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The Criticism About This Is Us That Its Creator Has Never Understood

Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson and Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson on This Is Us.
(Image credit: NBC)

Every so often a show comes along that insists you grab a box of tissues before you start watching. Parenthood, which ran on NBC from 2010 to 2016, was one. Before that, HBO’s Six Feet Under was certainly known to destroy a few viewers. Recently, however, This Is Us has cornered the market as our weekly sobfest. The Pearsons – with their time-honored traditions and prophetic monologues – are an emotion-forward family, to be sure. But creator Dan Fogelman seems to take issue with the show being categorized as overly sentimental.

This Is Us brought its final chapter to a close, with the Big Three saying goodbye to their mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and sending her to the afterlife to reunite with Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), as Kevin, Kate and Randall revealed what was next in their respective lives. Season 6 saw some pretty heavy storylines, including Rebecca’s Alzheimer’s, Kate and Toby’s divorce, and Jack’s mom dying. The plots allowed the Pearsons to do what the do best: talk about their feelings. That’s something the show’s been criticized for, and it doesn’t sit right with Dan Fogelman, who told Entertainment Weekly:

Do these characters talk about their feelings a little bit more? Of course, because this is a show steeped in monologue and dialogue about feelings. But I've never understood [that criticism]. I do find a lot of art now underly sentimental. I don't recognize that behavior in people who are so sparse and withholding of their affection for their family and their loved ones. My friends are sniveling messes when it comes to talking about their hero worship of their fathers or their love for their daughters and sons and wives. And when they talk about their divorces, they're overwrought messes.... I've never understood how our show is more sentimental than all of that stuff.

It’s an interesting observation. Why don’t more series show characters holding up their parents as examples to aspire to? Why don’t more TV spouses speak to the trauma of divorce or give big speeches about the overwhelming love for their children? Is Dan Fogelman right? Rather than This Is Us being unrealistically sentimental, do other shows shy away from showing realistic emotion? 

This Is Us was at least self-aware, whether it was Randall’s daughters rolling their eyes at an impending Randall speech or Sophie cutting Kevin off because it was her turn for a monologue. The wonder that is Beth Pearson also gave a voice to those who felt the Pearsons were overly prone to feeling their feelings, as she sometimes struggled to stay patient with her in-laws.

One thing isn’t up for debate, though: the show wouldn’t make viewers so emotional if we didn’t care about the characters. Whether we’re crying happy tears or sad tears, we came to care about the Pearsons and their feelings over the course of six dramatic seasons, and Dan Fogelman is the man to thank for that.

This Is Us may have come to an end, but be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what shows are premiering soon.

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.