What Will Be the Next ‘This Is Us’?

·6 min read
Ron Batzdorf/NBC
Ron Batzdorf/NBC

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This week:

Still Crying Over the End of This Is Us

There was a time, it should not come as a surprise, that I was very much into the TV series This Is Us.

You’re telling me there was a broadcast TV drama (love) starring Mandy Moore (love!) that opened with a shot of Milo Ventimiglia’s bare butt (LOVE!), and the whole idea was that you tune in each week specifically to cry? I bought shares in Kleenex stock and immediately set a recurring DVR recording.

Especially at the time the show premiered, the series stuck out because of how frankly uncool it was. Yes, it became popular. Incredibly so. But to have TV “taste” then meant you knew that those really dark, snide, cynical, and violent anti-hero shows were the good ones. This family soap opera that is soundtracked by lilting guitar strings that barely stop for a second in any episode? The most pretentious among us looked down snidely from their towers of insufferableness.

But what made This Is Us so special is that what it did, it did so well. It was so well-acted. The writing was great. It was often accused of emotional manipulation, and maybe that was sometimes fair. But it knew how to orchestrate a powerful moment. It knew how to ground the swell of feelings in something universal and relatable. It found sharp, unmistakable ways to validate our own pains, struggles, and trauma, but also could amplify and celebrate the victories and beautiful moments that we can sometimes miss in our own lives.

In the end, it was a TV series about how wonderful and rewarding it is to journey through life as part of a family that so deeply loves each other, but also how incredibly difficult and, at times, devastating or infuriating that journey can be. Those shows about serial killers and Wall Street assholes are great and earn their dues. But a show like this is important, too.

I fell off This Is Us somewhere in Season 4, but popped back in here and there. It wasn’t because I didn’t like the show anymore. Sometimes, you just fall off shows. I tuned in for the last two episodes, a phenomenal showcase for Mandy Moore in the penultimate episode and then the perfectly understated finale.

There were roughly a dozen characters that I had no clue who the hell they were. But it didn’t matter. I was still moved. I cried. Obviously.

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There’s no other broadcast drama series still airing that is both as popular and gets the regular awards attention that This Is Us does. Its sign-off is the end of the era. I wonder what the next This Is Us will be.

I don’t think it will be a copycat. These kinds of shows, with their emotional fireworks and everyday relatability, tend to come by surprise. Did anyone think the TV version of Friday Night Lights would play that role? Or another shot at making a series version of Parenthood? Before that, something like Gilmore Girls, a series on The CW, of all stations? Or when it comes to This Is Us, a time-jumping broadcast drama?

I hope there will be something that fills this void, because I think we need shows like these. But I wouldn’t dare predict what the next one will be.

What Will Become of Ellen?

Speaking of TV series that said goodbye this week, it is wild to me that the Ellen show, which was such a massive hit for so many years, signed off on Thursday with little more than a shrug in response.

Of course, DeGeneres’ popularity took a swan dive into a tar pit following investigations into her show’s alleged toxic workplace environment and her own behavior. And we, as a country, are certainly preoccupied with this week’s horrifying news and the exasperating debates that have grown out of it. Interestingly, there was a time when Ellen’s entire public service was as a respite to the pain we’re all feeling, an hour’s escape to be reminded that it’s OK—and maybe even necessary—to choose joy, that happiness still exists in our world, to be kind, and to lead with compassion.

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Thursday’s finale played up the loud impact that the show’s insistence on celebrating joy and kindness had, but it’s hard to deny that the messaging came out more as a whimper.

Talking about DeGeneres’ legacy is so complicated. I attempted to get into that in this review that I wrote after the final episode aired Thursday. (Read it here.)

Unlike with This Is Us, I can imagine what the next version of Ellen might be. (The Kelly Clarkson Show is literally taking over her time slot.) But I don’t quite know what the next Ellen, the person who was such a hero until she was viewed as such a monster, might be.

She’s made an impossible comeback before. I don’t doubt that she’ll do it again.

I Need to See This Elvis Movie Immediately.

The Cannes Film Festival is happening right now. Maybe the biggest premiere that’s happening there is the Elvis Presley biopic, Elvis, which was directed by notorious maximalist Baz Luhrmann, who helmed Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby.

Early reactions included gems like, “Your enjoyment of Baz Luhrmann’s ELVIS will depend on your appetite for Bazamataz, which is dialed up to explosive levels here,” from The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney. The Daily Beast’s Caspar Salmon called it “such a gaudy, buzzing, relentless object, which for 2.5 hours lurches about flashing its gold like a drunk old millionaire in a strip joint.”

And there’s this description of a scene from David Ehrlich’s Indiewire review:

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But it is the report from The New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan about the film’s musical moments that radicalized me from “I need to see this so I can hate-watch it” to “I need to see this because I am about to make unapologetically loving it my entire personality.”

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The Week’s Most Fun, Most Nefarious Casting

They have done it. They have discovered the one way to get me to actually buy a ticket to the new movie in that godforsaken Fast and Furious franchise. Bastards.

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What to watch this week:

Top Gun: Maverick: Filing the whole Scientology in the back of the mind because we need this joy. (Fri. in theaters)

The Real Housewives of Dubai: This can only be a mess, and that is why we’re so excited. (Wed. on Bravo)

The Bob’s Burgers Movie: Very funny show! Very funny movie! (Fri. in theaters)

What to skip this week:

Stranger Things: We don’t always have to watch the popular thing! (Fri. on Netflix)

Dancing With Myself: The credits for this reality show read, I kid you not “created by Shaquille O’Neal and Shakira and Liza Koshy.” (Tues. on NBC)

‘Stranger Things’ Season 4 Opens With a Massacre of Children

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