- is that he wants to think of her as Daddy's Little Girl. Déjà has has a rough childhood, has bounced around in foster care and was even living in a car with her mother. Déjà may be his daughter, but she has not and never has been his Little Girl, and he needs to get that thought completely out of his mind.

And I hope he doesn't make the mistake of turning this into a tug of war where he punishes her for being defiant. She's lived without the Pearsons before; she's not afraid of living without them again. 

"That said, the babysitter was really useless, wasn't she?"

That's what I mean by "manipulative." As soon as Toby agrees to stay home the babysitter completely drops her "brave front" reinforcing the "worst thing in the world" scenario. and I get that Toby wants to spend time with his kids while they're awake once in a while, but I'm pretty much on Kate's side on this one (even without the manipulation). Besides, we all know where this is heading, anyway.

Regarding Randall, I cut him more slack than I do Toby because Randall was reacting purely from emotion. I liked the way  he and Beth rationally decided who was going to play "good cop" and who was going to be "bad cop." Under the circumstances, Beth (the rational "good cop") made the best decision. But again, I think in order for her decision to be perceived by the audience as so good, Randall's had to be equally bad. I don't mind it, but it's kind of obvious. 

Oh, I agree that Kate was right, here; I just understand why Toby did the wrong thing. But this again illustrates a fundamental problem in their relationship, one Madison put her finger on a while back: Toby can't say what he thinks without being punished for it. (To wit: "I wanted to be with my kid without him being asleep the whole time.")

Then again, it was Toby's dumb idea to take a job in San Francisco and try to commute from Los Angeles. Commuting within Los Angeles is hard enough; commuting to another city when there are two babies in the house, one with special needs, is inviting disaster.

I found last night's episode to be interesting structurally in that we (the audience) were being introduced to Jack's mother for the first time (to all intents and purposes) at the same time he was, essentially. 

Tracy lost her mom last year so this was a hard one for her.

I felt sorry for the cat. 

We have a longtime family friend who, I learned many years later, lives where she does because she escaped an abusive husband. She hasn't been back, although she has a sister there. I didn't quite understand why she doesn't venture there; to my naïve mind, she's old, so he must also be old. But ultimately, I really don't understand it because it's a situation I've never had to face. Seeing last night's episode made me understand a little better.

This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman was at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, says Variety, and when asked if he could see clear to getting the cast together at some indefinite future after the show wraps in May, said he wouldn't rule it out. Then, just spitballing, he floated the notion of a movie about how the family saga would unfold if Jack didn't die from the fire.

Not long after, Fogelman told the audience, "The president of NBC is literally texting me right now: ‘Yes to the movie.'”

This late in the game and they're still introducing new characters. 

I thought Kate had a pretty good showing this episode. 

Watching Kate & Toby's marriage dissolve is like a slow motion car wreck.

Kevin really should take the hint and move out of their place (not that it will do any good). 

I liked Madison's boyfriend for perhaps the first time.

I wish they would have introduced Rebecca and Miquel's romance sooner in the series.

(No, I don't.)

Wasn't into Beth's story this episode until the very end.

I didn't get to watch the latest episode when it aired, so I'm just catching up. Some thoughts:

  • This was the episode Susan Kelechi Watson co-wrote, so of course it makes Beth look good. Even so, I didn't think it was possible for me to fall more in love with Beth than I do, but I did.
  • Still, it did seem kind of "writerly" for Beth to call her old dance teacher just to tell him off.
  • A wise pastor I knew (may she rest in peace) one preached a sermon that really resonated with me: Do not strive for perfection. It's impossible to achieve, and you will just drive yourself crazy in the effort. Strive for excellence; THAT'S possible. This episode showcased how the pursuit of perfection damaged Beth and Kevin, and how Beth overcame it, and Kevin ... still has a lot to learn.
  • Kevin's still hung up on being the Perfect Dad giving his kids the Perfect Childhood, and is frustrated that his life is anything but, which, to my mind, tells me he should drop the quest. Like Thanksgiving at the cabin. I don't think he's wrong for wanting that, just wrong for assuming Madison will go along without any discussion.
  • On the other hand, I do think Madison was wrong for not having that discussion before dropping it on him right before the taping. I can see why Kevin couldn't tell Madison he's in love with her; who could love someone so inconsiderate?
  • And I think Madison could have agreed to go; is it that much of a hardship for her to go to the cabin after Kevin wrecked his career to make it back for the birth of the kids? Not that relationships are supposed to be about such bean-counting, but still!
  • Yeah, so, Madison wants to spend Thanksgiving with Rebound Guy (he might as well have that tattooed on his forehead), and ... I don't like him. I just don't.
  • Speaking of Thanksgiving and Rebound Guys, there's Rebecca and Miguel, stuck in The Friend Zone™. I want to see how he gets out of it. No; I want to see how Rebecca wakes up and lets him out of it.
  • I didn't really get why Kevin was staying in Madison's garage or why he's at Kate's place until I saw comments online. It's not about money -- Kevin can certainly afford to buy or rent a place, or live in a hotel -- it's about not being alone and being afraid of backsliding if he was alone.
  • So we see the worm turn with Toby, slowly, from jovial friendly guy to arrogant Master of the Universe wannabe. Ugh. Maybe next time he won't stop at passively-aggressively all-but-telling Kevin to get out and actually say the words. But Toby has made Kate into, basically, a married single mom, so kicking Kevin out because he's there over Toby's weekend, when Toby's spending it on the phone anyway, is just being a jerk on top of being a jerk.
  • No forward movement in Déjà's desire to move to Boston to be with Malik?

I was traveling last week so I am behind; I watched last week's episode while recording last night's episode. I'll catch up by next week; there was a promo that going forward the remaining 11 (now 10) episodes will run each week without interruption.

So, let's get down to cases, shall we?

  • For some people, it's never too early to start fat-shaming, is it? We saw it with Rebecca and her mother, Kate and her teen weight gain, and Toby and Baby Jack.
  • I don't blame Rebecca for losing it with her mother and her condescending advice to start starving herself now to fit into her wedding dress -- but allow for some lapses. (But then, I cannot understand the whole "logic" of starving yourself to fit into the wedding dress instead of getting one that fits.)
  • The worm turns further with Toby. But ... scraping the marshmallows off the sweet potatoes before feeding them to Baby Jack ... really, Toby? On Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is all about eating, not about dieting. And one day won't kill you, and Thanksgiving is the one day not to worry about it. Didn't he learn anything in that support group he and Kate used to be in? This is almost making me sympathetic toward Kate! (Almost.)
  • An episode without Madison? I enjoyed her absence more than I thought. (Although I gather next week's episode the next episode will make up for it.)
  • An episode without Uncle Nicky? I enjoyed his absence more than I thought, although like Kevin, I would like to know more about that hot girlfriend of his (and still think she would have been better cast as Beth's mother).
  • Speaking of Beth, I had to laugh out loud when Randall declared this would be a drama-free Thanksgiving. Beth knows better. And I fell in love with Beth that much more when she took away Randall's phone.
  • I appreciated Rebecca's declaration at the family meeting that they all should continue to live their lives. Randall's incessant photo-taking and video-making is trying to preserve her in amber, and that's not true to life.
  • I'm also glad she put her foot down about Miguel being the one with the right to make decisions about her care. He is her husband, after all. (This, however, makes me even more curious about the fact we haven't [yet] seen him in that future scene when the family gathers at Rebecca's deathbed.)
  • Too bad that in the past, Rebecca doesn't let Miguel out of The Friend Zone™ fast enough, and cries her eyes out after she learns he's heading to Houston because he can't wait any longer. How, pray tell, do our star-crossed lovers get over this hurdle? Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

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