This is Us, the runaway hit drama, occupies a unique space in television because it's a character-driven show about a family, but it feels every bit as dizzying as House of Cards, in terms of its intrigue and emotional volleying. On paper, it seems like it wouldn't become the newest must-see show on primetime TV. In a new interview with the L.A. Times, the stars of the show, Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia, are just as surprised about its instant success as any of us.
The thing that really surprises them, though? The fan theories that surround this family drama. "It’s really mind-boggling all these theories that are popping up,” Moore adds. “It’s funny because I never expected that side. Yeah, there are twists and stuff…but it’s not a movie of the week, it’s not for the sake of shock value. I am constantly surprised that there are articles like, ‘The Five Most Shocking Things About this Episode,’" Moore tells the L.A. Times.
The main mystery of the show, for those that haven't yet watched it, is how the family's patriarch Jack Pearson dies. We never see his actual death in the show, because the show exists within two two timelines: Jack (played by Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (played by Moore), their three young kids, and the three siblings grown up as adults. The timelines switch around as certain plot point progress, giving us a look into how the children's personalities are the product of their childhood. The fervour to answer this question is up there with figuring out who shot J.R. and Mr. Burns. “On a slow day, I get asked that question a couple times a day,” says Ventimglia in the L.A. Times interview.
The show's creator, Dan Fogelman, explains the This Is Us formula very simply: "[W]hen you’re feeling sad because you lost somebody and you look at old family videos — there’s nostalgia and melancholy and optimism, yet sadness." That idea is so specific, but also very beautiful, and is an emotion that all of us can relate to. Fogelman has crafted haunting mysteries around one of the most painful — and mundane — parts of family life: death. That sharp combination has propelled the series to number 1 in its time slot for this season.
This Is Us has been renewed for two more seasons, so we will have plenty more chances to cry over the Pearsons, and keep theorising about them.