In September 2000, the first reality TV show was released about 25 people who were on an Island and competed to be the last person not voted off the show. This one show, that had its debut on CBS in 2000 changed the entire course of Television history and what followed were many mostly bad reality shows for many years. “Joe Millionaire” and “Average Joe” stand out as two of the worst. There were some good shows, like “American Idol”, “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Voice” stand out as a few of the higher quality reality shows that lasted. In almost all of these shows, the concept was always the same; voting someone off the show every week until the winner is finally chosen. After about 5 years of this, there were almost no good situation comedies or drama series on television anymore. One wondered how television actors were ever able to find a job during all these lean years where producers only cared about the bottom line and the production costs of all reality shows were far less than any situation comedy or 1-hour drama. Around 2009 and 2010, things started to change with great long term comedies including the Big Bang Theory and Modern Family and Parenthood, which was the first top notch family drama show to debut in many years. Now, in my opinion, after 17 long years, with the first season of “This Is Us” about to end next week, things have finally come full circle for television, because when a show this good and groundbreaking comes around, everybody else tries to copy it or parts of it and TV producers finally realize that great writing and quality is ultimately what will make money and not low production cost reality shows.
There are many great things about This Is Us, starting with the writing and the great story ideas and the fact that for the first time in probably any drama show the concept of having multiple timelines where we follow the lives of a family while in their childhoods, adolescence, adulthood and old age. This is an idea so great, it’s a wonder that nobody thought of it before. The writing and acting for this show are outstanding but the standout actor is Sterling K. Brown and he seems to be in his mid-40’s and seemed to come out of nowhere as one of the best actors I have seen in many years. He also starred in “The People vs OJ Simpson”, playing Chris Darden and has already won an Emmy for that role. While looking at Brown’s credits, that date back to 2002, it is very obvious that this man has paid his dues as an actor for many years before finally getting his lucky break. Having great ability in anything is one thing, getting the opportunity to prove that ability it is entirely something else. I admire Sterling K. Brown’s acting ability but his perseverance for many years to prove that he is a great actor is even more impressive.
One great scene from this week’s show was when Brown’s character decided to finally quit his job which had dominated his life with high stress and long hours for 8 years. His father had died, and the CEO of the company he worked for sent him a card and a box of pears. It turns out that Brown’s character almost died of a pear allergy that his boss knew about and this gift and the terse typed card he received was the last straw. This one subtle scene and Sterling’s acting when he quit his job was one of the best depictions of the outrage that so many of us try and survive when we work for other people. This scene was so good in fact, that it will probably give Sterling K Brown another Emmy award for best actor in a drama series.
Time will tell if This Is Us has permanently changed the face of television but in my opinion it has. If you have not seen this great new TV show you owe it to yourself to see the entire first season when it comes available on DVD.