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TV Series Review

We're all about family here at Plugged In. As part of Focus on the Family, we indeed have a focus on family: We believe that family is a precious, beautiful, God-ordained thing—a wonderful vehicle for fulfillment and love, a reflection of God's love for us.

But when we truly focus on our families—not the idealized family we sometimes like to imagine, but the real family, the family we live with and live for—it's not always beautiful. Not always wonderful. Sometimes it can be pretty ugly. Hurtful. Yes, it's precious. But it's not perfect. We see those imperfections in our parents. Our children. In ourselves. We tear each other down only to build each other up again. And those dynamics don't stop when the parents get old and the kids are grown.

Popular culture's family stories have reflected that duality, typically emphasizing one side of the coin or the other. In the 1950s and '60s, we were given practically perfect families with wise fathers, loving mothers and inoffensively precocious children. Now we're more apt to see the dysfunctional opposite—the loving-but-seriously-screwed-up families of The Middle or Speechless, or the truly terrible familial dynamics on shows like Game of Thrones or Empire.

And then there's This Is Us.

All in the Family

NBC's time-shifting dramedy is the story of Jack and Rebecca and their unusual set of triplets: Kevin, Kate and Randall.

We see Rebecca and Jack primarily in the past, when their kids were still young and they were still struggling to make it. Jack and Rebecca love each other. They love their children. But no relationship sails through life without hitting a storm or two, and time and the stresses of family life have taken a toll on them both. The final fate of the couple is a mystery to the audience, with small clues doled out an episode at a time.

But the lion's share of the show concentrates on the present day and the now-adult triplets.

Kevin, the "oldest," is a handsome, successful actor—or was before he threw a tantrum on the stage of his hit sitcom The Manny. Though blessed with movie-star looks and stop-you-in-your-tracks charisma, he can't shake the feeling that he should be doing more with his life.

He has a tight relationship with sister Kate, who has her own issues to conquer. Seriously obese, Kate struggles mightily with her weight and all the pragmatic and psychological issues that go along with those extra pounds. Her new boyfriend, Toby, can help her laugh away some of that angst … but sometimes his buoyant flippancy can also make things worse.

While Kate and Kevin are Jack and Rebecca's biological kids, Randall's own heritage is much different. His birth mother died when Randall was born, and his drug-addled father abandoned him at a fire station. When Rebecca and Jack's third biological triplet died at birth, the couple decided to adopt Randall on the spot. But though they loved Randall dearly, being a black child in a white family wasn't all that easy back then—and big brother Kevin didn't always smooth the way.

Now Randall is arguably the most successful of them all —a loving husband, dedicated father and successful New York City businessman. But he's recently welcomed his birth father—now off drugs but suffering from terminal cancer—back into his life and his house.

Family Matters

In tone and texture, This Is Us feels a lot like Parenthood, another NBC show that concluded its five-year run in 2015. Strong acting, poignant writing and frequent twists have made it one of 2016's best-reviewed new programs.

"This Is Us … methodically weaves four seemingly disparate stories into a believable and emotional whole through tiny telling details, relatable moments, and conversations and confrontations that are funny, tender or painful, or all three at once," wrote Vicki Hyman for New Jersey's The Star-Ledger.

And indeed, the characters are so likable, their stories so strangely relatable and their interactions so believable that it's easy to get invested in their onscreen stories. We see an imperfect family that still is loving and supporting in the midst of all those flaws. And even in the its most fractious moments, there's hope of reconciliation.

"I was not a very good brother to you, was I?" Kevin asks Randall over the phone from four time zones away.

"No you weren't," Randall tells him. "But you still got time."

But like many families themselves, This Is Us also contains lots of content you wish just wasn't there.

Sex and even some partial nudity has been part of NBC's game plan for the show, with Toby encouraging Kate into the sack and Jack and Rebecca experiencing moments of sultry, on-camera intimacy. Language is occasionally harsh and profane. And while the characters almost always mean well, that doesn't mean that all their decisions are ones that we would make ourselves—or encourage our children to make.


Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

This Is Us: Oct. 11, 2016 "The Big Three"



Readability Age Range



Milo Ventimiglia as Jack; Mandy Moore as Rebecca; Sterling K. Brown as Randall; Chrissy Metz as Kate; Justin Hartley as Kevin; Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth; Chris Sullivan as Toby; Ron Cephas Jones as William Hill






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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