Skip to main content

This Is Us Creator Shares One Regret About The Show's Timeline

Jack and Rebecca Pearson on This Is Us.
(Image credit: NBC)

This Is Us is the epic saga of the Pearson family, following Jack and Rebecca Pearson, as well as their three children — Kevin, Kate and Randall — on their life journeys. What set This Is Us apart when it premiered in 2016 was its time-jumping element. Since creator Dan Fogelman revealed that twist in the shocking series premiere, This Is Us has bounced back and forth, spanning nearly 100 years in non-linear form over five seasons. It’s an exciting and unique way to tell the story, and fans have latched on hard to the narrative, but Fogelman recently revealed a regret he had about the timeline.

The hit NBC drama is in its sixth and final season, with This Is Us working to give explanations to all of the plot twists that have been laid out over the previous five seasons. It seems to all be leading up to 2034, where the Pearsons are gathering at Kevin’s cabin to say goodbye to a dying Rebecca. As we get closer to the end, fans are practically begging for a spinoff, and while Dan Fogelman has said that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, he talked to EW about a version of the show he’s thought about, which spawned from a regret he carried about This Is Us’ timing. 

One of my early regrets from the show was, 'Oh, if I had back-timed the past with Jack and Rebecca even more, then hypothetically children and grandchildren could be living more in the present, because the future's harder to execute than the past.' So I always thought that the offspring who you've met — babies and young children — would've been an interesting version of the spin-off, but they're also living in 2055. I don't know if the Earth is going to be a wasteland and I don't know how to do that. I always thought that would be a weird, funny spin-off version of the show.

By putting the Big Three in their 40s in the 2022 timeline, Dan Fogelman jumps five years into the future to see Kate get remarried to Phillip, and we jump more than 10 years in the future to see the family gathering around Rebecca’s death bed. At this point in the timeline — approximately 2034 — Randall’s daughters are young adults, but Kevin and Kate’s kids are still fairly young. Going any further into their lives would require Fogelman to make assumptions about the state of the world in the next few decades, which is harder to do than re-create decades that have already passed.

Hopefully he didn’t dwell too much on that supposed regret, because the events the Pearsons have lived through do more than provide context for the timeline; they have shaped the characters. The Season 6 premiere explored how much Kevin was affected by the Challenger explosion in 1986, and Nicky’s narrative surrounding the moon landing in 1969 — not to mention the Vietnam War — are vital not just to the plotlines but to who the characters are. That was worth not messing with, even if it meant telling less of the next generation’s stories.

We have gotten a small peek way into the future, with Kate and Toby’s adult son Jack Damon, an apparent rock star with a wife and child of his own. That timeline is estimated to be in the mid-2040s. Jack and Lucy in Season 6 will give fans a different perspective on the events that lead to Kate and Toby’s divorce, but they’re a great example of how the Pearson grandchildren offer a This Is Us spinoff opportunity somewhere down the line. 

Until then, we’ll just be here, sobbing it out until the final episodes, proving that Dan Fogelman has no need to feel regret about anything except for breaking our hearts. This Is Us returns at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, February 22, on NBC. 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.