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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, May 18, 2022 1 month ago

THESE TIMES: This is ALL of us

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Fans of the NBC drama "This is Us" are, no doubt, feeling an abundance of emotions after this week's episode.
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

Every decade or so, I discover a television series that is magical and relatable, introduces me to new “friends” and gives me all the feels each and every week.

“Once and Again” (1999-2002, starring Sela Ward and Billy Campbell) coincided with my divorce and re-entrance into the dating world. “Parenthood” (2010-2015, featuring Craig T. Nelson and Lauren Graham) and the Braverman clan made me feel less alone as a parent raising children in the craziness that is life.

And now NBC’s “This is Us” (2016-2022, with Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia) has many of us weeping alongside the Pearsons and their generational story as they’ve experienced death, failed marriage, incorrigible teens, shattered dreams and the agonizing pain of watching a loved one lose a lifetime of memories to dementia.

In a nutshell, “This is Us,” tugs at our heartstrings and leaves us wanting more. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of human interaction; one cranky friend of mine calls the show “emotional manipulation.”

The series hasn’t just left us crying, though. The episodes also have made us smile, and they have angered us, left us confused and made us empathetic.

We “awwww”ed at the smallest versions of the Big 3. We rejoiced when the long-awaited adoptions were finalized for Kate and Toby. We understood when Kate needed to drown her disappointments in cake, cookies or chips. We related to the thrill of finding love again.

Through six seasons, the show has left me — and many of my friends — feeling like we could be watching scenes written from some of the pages of our journals. In my own friend group, we have dealt with the death of fathers, the complications of teenagers and the missed opportunities in life; and we have experienced friendships, family bonds, celebrations, strength and fortitude.

These television characters have become like friends — the Big 3, “triplets” Kate, Kevin and Randall; Jack and Rebecca; and, yes, even Miguel, although my admiration for him didn’t appear until the episode two weeks ago.

The show has been known for how closely it portrays real life, and the second season was no exception. Remember Super Bowl LII, which was played Feb. 4, 2018? “This is Us” aired immediately following the football game and incorporated actual game footage in the episode. I even watched most of the game because I didn’t want to miss a single minute of “This is Us.” Some shows just have to be watched live, you know.

By now, everyone knows Jack died in a house fire, and this was the infamous episode when it took place. I made sure to watch it with a friend; I didn't want to be alone at the time of his passing.

After it was over, I felt as though I hadn't put all my attention and devotion into that episode, so I watched it again the next day so I could appropriately mourn Jack's death.

When it was revealed in the episode prior that the fire was caused by a faulty slow cooker, folks were ready to get rid of their Crock-Pots. I admit I hesitated to use mine the next time I wanted to make chili. It looks just like the one on the show and is every bit as old.

Following the episode, the makers of the brand had to do some damage control, issuing a statement that its product is safe and this is a fictional story about a fictional character in a fictional fire.

At one point, show fans added “RIP Jack Pearson” and other epitaphs on Crock-Pot’s Wikipedia page.

According to the page, the makers of the slow cooker considered a lawsuit but instead took to social media to spread positive messages about their product. In the Super Bowl episode, actor Ventimiglia, who portrays Jack, appeared in an apology ad.

That’s so “Jack” of him.

There is a real fascination with this guy. Every woman wants a husband like Jack Pearson, and every man should strive to be like him. Exaggerations aside, Jack is a man’s man.

And although he died in the second season, we still were able to enjoy his grin and his charm because of the show’s brilliant way of bouncing back and forth through the decades.

This newspaper goes to press before the supposedly gut-wrenching penultimate episode that was to air this week, Tuesday, May 17. It has been called the most emotional one out of 108. I can’t imagine anything worse than Jack dying. Those close to the show warned us we might want to take off work Wednesday because the Tuesday episode would wreck us and have us in tears.

But, we’ve been told, if we survive this week’s episode, we will be rewarded in the finale, to air Tuesday, May 24. Going on the assumption that Rebecca died Tuesday (it aired after press time), here’s what I’m hoping: That Rebecca is young again and as she reaches the Pearly Gates, it is a joyous reunion where she is greeted with open arms by a youthful Jack, an equally robust Miguel and Kyle the triplet who passed away at birth.

In a recent interview, Ventimiglia said the final episode should leave us satisfied with a full heart. I read online it offers hope and inspiration. We all want that to be true. I think we’re all going to need some relief after this week.

This show, indeed, represents all of us.

 

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Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990....

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