Post Mortems
This Is US Season 1 Premiere NBC

NBC's This Is Us: Burning Qs Answered! Plus, 8 Times the Premiere (Quietly) Spoiled the Big Twist for You

One of the fall TV season’s better-kept secrets is out.

NBC’s This Is Us made its debut on Tuesday night, after a summer of generating significant buzz by way of its well-viewed, butt-baring, heart-tugging trailer. In short order, we met Jack and Rebecca (played by Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore), happily marrieds about to welcome triplets; Kevin (Justin Hartley), a disgruntled sitcom actor, and his body issues-battling twin sister Kate (Chrissy Metz); and Randall (Sterling K. Brown), who having been abandoned as a newborn on a firehouse’s doorstep, has sought out his biological father.

The opening hour milked each character’s particular life event for much emotion, tempered by some smiles (thanks, Dr. Gerald McRaney!), until the final moments revealed a twist that connected the characters, something greater than a shared birthday: Jack and Rebecca are the parents of Kevin, Kate and Randall, the latter whom they adopted after losing one of their triplets during a difficult delivery. Meaning, at least in the pilot, Jack and Rebecca’s story is separated from their others’ by 36 years.

“I wrote the pilot on spec, basically, because I knew I couldn’t quite explain verbally what it was going to be,” This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman tells TVLine. “There was actually a note at the end of the script about what the series is going to be, because I felt it important that when people read it they got it. There was a plan in motion.”

this-is-us-justin-hartley-season-1-previewSo as Season 1 moves forward, scenes will be set in 2016 and 1980… and numerous periods in between. “We kind of refer to it as ‘a dramedy version of Lost,'” Fogelman says. For example, “You’re going to get a real feeling of the evolution of a marriage” with Ventimiglia and Moore’s characters, checking in on them before the pregnancy, or with the three children living at home. (That’s why the facial hair worn by Ventimiglia during press rounds doesn’t match the 1986 scenes; only the mustache is constant.)  “You might even meet them in the present day,” Fogelman suggests, “as older versions of themselves.”

Fogelman, who mined similarly twisty territory with the film Crazy, Stupid, Love, concedes that what This Is Us aims to do is “very complicated.” But the potential for payoff was too irresistible. “If it works creatively, and I think it’s going to work, it’s going to be a really, really sophisticated attempt at a dramedy.” Born of a writers room populated by “playwrights and big brained people, each one smarter than the next,” he says, “We’re really trying to do something here.”

“We’re doing something really ambitious here in a medium that doesn’t always reward it,” Fogelman adds. And until the always unpredictable ratings roll in, “We’re being rewarded it for it simply by how great NBC is treating it,” with a summer-long promotional campaign.

Interestingly, This Is Us is one of two freshman dramas — the other being Fox’s Pitch — that Fogleman has debuting this week and concealing a significant twist. So forgive him if he’s been a bit on edge these past few months, raising an eyebrow when one particular NBC promo all but spelled out Kate and Kevin’s connection to Jack. But again, this isn’t new territory for the scribe.

Crazy, Stupid, Love kind of launched my career, and it had this huge moment that really worked for people,” he recalls. “[A twist] works when you can watch back and not just say, ‘Oh, they surprised me for the sake of surprising me.’ It’s better when you can go back and go, ‘They surprised me and it makes sense for the episode and for the series.”

Grade This Is Us in the poll below, then click through the gallery above right (or click here) to revisit the episode’s sneaky little spoilers.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. A. D. says:


    • Sitcom slug... 😁 says:

      I agree with you, @A.D., I hoped to enjoy it. There has been so much buzz, or perhaps I should say hype, that I expected more. It was slow, and predictable. The characters are all forgettable. Too much hype makes for heightened expectations — it didn’t live up to the ‘buzz’. I’ll skip watching next time.

      • dman6015 says:

        Have to agree on the natural birth of premature triplets. Even in 1980, they weren’t that stupid or barbaric.

      • Piers says:

        IMO This show was a mess. SKB is a fine actor, but if he’d been raised in a white home he would sound like Lester Holt, not Kevin Hart. He turned out fine, but his two “siblings” are totally messed up implying that the parents overcompensated to the foundling and neglected their natural children? The cast was excellent. The script is a major disappointment.

    • Amelia says:

      what were you expecting?

      • Annie Sisk says:

        Seriously, LOL. This was exactly what it always seemed to be, so I am perplexed how anyone could have expected anything else. Boring? Maybe compared to an action thriller, I guess? I thought it was pretty well done. I’ll definitely watch another episode, at least.

    • Christina says:

      Not enough shootouts and explosions for you? This is TV for grownups, and it was great.

    • dman6015 says:

      What are you, all of 21? Go watch another Zac Efron/Seth Rogen movie.

  2. Debra says:

    I will be watching this show again next week and I really enjoyed it. Gerald McRaney was one of the best parts of the episode along with an awesome main cast. I loved the twist at the end and can’t wait to see what happens in future episodes.

    • Jennifer says:

      Gerald McRaney needs his own show.

      • Cat says:

        Gerald mcraney only good part the rest was just a snooze fest

        I like Aquarius when they focus on non- Manson Tate stuff ( too gruesome) and deal with being a detective in 70s in la – duchvony as detective

    • dan says:

      Gerald McRaney deserves an Emmy! He was terrific! I knew there was a connection between the storylines, but I didn’t see the twist coming until the reveal. I’m hooked at least for the next few episodes.

      • Cookie126 says:

        His character is the type of Doctor I wish everyone could have. He killed it. Just wonderful!

      • Ally Oop says:

        Someone on TVLine (a person who posted in the comments) spoiled this for me in the comments yesterday so I kept looking for early 80s stuff in the hospital scenes although I didn’t have a clue that the guy who found his biodad was the adopted brother of the twins.

        • Lisa says:

          Another clue was the old-style suitcase (not a roller board) in the bedroom scene at the beginning. Lots of clues!

        • Jon says:

          This is exactly why I don’t read comments sections for shows that have twists or complicated plots that spoilers will ruin. I was even hesitant to read early reviews of this show for the same reason — and now I’m happy I didn’t. LOVED this show and the Twist was a genuine surprise for me.

        • Cas says:

          This. Someone spoiled it for me yesterday but I still had no idea the other guy was their brother either.

        • Tiffany Wood says:

          You do realize that you just spoiled it for me like someone spoiled it for you, right? Thanks a lot.

          • Mac says:

            This is a re-cap. What did you expect? No one forced you to click on it. Really not the same thing as discussions prior to the airdate.

  3. Lauren says:

    I guessed Randall was the adopted sibling of Kate and Kevin when the Doctor gave Jack the lemon speech. It was agonizing waiting to find out if I was right. I cannot wait wait for next week to see what happens next. Am I the only one getting the “Jack has died” vibe?

    • C says:

      Well Randall did tell his bio dad that his adopted father has passed away so…

    • Gena says:

      Same here re: the lemon speech. (Also, loved Randall’s disparaging remark about “a bad sitcom … like ‘The Man-ny’,” especially considering the parallel between his confrontation with his father and the scene Kevin was filming with Alan Thicke.)

    • Nancy says:

      For sure… but maybe Rebecca is still alive. I think they may have even said “he’s not in our lives anymore”… but we have 3 1/2 decades that he can be in with his kids and maybe even before!

    • Isobel says:

      I think Kate said ‘remember what Dad used to say’, not remember what dad says so I agree Jack could be dead in the present

  4. nadialus says:

    If I had gone into it knowing nothing about it I think I would have enjoyed it more. I thought that it was alright but I was a little disappointed by the end of it. There was nothing in the entire episode that surprised me and I didn’t love the “twist”. I really, really, wanted to fall in love with this show but it feels like NBC threw a family show at us & called it parenthood 2.0 to get everyone to stop yelling at them for canceling parenthood to begin with. I’m going to give it a chance and hopefully it will get better and gain it’s own footing but I can’t help but feel disappointed. If it hadn’t been compared to Parenthood so heavily I think I would have enjoyed it more.

    • Rook says:

      Same, every time I heard about this show they always talked about the twist. Which I easily guessed half way through, had I not known I feel I would have enjoyed it more. Regardless, I’ll keep watching.

      • dan says:

        I knew there was a twist with the storylines being connected, but I had no idea what it was. At one point I thought maybe Randall was Kevin’s agent and I thought there would be a connection between Randall’s biological dad and his wife (no, I didn’t think Randall and his wife were related, I just thought there would be a connection). I was clearly wrong! I didn’t see the twist coming until the fireman was standing at the nursery window. I need to rewatch the episode and see if there are clues that I missed now that I know the connection.

  5. Kenny says:

    You need an option higher than “A”, damn that was a good show!!!

    • Jon says:

      Amen! I ugly cried several times (hospital scene, Kate’s scenes, when Randall/Sterling K. Brown “cracked up”) and laughed consistently throughout. Why do none of the reviews mention that the show is frequently laugh-out-loud funny?

      Liked all the characters (even Randall’s little daughters, who were hilarious). Loved the scenes with Kate and her adoring brother Kevin. Was worried that Kate would be a walking fat joke, but her scenes were familiar to anyone who has ever struggled with their weight, and her flirtation with Toby had genuine heat. In short, the Twist was genuinely surprising, but I would have enjoyed the show even without it. I’m in for the season…

  6. Kristine says:

    Had me hooked from the get-go. Loved the twist ending. I can’t wait to see what they do with it!

  7. Brian says:

    I got Milo/Mandy being their parents as soon as they said they were siblings born on the same day. SKB being their adopted son was a total surprise though.

  8. jj says:

    If Kevin, Kate, and Randall are 36 in 2016, they were born in 1980. Hence why Kevin spoke about being in school when the Challenger exploded in 1986.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      All fixed. Thanks to those who caught the typographical error!

    • lbe1976 says:

      Though there’s no way they could have been in second grade in 1986 if they were born in 1980. They would have been in kindergarten or first grade.

    • Night Owl with Coffee says:

      Different states have different age requirements for entry into school, some base it on age on Sept 1 vs Jan 1, and the ages themselves have been different. I know my small class had 17, 18, and 19 year olds graduating together, and nobody had skipped a grade or done a year twice.

    • Laura says:

      I believe the date they were born is 11/4/1979. Why do I think that? That’s they day me and my sister were born (😳) and it was the day the Iranians took American hostages (Iran is shown on the TVs). My mom told us stories about how she was laying on her hospital bed watching the news of the hostage situation…

  9. madhatter360 says:

    Wouldn’t the scenes with Jack and Rebecca have taken place in 1980 (at least this episode)? If their kids were turning 36, and Kevin talked about being in second grade in 1986 when Challenger happened they’d have been born in 1980.
    I did really like this show. I thought it was interesting that he said we may see Jack and Rebecca in current day, it sounded to me like their kids were referring to them like they were dead.

    • its all semantics for a fictional show, but if he was in 2nd grade when the Challenger explosion happened, 6 is actually quite young considering most kids start kindergarten at 5 or 6 depending on if their birthday falls before or after that cut off. I was born in ’78 and was in 2nd grade when it happened and remember it about as well as a 7 or 8 year old might. I liked the show and am interested in where it goes. I liked the twist at the end

      • Angie says:

        Didn’t Kevin actually say something about being 7 years old in second grade when the Challenger exploded? Meaning he would’ve had to have been born in 1979.

        • Teresa says:

          Yes, he definitely said he was 7 and in second grade. I was searching comments today to see if anyone else noticed this. They would have had to have been born in 1979… I’ve actually read some recaps that say the Jack/Rebecca stuff is 1979 and some recaps say 1980. So which is it?

  10. leash10 says:

    Completely lived up to the hype. Beautiful, beautiful pilot episode. Loved the twist.

  11. Max says:

    It was very good but also ridiculously over hyped. If they had toned down the hype, that would have let us, the viewers, discover this gem for ourselves.

    • Suso says:

      So you basically would have preferred the old way they used to market these types of drama… Meaning they are barely marketed, critically beloved and then cancelled by the end of the first season? That sounds… Not so smart.

      • analythinker says:

        But then wouldn’t it be worse to have it all hyped up only for people to find out it doesn’t live up to that hype so they leave after two or three episodes because they get bored? By this logic, barely marketed then cancelled still would be smarter than heavily promoted and still have to be cancelled.

      • Cas says:

        This. I mean I didn’t expect it to be like the best show ever. I just wanted a nice refreshing different type of show. Which it was. And I’d rather have a show be over hyped and promoted then get canceled after the first season.

    • Leah says:

      All I heard about was this big twist
      And I guess my expectations were too high
      I liked the show a lot but the way all the reviews were hyping the twist was too much they shouldn’t have said anything about it because I was looking for something much bigger than them all being siblings and I already figured out mandy and mill were their parents based on the trailer

  12. Ryan says:

    I really enjoyed it. The twist was easy to figure out early into the episode but I think it will make for a great show. It wasn’t the most exciting hour of TV but it’s nice sometimes to have a show that’s not all action and focuses on the characters and their stories. I will definitely continue watching.

  13. Gena says:

    I can’t say the twist surprised me all that much; but I thought the episode itself pretty sweet and emotionally satisfying. :)

  14. Jennifer says:

    It was OK. Not as good as I had hoped. I’ll give it a couple more episodes, but not sure. And I saw that “twist” coming from the start. Would have been better if they weren’t family.

    And I REALLY don’t like Milo with a beard.

  15. Glenduh says:

    Excellent show! Looking forward to next week and the week after..

  16. Eric says:

    I can already feel myself start to love this show. Exactly the type of show I’ve been missing. Don’t cancel this, NBC!

  17. Walter says:

    This was an amazing show. Me and my 10 friends will be watching every week,

  18. c-mo says:

    Loved, loved, loved this show! I decided to keep an open mind and not over think this show and so glad I did, I was pleasantly surprised by the twist at the end. Also loved the soundtrack!

  19. Tom says:

    Ok I just turned 39 and I watched the Challenger explosion in 3rd grade in 1986. I don’t get how he was in 2nd grade when it happened and is only 36. Is this time period 2 years off? The Challenger Explosion memory was the JFK assignation of my generation. Anyone else notice the math being off?

    • Alicia says:

      Ha. Glad it was not just me. I was thinking they should be turning 38. I thought he mentioned being 7. So stands to reason that he would be 37 turning 38. Unless this takes place 2 years in the past….

      • Ally Oop says:

        Yeah. January 1986. If he was turning 36 in 2016, that would mean he was 5 or 6 when it happened if he had an early birthday so that would put him in kindergarten. Unless the show is set in 2014. Maybe that’s when the first script was written?

        • Csb says:

          I assumed that they forgot to make date changes from the pilot script too. But as I was born in ’78 and in 2nd grade when the Challenger happened, it really bugged me.

    • ninergrl6 says:

      Yeah the math bugged me too. I was born in ’76 and was in 4th grade when Challenger happened. Those kids should’ve been in kindergarten or 1st grade at most.

    • LolaHaze says:

      Yeah, I got stuck on this too. I was in the second grade when this happened, and I was born in 1979 and turned 37 in the spring.

  20. T says:

    Also, Alan Thicke wasn’t your blind item surprise celebrity, was it?

  21. T says:

    Alan Thicke wasn’t your blind item surprise celebrity, was it?

  22. Greg says:

    I was on board until the twist. I was happy to watch a bunch of separate couples face challenges with some bond all in present day. I don’t want to watch a show half set 30 some years in the past… They didnt really all need to be related.

  23. Paula says:

    Justin Hartley has already emerged as this show’s scene stealer! He has finally found another role to showcase all facets of his talent (because he was wonderful as Smallville’s Oliver Queen, too). And Gerald McRaney broke my heart… he is an absolute top notch actor!

    • MMD says:

      Oh he totally is! He brings it in every show he’s in. I absolutely hated him in Longmire, was so glad when his character died but sobbed (well really ugly cried) when he was sitting and talking to Jack.

  24. Justin Z says:

    Amazed by this show! The creator hit a homerun. it usually takes me a few episodes to get to know characters on a new show. I felt like I knew these characters for years right when we met them. I was hooked and was surprised by the twist. I stayed away from most previews of this show because I didn’t want to know to much. I hope the DR can be a recurring character somehow. For those complaining about being overhyped, learn what marketing is! The hype was all from first episode, it’s a blank canvas from here on out. Enjoy the show and feel good watching it!

  25. Kathy Bergeron says:

    Absolutely wonderful . Watched out of idle curiosity and so glad I did. If the series lives up to the pilot, it will be a winner!

    • Susanah says:

      That is what I worry about, that the plot was so good but the rest of the season is just a let down. They certainly have me hooked, and I will probably give it more of a chance then a mediocre pilot, but we will have to see.

  26. Michele says:

    Cool twist….made me go back and watch. But wondering why Kate told Kevin he was the only good thing in her life when she has another brother and nieces??

    • Nancy says:

      Yeah I was wondering the exact same thing after all was revealed… maybe she’s not as close to Randall even though there’s a pic of them in her house? Hmmmmm good question.

    • analog says:

      Maybe they drifted apart. I noticed that Randall was probably living near PA (where he found his biodad) while Kate+Kevin are in LA. Are we going to get eps when the 3 are together?

    • Susanah says:

      It seems like they drifted apart and have two completely different lifestyles. It also seems like their Dad walked out or something, b/c that would explain why Kevin flipped out on Alan Thicke and Randall was so needy with his bio dad, even though he didn’t want to be. Someone said that they mentioned the Dad had passed, while someone else said that it was said that he was not a part of their life anymore I don’t remember which it was. Perhaps they took sides?

  27. Maria says:

    It’s great to have a show on TV I would have sat down and comfortably watched with my child. She is 19 and in college, but I will be recommending she start watching. My heart is happy again since the loss of “Parenthhod”, watching a show which shows humanity and love. I know it will continue to touch my heart

  28. Ally Oop says:

    Best new show in a few years! Loved it. Definitely going on my permanent watchlist.

  29. Nancy Johnson says:

    Really unexpected and intriguing plot twist and I knew SOMETHING was off in the time line when they were allowing triplets to be born naturally, then the smoking in the hospital… WOW!!! Better than I ever could’ve expected. Definitely hooked; hope they can follow up with a season to back up the pure genius that was the “Pilot”.

    • Csb says:

      I thought the same thing about the natural birth. It was driving me crazy until the twist.

    • Night Owl with Coffee says:

      I know several people who had triplets naturally in the hospital, but they had to fight to get that. It does happen, even now, although I know only one person who didn’t end up with a c-section for at least some of their kids, despite the natural birth start.

  30. Penny says:

    The best thing about this show coincidentally is that I am 36 and going through a rough patch (that everyone has)… so this show REALLY resonates with me and my struggles in life right now as I am currently job hunting. **Unfortunately I was not a rich star before I lost my job :)

  31. laurelnev says:

    I enjoyed this…but not as much as SHIELD, and I certainly don’t see it as “the BEST new show of the season–must watch”…YET. But I’ll be time shifting. :) And I kind of was expecting a bigger twist, just b/c of what came across my FB & Twitter before I had a chance to watch. We will see…

  32. Meg McCurdy says:

    Still confused though as to who the 3rd child in the crib is ???? Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and think it was brilliant …

  33. Shelly says:

    I enjoyed it was surprised at the twist in the end ! I was very focused on the smoking in the hospital and that’s what made me understand the time frame . I liked it and look forward to seeing more.

  34. ninergrl6 says:

    The twist wasn’t surprising to me at all. I guessed it from reading preview articles about the show that were attempting not to spoil anything. Plus the foreshadowing within the ep was super obvious. The whole show was very average IMO. Good acting but nothing that compelling or interesting in the plot besides the “twist.” I’ll give it another week but so far I’m not hooked. I think “real people” dramas just don’t do it for me.

  35. David says:

    I’m so tired of non linear, jumping around to various time periods with everyone connected to one another

    Lost ruined tv when it ushered in this format for storytelling. Now everyone does it and I would love writers to stop getting hung up on structure and gimmicks and just focus on good writing. Whatever happened to modest ensembles with linear season long parallel arcs–no intercut flashbacks and not playing stupid games with the audience. Give me a nice traditional basic 80s or 90s primetime serialized drama.

  36. KayCeeCee says:

    I love Randall (Sterling’s character).
    – He is obnoxious, like when he confronted his dad and talked about the price of his car and how much money he had. Also, could his house be any bigger?
    – He is very needy, which we can see by him inviting his dad into his life so easily.

    I can see him not really getting along with his siblings because of his attitude and the chip he carries on his shoulder from being abandoned.

    Randall’s dad is going to milk him for as much as he could get. His dad already sized him up and can see that he will be an easy mark.

    Randall is going to be so much fun to watch.

  37. Candace says:

    I was hooked after the first 2 minutes! Excellent acting and storyline. I was one of the ones who was totally surprised by the twist ending, great!!

  38. KayCeeCee says:

    I hope that Kate’s storyline is more than just about her weight and her love life.

  39. Dan Fogelman needs to get over himself.

    Words he used to describe the show:

    “Really, really sophisticated.”
    “Really ambitious.”
    “Very complicated.”
    “[The writers are] big brained people.”

  40. Trina says:

    BOOO! Hissssss! I wasn’t feeling a touchy feely story BUT I gave it a shot because it was getting enough steam I thought I would try. And might have had me. Did the steelers have the terrible towel in 1980? I don’t remember it and I am old enough to remember. PASS.

    • dan says:

      Funny, at the end when the twist was revealed I wondered the exact same thing about the Steelers’ terrible towel! It was the only item from the opening scenes that I could remember which could’ve given away a time frame.

    • Susanah says:

      I didn’t even think about that until you mentioned it. So I had to look it up, because that is just the type of person I am, and it started in 1976.

    • flutiefan says:

      It did exist.

      FAIL (on you).

  41. Kevin K says:

    I give This Is Us an A and I never saw it coming about that end twist. Imagine if they go back to the year 1980 via Lost flashbacks.

  42. JBC says:

    This show was a pleasant surprise! I hadn’t heard much about it before and am so glad I didn’t because I really enjoyed the twist at the end. Gerald McRaney as the doctor was so cool, as he is a great actor. Loved the cast and will turn in again.! Reminded me of how much I enjoyed Parenthood. We have way too many catch the criminal shows on. This Is Us was very enjoyable.

  43. Dominique says:

    I really liked this first episode. a little sappy sometimes maybe, but oh well, i can deal with that/ all the actors are great, they’ve done a fantastic job with the cast.
    i guessed the twist from the moment the plot revealed jack and rebecca were having multiplets, with the exception randall being their child as well.

  44. MLO says:

    Sterling K. Brown – where has this actor been? Aside from the OJ Simpson Story, I haven’t come across him before. LOVE him! He’s so charismatic and engaging. Liked the show – from the promos, was convinced Mandy Moore’s character was going to die in childbirth and am glad I was wrong. Great job Gerald McRaney – he needs his own show playing a doctor, OR is Grey’s hiring?

  45. Sylvia says:

    I loved it! It was really down to earth show…about real life.

  46. Kayconner says:

    I wanted to not,repeat not like it, but it just grabbed my heart from the beginning. Something seemed off but I was so engrossed in these lives that I didn’t get it until the cigarette scene. Love it, but could have done without the nudity. Crap now I am sucked into another series.

  47. robandco says:

    Knowing there was a twist (thank you social media and TVLine), it definitely saw it coming by the old equipment in the hospital room. Kinda obvious.
    But twist aside, this should make a nice family drama. Like, real good. The pacing is slow, almost too slow, but the general themes are very interesting. The cast is A+ and the acting really good. Can’t wait for next week.

  48. Jason says:

    I found it distracting that their surviving children look nothing like them as adults.

  49. sshort says:

    Please don’t cancel