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TV Series Review

We can look at our lives in one of two ways. One, we can imagine that we are, essentially, sentient plinko chips who've been dropped into an unthinking, uncaring universe to bounce through our allotment of time more or less at random—our directions made through both choice and chance. Or two, we can believe that we are part of a bigger story, threads woven into a bigger picture.

John Dixon was a big-picture type of guy. First, he was a real estate visionary, a mogul who brokered deals and bought up property and made himself rich. But he believed, too, in fate. He believed that everything—no matter how terrible—happens for a reason.

But when John takes a swan dive off his own office building, the friends and family he leaves behind have their doubts.

"John, you say that everything happens for a reason," his friend Eddie says at his funeral. "I can't see a reason for this."

Let's be honest: Sometimes it can be difficult to see the design behind what happens to us. Sometimes we must come to terms with the knowledge we'll never have all the answers to some questions in our lifetimes. Or, in the case of what ABC hopes will happen with A Million Little Things, several seasons at least.

Sincerity and Secrets

John left behind a loving wife, two kids and three best friends—pals he bonded with a decade earlier on a broken-down elevator. For the last 10 years, they've attended hockey games together, sharing their lives in the ways that guys often do: superficially.

John certainly didn't have too many heart-to-hearts with Gary, whose constant patter hid how scared he was that his breast cancer might return. None of them knew that Rome, an aspiring film director, was dealing with crippling depression and suicidal tendencies himself. And they certainly didn't know that Eddie, a one-time band frontman turned guitar teacher, was having an affair with John's wife, Delilah.

But perhaps John held his share of secrets, too—some that he wanted to share, some he wanted to keep, and some that he'd want to share but others seem to want to keep. (His assistant, with whom he shared a suspiciously close relationship, certainly seems to have something to hide.)

'Course, the people in John's life know now that he was hiding a pretty big secret from all of them: his desire to kill himself.

"Nine hundred fifty hours sitting next to John [at hockey games], and I had no idea he was depressed," Gary says.

"How could I not know?" his widow who, affair or not, sincerely grieves John's death. "How could I not see it?" All of John's friends ask the same question in their own ways.

It's too late to change for John, of course. But perhaps they can change for each other.

This Is Also Us

ABC's A Million Little Things hopes to catch a little of the magic that This Is Us hooked on NBC. It aims to inspire laughs, jerk tears and invest its viewers in this tightly woven drama of interconnected lives. And, by using suicide as its backdrop, it may recall for some oldsters the big-screen Boomer drama The Big Chill as well.

Like that R-rated theatrical predecessor, A Million Little Things has a lot of little (and some pretty big) problems.

We begin with the narrative's infidelity—no small matter here. We see lovers in bed together, wrestling with their consciences after wrestling in the sheets; but we see little desire to actually end the affair. Nor does it help that Eddie constantly complains about his marriage—you know, the union you commit to 'til death do us part. Eddie's pals beg him to end the marriage (not save it) and mock him when he can never seem to do so. (It's early yet, so this story could well take a more redemptive turn. Eddie's wife, Katherine, is in all the publicity photos, so it seems unlikely she'll be leaving in the near future, anyway. But for now, we're not seeing a lot of drive to fix the relationship.)

Gary has his own love interest, too, and we hear some allusions to past relationships that may come into play. Delilah's son, Danny, has a crush on a boy in his grade. Language can be rough. And let's not forget that this ABC show is attempting to grapple with some very serious issues: Even if we could set aside all the show's content concerns, several plot points still aren't exactly kid-friendly. Whenever depression and suicide are dealt with in the context of a dramatic show—even with the best of intentions—I think there's a risk that those struggling with similar issues might take the wrong sorts of messages from it.

But all that said, A Million Little Things still feels both realistic and, in terms of its mental health themes, fairly responsible. This isn't 13 Reasons Why, which some believed unintentionally glamorized suicide. It's about encouraging people to open up and talk about their problems. To reach out to friends and family. To get help. And, as this series emphasizes, we could all use help sometimes.

We could point to a million little things that A Million Little Things does wrong. But at the same time, I like the big things the show wants to get right: We all suffer in our own ways. We shouldn't be afraid to lean on others when the going gets rough. And we should remember that, as John himself might suggest in his own way, God has plans for us.

We live in a fallen world. We live with our own mistakes and the mistakes of others, and those things can lead to incredible, inexplicable pain. But even in this fallen world, God is with us. And He has a purpose for us. And with His help, we can find meaning and growth, sometimes even in the midst of our darkest of days.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

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Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Nov. 17, 2018: "i dare you"
Sept. 26, 2018: "Pilot"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

David Giuntoli as Eddie Saville; Romany Malco as Rome Howard; Allison Miller as Maggie Bloom; James Roday as Gary Mendez; Stephanie Szostak as Delilah Dixon; Lizzy Greene as Sophie Dixon; Christina Marie Moses as Regina Howard; Christina Ochoa as Ashley Morales; Grace Park as Katherine Kim; Tristan Byon as Theo Saville; Ron Livingston as Jonathan Dixon; Chance Hurstfield as Danny Dixon

Director

Distributor

Network

ABC

Performance

Record Label

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Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

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