On the Scene 5/17: The Big 3 add three more


“Three years ago, we were live tweeting the premiere of our TV show, hoping someone, anyone might watch…”

This was how writer Dan Fogelman began a long Twitter chain on the afternoon of Sunday, May 12, to announce his Emmy Award-winning television series “This Is Us” had just been renewed by NBC for three more seasons.

The series, which began in 2016, follows a set of triplets in the Pearson family, all with their own unique stories. The pilot of the series opens on the triplets’ 36th birthday and each season follows a year through their lives.

Kate, played by Chrissy Metz, is a severely obese woman who wakes up one morning and realizes it is time to make a change. Realizing her health is more important than anything, Kate decides to start eating healthier and join an overeaters anonymous group.

Her twin brother Kevin, portrayed by Justin Hartley, is almost her polar opposite. A Hollywood actor, who is extremely fit, narcissistic and an all-around bachelor, he spends his nights partying at L.A.’s finest clubs. Starring in a hit sitcom about being a male nanny, Kevin decides his work is meaningless and quits his job on the spot to pursue a more serious approach to acting.

Randall, played by Emmy Award-winning actor Sterling K. Brown, is the third and most interesting of the triplets. A black baby, found on the steps of a local firehouse just hours after being born, was brought to the hospital while Rebecca, the matriarch of the Pearson family, portrayed by Mandy Moore, was giving birth to her set of triplets.

After losing one of her own in the process, her husband Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) sees Randall as a sign for the Pearson family, and convinces his wife to adopt the baby and complete their planned family.

Now, 36 years later to the day, Randall’s story begins outside of an apartment building in Philadelphia as he has finally tracked down the location of his birth father. After finding out his father has stage 4 stomach cancer, Randall invites him to spend the rest of his life living with him and his family. Not even consulting with his wife and two daughters, Randall brings home the man, whom he has known for all of an hour, back to his suburban home in New Jersey.

Following the lives of the triplets, who are also referred to as “The Big 3,” we are taken through their daily lives set in the present day. But we are also given a lot of background on their lives as the story is told through many flashbacks.

An interesting aspect to the show, each of the triplets has three different actors portray their characters at different points in their lives. An actor for their 6-year-old self, one at 16 years of age, then their present-day portrayal.

For actors like Moore, who do not need a younger version to portray them when flashing back, they are completely covered in makeup during the present-day portion.

Concluding its second season in March 2018, it was the first time viewers were given a look into the future of the Pearson family, where all of the present-day characters were covered in makeup and taken 20 years into their upcoming outcomes.

Adding flash forwards to the storyline, the series added another layer of questions for its viewers as the constant back and forth between past, present and future throughout its third season brought more than ever expected. Now, as we patiently await its fourth season in September, we wonder how the story of the Pearson family will further expand.

Earlier in February, Fogelman stated the series will likely conclude after its sixth season, stating, “We have a very direct plan. I have script pages I have written and I’m writing that really are deep, deep, deep into the future. We have a plan for what we’re going to do and I know what the plan is.”

As someone who has watched the series since its first episode, I find it exciting to see what the plan for the show will be. A unique facet of the series is it can find at least one aspect any single person can watch and connect with. From obesity to alcoholism and addiction to illness to homosexuality to adoption to anxiety … the list goes on. No matter who you are, the series can and will hit home for you in at least one, if not several parts.

“This Is Us” – it’s who we are.

A show that has brought so much emotional joy to myself and viewers around the country is already halfway through. A bittersweet thought, but one that leaves nothing but anticipation for the next three seasons to come.


Ken Downey Jr. is the Features Editor for Time OFF and Packet Publications. This is a part of his series of weekly columns focusing on arts and entertainment. He can be contacted at [email protected].