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Series / This Is Us

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This is real. This is love. This is life.

This Is Us is a dramedy series aired by NBC starting in 2016 and slated to consist of six seasons.

Created by Dan Fogelman (Crazy Stupid Love, Tangled), it tells the story of four characters all turning thirty-six years old on the same day:

  • Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia), who turns thirty-six on the day his wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) gives birth to triplets.
  • Jack's first born Kevin (Justin Hartley), a troubled sitcom actor
  • Jack's second born Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin's twin sister who struggles with weight.
  • Jack's adopted son Randall (Sterling K. Brown), a successful businessman who finally decides to meet his biological father.

As disparate as their stories may seem, it's revealed at the end of the pilot that something greater than their shared birthday ties them together: Jack and Rebecca's story is set from the 1970s to the 1990s; Kevin, Kate, and Randall's stories are set in the present day.


This Is Us provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The '70s: Jack and Rebecca are a young couple in the late 1970s-early 1980 preparing for the birth of their children.
  • The '80s: The Pearson kids were born on August 31, 1980, although "The Big Day" shows that Randall was born slightly earlier, making him technically the oldest. The triplets were conceived the night of Super Bowl XIV in January, with their planned due date in October, but Rebecca's water prematurely broke. Their childhood are featured in the period, especially Randall's treatment by others for being black and adopted.
  • The '90s: Teenage Kevin and Randall's Sibling Rivalry carry over into a fight on the football field while cracks start to show in Jack and Rebecca's relationship, especially when she decides to return to singing with her old band, with one of the members being her ex-boyfriend before she met Jack. Jack dies sometime during this decade (later revealed to be 1998) as Kate flashes back to his funeral was when they were teens.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Jack's father, Stanley, was not only alcoholic, but also physically abusive. After preventing his mother from getting a beating, Jack promises her that he would never become abusive like him. In fact, when Jack seeks him out for money, he lies and says it's for paying off gambling debt. He also refuses to tell his father that he's married. When Stanley's nursing home notifies Rebecca that he's on his deathbed, Jack refuses to even consider saying goodbye to him, telling her that his father has been dead to him for years.
    • Rebecca's mother is emotionally abusive, always belittling her daughter and made racist comments about Randall. She also continues to smoke around Rebecca, despite her pregnant daughter's objections and openly dislikes Jack, saying that he "can't even get her [Rebecca] pregnant responsibly".
  • The Alcoholic: 1980s Jack appears to be developing a drinking problem. Rebecca threatens to leave him if he doesn't clean up his act. It resurfaces at the end of "Jack Pearson's Son" after having a big blowout fight with Rebecca, he's at their date night restaurant drinking. And in the season 2 premiere, 1990's Jack calls himself this outright.
    • Kevin is this as well, a habit that starts in his late teens and comes to blows in his thirties. He relapses once, but stays sober throughout the fourth season and appears to be clean in the future.
  • Always Someone Better: Kevin and Randall each feel this way about the other, fueling their Sibling Rivalry. Kevin resents Randall for being smarter, more successful and receiving more attention from their parents. Randall resents Kevin for being more charming and popular, as well as for being the natural-born son when he feels like a Replacement Goldfish.
    • Randall references this in the Season 4 finale, in which he flat-out tells Kevin that he has been chasing Randall, not Jack, and that Kevin will never be as good as Randall.
  • American Football: The family are all huge fans of the Steelers, and Rebecca actually asked Jack to make her a fan of the game so she wouldn't be left out whenever it was on like her mother. The triplets were conceived directly after their victory in Super Bowl XIV, and Kate now watches every year with her father's ashes beside her.
    • Season 2 reveals that Jack dies the night of the Super Bowl.
  • Anachronic Order: Jack and Rebecca's story jumps freely around the '70s, '80s, and '90s and even the occasional flashback to their childhood.
  • Artistic License – Law: Randall’s birth mother was sentenced to five years prison for a first offense drug possession charge, and was transferred from Pennsylvania to a California prison. Simple possession charges are almost always state offenses, and local police came to arrest her. Pennsylvania has a maximum of one year for simple possession, and with no prior record her sentence would very likely be probation or just a fine and court costs. And since it’s a state offense, she can’t be transferred to another state. Even in the exceptionally unlikely event the feds would prosecute a first offense simple possession charge, their maximum penalty for simple possession is also one year incarceration.
  • As Himself: Several entertainers pop up in the show as themselves, largely as a way to show the status of Kevin's career at that point.
    • Alan Thicke plays himself, guest-starring on Kevin's show in Season 1.
    • Seth Meyers sees Kevin and Randall fighting on a New York City sidewalk and approaches the pair to see what's wrong.
    • Mario Lopez hosts a talk show segment discussing Kevin's career following his on-set meltdown.
    • Katie Couric interviews (and insults) Kevin during a nightmare he has.
    • Ron Howard calls Kevin to offer him a script for a movie after enjoying his play.
    • Sylvester Stallone was Jack's favorite actor (in an Actor Allusion to Milo Ventimiglia's role in Rocky Balboa) and works with Kevin.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Played With. Joe, the firefighter who found baby Randall, considered adopting him himself because among other problems in his marriage, his wife Samantha had trouble conceiving. Joe figured that if they adopt the baby, their marriage might improve, but she wasn't convinced. However, she was touched by the idea, and decides to give their marriage another shot and convinces Joe to take the baby to the hospital. While they didn't keep the baby, the intention was enough for them to try to save their relationship.
    • Inverted with Kate and Toby, who are a good match with an imperfect marriage. When they have a baby, him being a premature baby with special needs ends up only making their relationship much more complicated.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Teenage Kate has one named Mark in Season 4.
  • Bait-and-Switch: A main staple of the show, as most of the show’s cliffhangers and previews employ misdirection. It does seem as though most Genre Savvy viewers have caught on to this technique, however, and rarely take potential plot twists at face value anymore.
    • Jack's death is probably the biggest example; all signs point to him dying in the house fire itself after he goes back inside to save the family dog, but he - and the dog - end up making it out of the house. It's a heart attack brought on by smoke inhalation that kills him.
  • Badass on Paper: Jack starts to fall into this in Season 3. While his heroic and premature death led to him becoming Shrouded in Myth by family members in the present day, we learn that he was in fact a deeply flawed individual who had issues with anger and jealousy.
  • Betty and Veronica: Kevin is the Archie, with Olivia as the Veronica and Sloane as the Betty. And then he decides that he wants to reconnect with Sophie, his ex-wife that he hasn't seen in 12 years.
  • Big Brother Instinct: When Randall begins to suffer a nervous breakdown from all the stress in his life, Kevin ( who Randall had called to tell him he wasn't going to be able to make it to his play) abandons the play and possibly his career as a actor to go to Randall and just comfort and hold him.
  • Birthday Episode: The pilot is one of these, since it depicts four characters on their thirty-sixth birthdays.
    • The Season 2 premiere is also set on the Pearson kids 37th birthdays.
  • Broke Episode: Jack only has 9 dollars in "9 Bucks" to take Rebecca on a date. Naturally, they are unable to completely enjoy the experience due to opportunity cost.
  • Call-Back: Upon meeting William, Randall brags that he bought his expensive luxury car for cash just because he wanted it. Later, upon learning that he's bought a boat, Beth chastises Randall that he goes out and buys things when he's depressed.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • After discovering that Rebecca hid the fact that she knew William was his biological father, Randall calls her out on it at Thanksgiving dinner.
    Randall: Understand what? That you knew my father! That you kept him from me all these years…if I hadn’t found him on my own you never would have told me!
    • Rebecca does this to her own mother in response to her treatment of Randall, and her racist tendencies in general.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
  • Chekhov's Gun: The series is built on them. Chances are if you notice a detail, it will turn out to be an integral part of the story.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Kevin's ex-wife Sophie was one of Kate's childhood friends and he apparently declared to Jack and Rebecca that he loves her. Obviously, the fact that they divorced young and haven't spoken since they were 24 showed that they didn't last, but Kevin apparently still harbors feelings for her.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Averted when Kate loses the baby. She didn't plan on getting pregnant but she didn't want to lose the baby either.
  • Contractual Obligation Project: Kevin finds out that dramatically quitting The Manny means nothing when he signed a multi-year contract.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The fact that Randall shows up at William's door mere seconds before he was about to fall off the wagon is a bit too convenient to be realistic.
  • Cool Car: Jack's 1967 Chevelle. His coworkers are in awe of how pristine the car is, and when he and Rebecca discover the magnitude of her pregnancy, he's forced to sell it in order to have enough money to purchase their house.
  • Cool Old Guy: Dr. K
    • Once he cleans up a bit and becomes slightly less grouchy, Nicky is definitely this – he's not afraid to call a spade a spade, can verbally match wits with Kevin and is a good enough friend to Cassidy – who's about 30 years his junior – that they continue to attend AA meetings together as friends months after Kevin leaves.
  • Daddy's Girl: Kate is closer to Jack, especially as he's invested in helping her regain her self-confidence as a child. She tells Toby that she keeps the family tradition of watching Steelers football games with him. His urn sits on her fireplace mantle and she tells a little girl she was hired to nanny that she's estranged from Rebecca.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • "The Big Day" shines a light on the day before the pilot, spending 24 hours in the lives of Dr. K and Joe the firefighter before they showed up at the hospital.
    • "Memphis" centers in on William's life before he met Randall's biological mother. Randall and William spend his final hours together in Memphis, meeting his long-lost biological extended family, and being at William's side when he finally passes away.
    • The three episodes leading up to the season 2 midseason finale are titled "Number One," "Number Two," and "Number Three," and focus on Kevin, Kate, and Randall respectively.
    • The show does this more as time goes on, both with established characters and minor, mystery characters. The fourth season premiere focuses largely on Malik and his backstory before establishing him as Deja's classmate and crush, on Cassidy's life in and after the military and on adult Jack Damon as he navigates his singing career and marriage.
    • We've also had a single episode focused on Toby's childhood and adolescence and his battles with depression.
    • In "Our Little Island Girl" we get an episode focused almost entirely on Beth's childhood as a dance student and college-bound teenager.
    • There's also a Season 2 episode focused entirely on Deja and her life with her mom and great-grandmother, doubling as a How We Got Here as the third act intersects with where we last saw Randall and Beth – finding Deja and Shauna sleeping in their car.
  • Dead Guy Junior: In Season 3, after a difficult birth and emergency surgery, Kate and Toby are blessed a baby boy (albeit very premature) and they decided to name him Jack after her late father.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Randall has one with an imaginary version of Jack, courtesy of a magic-mushroom laced smoothie. In the Season 2 opener, Beth has one with William.
  • Death by Childbirth: Randall's biological mother, mentioned in passing in the pilot.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: The Pearson kids deeply remember Jack as a great dad and tolerate their stepfather for Rebecca's sake, although flashbacks show that Jack was just as flawed as Rebecca.
  • December–December Romance: A flashback episode shows the elderly doctor Dr. K still mourning his late wife who died a year earlier and is reluctant to move on. He finds new inspiration to try to live life again after giving Jack some life advice and delivering the Pearson’s children, and reaches out to his also elderly neighbor Anne to take up her previously rejected offer to make him dinner one night. Eighteen years later at Jack’s funeral he introduces Anne as his wife.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Naturally part of Jack and Rebecca's story. The reveal is done with someone smoking in a hospital, and a major hint beforehand is a self-described "best of the best" OB/GYN never bringing up a C-section for Rebecca's troubled pregnancy.
  • Description Cut: Kevin swears he doesn't need help while recovering from his knee surgery because he's always been tough in dealing with pain. Flashback to 9-year-old Kevin whining like a baby about his chicken pox.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • William for Randall because of his drug issues. He did manage to sober up sometime during Randall's childhood, but did not seek him out out of respect for Rebecca's request to not do so.
    • Jack for Kevin, Kate, and Randall in the present day because he died when they were teens.
  • Doorstop Baby: Randall was left at a fire station by his biological father after being born, which convinced Jack and Rebecca to adopt him after their third triplets is stillborn. He was almost adopted by Joe in order to save his strained marriage. But after a long talk with his wife, they decide that their marital problems wouldn't have been solved by the baby, so Joe takes him to the hospital instead.
  • Domestic Abuse: Jack's parents marriage is filled with this, as his father was an alcoholic who abused him, his mother and baby brother regularly. When Jack became a grown man, he decided to put a stop to it by moving out and taking his mom with him away from his father.
  • Driving Question: How did Jack die, and why does Kate blame herself for his death?
    • Answered mid-season 2: The Pearson house catches on fire, and Jack dies from a smoke inhalation-induced heart attack afterward. Kate blames herself because he went back in the house for her dog after the family had all gotten out.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The pilot episode had a slightly different feel to it than the rest of the series. Most of the episode had a deadpan, comedic mood to it, with a few dramatic scenes sprinkled in. It also had a lot less background music than subsequent episodes, which gave it a quicker, more disjointed pace.
    • The first season in general, although well-received, is tonally very different from later seasons, especially the third and fourth. It's a lot more overwritten and dialogue-heavy with snappy, too-clever retorts, whereas the writing style in later seasons is now considerably more lived-in and comfortable with longer silences, shorter sentences and slightly more realistic dialogue.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: In "That'll be the Day," an entire gaggle of women in the apartment pull up a chair to watch Kevin do construction. One even brings a camera.
  • Ensemble Cast: Since there are four different story lines taking place, an ensemble cast is expected.
  • Fake Shemp: In “Brotherly Love”, Mr. Rogers is only seen from behind and out of focus, only “appearing” in full in the form of Daniel Tiger.
  • Family Title: The Us in the title are the Pearsons.
  • Family Versus Career: Part of the strain in Rebecca and Jack's relationship in the 1990s is that Rebecca wanted to resume her singing aspirations and Jack had trouble understanding it. Not telling him that her ex was also her bandmate only made it worse.
  • Fanservice: A cameo appearance from Milo Ventimiglia's behind in the pilot was not hated.
  • First-Episode Twist: Randall is Kate and Kevin's adopted brother, and they are the present-day adult children of Jack and Rebecca.
  • First Father Wins: Both Kevin and Randall are not fond of their stepfather, only really tolerating him for their mother's sake. Especially since the Pilgrim hat that comes out reminds them of Jack.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Upon rewatching, the First-Episode Twist can be given away with Kevin emailing Randall "It's Our Birthday Bro", and the opening shot of one of Jack and Rebecca's moving boxes is labeled "Family photos '75-'79".
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • It is implied that the root of Kate's problems with Rebecca came down to competing for Jack's attention and love. The fact that Rebecca was slim and beautiful didn't help matters either.
    • Although Kevin initially comes off as self-absorbed and attention-seeking, as the series goes on, flashbacks from childhood reveal that his It's All About Me tendencies come from never being regarded as the “special” one of the Big Three. Rebecca defends Randall with all her being, Jack is Kate’s biggest defender, and Kevin tends to get pass off as just the cute one or the good athlete.
    • Kate has an inability to recognize healthy versus unhealthy displays of love, which come both from the fact that as a chubby girl, she never had anyone express interest in her when she was young, and that Jack's over-the-top, often overcompensating displays of affection toward Rebecca gave her a skewed idea on what counts as love. It's almost no wonder she doesn't pick up on the red flags of Mark's emotionally abusive tendencies, because she views things like showing up unannounced at dinnertime and easily becoming jealous as passion. Not to mention, early in their courtship, Toby actually displays similar behaviours to Mark's "red flags" (like showing up to her family event unannounced, wanting her to focus more of her attention on him), albeit with less insidious intentions, and Kate doesn't even realize they're unhealthy.
    • Comes up (and is referenced explicitly) with Randall and his therapist, Dr. Leigh. After confessing many of his feelings about his family and his childhood to her, she asserts that he has a number of unresolved issues regarding his mother and their relationship, particularly her concealment of the identity of his birth father. Dr. Leigh points out that it's not common for Black men who can afford to choose their therapist to choose a white female therapist – and with Dr. Leigh also being around the age Rebecca was when Jack died, she asserts that Randall may be subconsciously trying to resolve his issues with Rebecca through her.
  • Generation Xerox:
    • Jack invokes this on his estranged alcoholic father. He lies to his dad about having gambling debts and being a disappointment as his dad expected so he would get money from him. However, he appears to have inherited the alcoholism.
    • Even though Randall is adopted, he has quite a bit in common with Jack, including his tendency to push through his mental health issues and pretend to be OK in order to be seen as a provider, and a tendency toward big, grand gestures for those he loves.
  • Good Fortune from God: How exactly is Jack able to afford to road trip to Los Angeles with Rebecca, staying in multiple motels, going to dinner, gas, etc. there and back when just the previous week he was shown to be penniless?
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: A minor example in the Season 1 episode "The Game Plan." Kate refers to the "2006 AFC Championship Game" as the game where the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Denver Broncos to advance to the Super Bowl. While the game technically was played in the year 2006, most American football fans refer to the playoff games in the context of the season which it succeeds. Thus, most fans would likely refer to the aforementioned Steelers-Broncos game as the "2005 AFC Championship Game," since it was played between the 2005 Steelers and the 2005 Broncos.
  • Happily Adopted: Randall lets William, his biological father, know that he grew up in a wonderful adoptive family, stating that Jack and Rebecca were wonderful parents. Jack passed away when the kids were young teens, and his ashes sits on Kate's mantle. His relationship with Kevin is rockier, but Kevin admits that he genuinely cares about his brother's opinion and Randall tells him there's still time to improve. His relationship with Rebecca becomes quite strained once he learned that she had been keeping William a secret from him his whole life.
  • Happily Married:
    • Jack and Rebecca, although they're not without their problems, like struggling to raise three kids, especially Randall's identity issues, their own life ambitions, Jack's developing alcoholism and eventual death. Randall's hallucination of Jack even states that the marriage wasn't perfect and that he certainly wasn't perfect.
    • Randall and Beth are a genuinely happy couple with good communication. Although they do have a massive fight that almost threatens their marriage, but they end up resolving it through compromise that brings them back to the same page. Beth often keeps anything bothering her to herself or will lie about it if she has to.
  • House Fire: "A Father's Advice" reveals that the Pearson home burned down, killing Jack.
  • How We Got Here: Both the show in general and specific episodes follow this format – the show almost always has multiple timelines going to fill in the blanks of the Big Three's childhood and young adulthood and how they got to their present-day selves.
    • Specific episodes also zero in on this concept even more. For example, "The Big Day" centers on the previous 24 hours in the lives of Jack, Rebecca, Dr. K, and Joe just before the events of the pilot. The episode shows that Joe considered adopting baby Randall himself to fix his marriage problems but brought him to the hospital instead so he can work things out with his wife.
  • Hyperlink Story: The pilot takes us through the family lives of 3 seemingly unrelated groups of people: a pair of expectant parents, a sitcom star and his sister, and a Wall Street Weather Trader and his wife/kids. At the very end, it's revealed that the parents had kids in the 70s and the other two groups are comprised of either their children or their grandkids.
  • Interrupted Suicide: During a company Christmas party, Randall stumbles upon his coworker about to jump over a balcony ledge and convinces him not to kill himself.
  • In Vino Veritas: William spills about Rebecca always knowing who he was to Randall's wife after they have some Alice B. Toklas brownies.
  • Instant Birth: Just Add Water!: In the episode "The 20's", even though it's a first pregnancy, Beth unexpectedly goes into labor with no time to get to the hospital, and her husband Randall helps her through a home delivery.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Kevin has a tendency to make matters about himself, partially because of his longstanding feelings about Randall and Kate getting more attention from their parents and feeling left out. He usually does mean well when supporting his siblings, but sometimes his ego gets in the way. Subverted when he fires Kate as his personal assistant after she takes a call from him while getting it on with Toby. That's a degree of codependence that even he's not comfortable with.
    • As the seasons go on, Randall shows these tendencies as well, specifically with his need to be the hero in every situation, like when he takes Deja to the community centre and spends most of his time trying to fix the problems and advocate for the community members, instead of just integrating and meeting people.
    • Kate has a tendency to do this as well, particularly when she’s grieving or going through a difficult time. Notably, she frequently shuts Toby out or sees his tendency to deal with grief differently as a sign that he’s not grieving at all. She even argues that her miscarriage “didn’t happen to” Toby, not realizing until later that he lost a child too.
  • It Was His Sled: Anybody who has heard anything about the show will probably not be very surprised by the twist at the end of the pilot episode. As time goes by and the show becomes more and more ingrained into American TV culture, it’s likely that the story of Jack’s death will eventually become common knowledge as well.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: "After The Fire" has Randall imagining how life for the family could have been had Jack never died in the fire.
  • Job Title: Kevin's Show Within a Show "The Man-ny" is about, well, a male nanny.
  • Mind Screw: Brilliantly subverted by the pilot. The episode followed the storylines of three different families and barely made sense...until the ending showed that all the characters belonged to the same family.
  • Monochrome Past: In scenes where a young Jack is shown with his father, for example heading off for a Father/Son fishing trip (rainbow trout, no carp!) the past is shown with a moderate sepia tone effect.
  • Mr. Fanservice: What Kevin's primarily known for as an actor, which makes him unhappy since he's got higher aspirations for his career.
  • Mushroom Samba: Randall inadvertently drinks a magic-mushroom laced smoothie and starts hallucinating Jack. When Kevin and Kate find him outside staring at his hallucination, Kevin pauses to take a picture with his phone before making sure that Randall is okay.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Rebecca's mother doesn't appear to have ever really approved of Jack, making snide comments about his construction job and in "Pilgrim Rick", even the kids are fearful of her, pointing out how tense and uptight Rebecca becomes when they're in the presence of her parents.
  • Odd Name Out: Jack and Rebecca's kids are named Kevin, Kate, and Randall. Randall was initially named Kyle, the name originally intended for the triplet who died, but after she and Jack express some difficulty bonding with the baby and her secretly meeting William, the baby was given his own name, named for Williams's favorite poet, Dudley Randall.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Randall's biological mother died during childbirth, and William was so strung out on heroin that he couldn't even remember abandoning him at the fire station. Rebecca sussed him out shortly after she adopted Randall; he did want to be a part of his son's life as he sobered up, but she refused, largely fearing that he would take his son back.
    • Jack's abusive father walked out on him and his mother when Jack was a teen and after he prevented her from getting a beating. It says a lot that when Jack seeks him out, he hides his wedding ring and lies that the money he needs is for paying off gambling debt.
  • Parents as People: This show is basically Parents As People: The TV Show.
    • Rebecca gets this a lot. Throughout the Big Three's childhood, she is well aware that she usually has to play the bad cop while Jack is the infallible, fun and caring dad. This is even more compounded after his death; Jack is immortalized as a hero, and the kids continuously imagine how much better it would be if Jack were still alive, while Rebecca, who is alive, has to screw up over and over by constantly saying the wrong things, making poor decisions and overall doing things that the kids simply assume Jack would never do.
    • When Kevin is in rehab, Rebecca full-on admits that she loved Randall more, because he was "easier" to love. While most parents would never admit that they loved one child over another, Rebecca's angst at the reality – that Kevin recoiled from her and rejected her and she was too sensitive to take it in stride – is very true to life for many mothers.
    • Randall and Beth seem like perfect parents at the outset, but even they're not immune to this. Beth has a tendency to take her frustrations out on their kids, and many times they're so wrapped up in their world to notice things, like Tess's confusion about her sexuality or Deja's desire to see her birth mother.
    • Kate and Toby are very quickly becoming this as they learn to balance life, marriage and raising a baby with special needs.
  • Parent with New Paramour:
    • At some point after Jack's death, Rebecca married his friend Miguel.
    • Randall is a little uncomfortable about William's relationship with Jesse and fears he's being homophobic.
  • Playing Gertrude:
    • 32-year-old Mandy Moore is eight years younger than Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley, and is four years younger than Chrissy Metz. She has to wear aged-up makeup for Rebecca's scenes in 2016.note 
    • Brian Tyree Henry portrays William's estranged cousin Ricky in the 1970s and also dons old-age makeup to play him in the present day as he's about 20 years younger than Ron Cephas Jones.
    • In the 1997-1998 scenes, Jack and Rebecca look much more like a couple in their 30s as opposed to their 50s.
  • Premature Birth Drama: In season three, Kate gives birth to a son at 28 weeks and he has to be put in the NICU for awhile. The baby, named Jack after her father, later loses his sight at three months old.
  • Present-Day Past: When Kevin was watching a VHS home movie from 1997, the picture was crystal clear and appeared to be in full 1080 HD.
    • Inverted in “This Big, Amazing Beautiful Life.” The scenes of Deja’s toddlerhood took place in 2008-2009, but they have a 1970s-80s feel.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles:
    • The time-shifted actors of Kate, Kevin and Randall, Jon Huertas (Miguel Rivas), Alexandra Breckenridge (Sophie), Erin Baker (Tess Pearson), Faithre Herman (Annie Pearson) starting Season 2.
    • Melanie Liburd (Zoe Baker) and Lyric Ross (Deja Andrews) starting Season 3.
    • Griffin Dunne (present day Nicky Pearson) starting Season 4.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The show is definitely written from the Pearsons' point of view, with their emotional needs and wants superseding those of other characters. Examples of this would include Kevin bailing on the play and screwing Sloane over, Randall's hatred of Sanjay for no more than doing his job, Kate sneaking into Toby's ex-wife's life, and Rebecca's conniption in the grocery store. This is somewhat lampshaded in "The Fifth Wheel," when Beth, Toby, and Miguel all agree that marrying into the Pearson family required them to accept their high-maintenance ways.
    • Taken to an extreme in "The Waiting Room," where the writing seems to justify the Pearsons being complete dicks to the hospital staff and another person in the waiting room.
    • * As the show goes on, this is played with much more; the Pearsons come into situations where they seem to be in the wrong but forge on in a headstrong way; when it becomes so obvious that they’re wrong, another character will hang a lampshade, like Madison, who points out that Kate is being a bit selfish in how she perceives Toby’s grief, or in Dr. Leigh, Randall’s therapist, who calls out Randall’s coping mechanisms unhealthy (and he then proceeds to defy her anyway, even after what seems like a breakthrough).
  • Protagonist Title: Kevin is the titular protagonist of his Show Within a Show, "The Man-ny".
  • Racist Grandma: Rebecca's mother clearly favored Kate and Kevin, thus alienating Randall. Rebecca calls her this in the fourth episode of season 2 when her mother pushes her Berserk Button by saying she never thought Randall would be the one to get into private school. She gets a little better at the end.
  • Reality Ensues: Beth opens a dance studio in a city where she's never lived or taught. It's already a big financial gamble, but when COVID-19 forces in-person closures, after hanging on for a year, she finally accepts that it's time to close the business.
  • Really Gets Around: In his introductory scene, Kevin wakes up with two scantily-clad women, and watches them dance seductively for him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kevin finally gets fed up with Olivia's selfish behavior and calls her out on it, calling her an "empty human shell".
  • Replacement Goldfish: Played with. Randall fears that he might always have been this for the dead triplet. Kevin feeds into this feeling due to his resentment of Randall, which comes from his own fear that Randall is the upgrade for him. Jack, however, reassures Randall that he's always loved him in his own right, both in reality and in Randall's mushroom-induced hallucination.
  • Retreaux: Played with; a contemporary eye would assume Jack and Rebecca are simply hipsters with Seventies-inspired fashion sense, but they're actually two people living in that decade. As the decades carry over into The '80s and The '90s, their styles remain in the more realistic colors and trends, rather than the pop-culture depictions. In promotional photos and videos of the cast, the actors were dressed more plainly than the others, subtly hinting that their characters were not in the modern day.
  • Rewatch Bonus: If you rewatch the pilot again, the First-Episode Twist can be figured out from the hospital scenes as patient care and medical equipment are outdated by current medical standards.
  • Rich Genius: Randall is extremely wealthy due to his former job as a commodity futures trader. So wealthy, in fact that his family's financial status was completely unaffected by him spontaneously quitting his job and his wife Beth being laid off. He said in the pilot that he could randomly buy a 6-figure sports car because he felt like it.
  • Sex Equals Love: Kevin and Sloane
  • Safe Harbor: The reason why the pilot gets away with showing Milo Ventimiglia's nude rear in its opening shot.
  • Show Within a Show: The Man-ny, a multicam sitcom starring Kevin. He's seen on set in "behind-the-scenes" views that show the cameras and the studio audience. After Kevin's meltdown, he's replaced by Morris Chestnut.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Kevin and Randall had one as kids that extended to adults, but it's clear that both sides desperately want each other's respect and opinion but can't seem to get on the same page. The resentment from both sides results in a fight on the streets of New York that Seth Meyers inadvertently witnesses.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: If it weren't for Samantha convincing him that their marriage problems wouldn't have been solved with adopting baby Randall, Joe would have never brought him to the hospital and into the Pearsons' lives.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • Much like Dan Fogelman's 2011 film Crazy Stupid Love, this show features interconnected story lines and characters with a central theme: here, it's a group of people all born on the same day who are also revealed to be related to one another.
    • It's also one to Parenthood in the similar family saga vein and poignant moments.
    • For some older viewers, the show also harkens back to thirtysomething, about adults in their late 30s. (Ken Olin, who starred in Thirtysomething, serves as producer/director for This Is Us.)
  • Something Only They Would Say: In the season 4 finale, during a talk with Rebecca about her moving to New Orleans, she mentions the trial being a "financial investment" in her future. Kevin remembers that Randall said the exact thing to him earlier and realizes that Randall pushed Rebecca to take the medical trial for her early dementia.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: After William's death, Randall decides to quit slaving away at a job where he's underappreciated and live life according to his own terms.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "Pilgrim Rick", where the Pearson family attempts to have a somewhat normal Thanksgiving, but thanks to Rebecca's overly meticulous and passive-aggressive family, a broken down car, a dilapidated motel, and Rebecca keeping William a secret from Randall, things naturally don't go to plan. We learn throughout the episode how the various problems became holiday traditions for the family.
  • Third-Option Love Interest: Kevin is seen charming and flirting with Olivia and Sloane, only for him to reassess his life and realize that he really wants to reconnect with Sophie, the ex-wife that he married young and has been divorced from since they were 24.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn:
    • Baby Randall is incredibly clean and already has hair for a newborn abandoned at a fire station.
    • Baby Deja is also very large.
    • Averted with Baby Jack, who was born extremely premature and was portrayed by an at-times frighteningly realistic prop baby.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Jack's 70's beard is pretty thick; he grew it out after returning from Vietnam and meeting Rebecca. He trims it into a Porn Stache in the 1980s, which is the norm at the time, but still keeps the '70s Hair. In the 1990s, he keeps the mustache and a goatee while maintaining a decade-appropriate version of the shaggy hair. As Vulture helpfully listed, Jack's facial hair is the key to figuring out the correct time period.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Due to the Anachronic Order style of the show, this is needed.
    • Kevin, Kate, and Randall are played by three different sets of actors: the present day adults, the 1990s teenagers, and the 1980s children.
      • Another set of toddlers is added in Season 4.
    • 1960s-1970s William is played by Jermel Nakia.
    • Vietnam-era Nicky is portrayed by Michael Angarano; present-day Nicky is not aged up like Moore and Ventimiglia but instead is played by Griffin Dunne.
  • Token Trio: The Pearson siblings. Kevin is the white male, Kate is the white female, and Randall is the nonwhite male.
  • Tomato Surprise: The pilot starts off with a big one, revealing that the expectant parents are having their children in the 70s and are the parents of the other main characters of the story.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Somehow, some way, Randall is able to commute to and from Philadelphia almost daily for his campaign, despite living 100 miles away in Alpine, New Jersey.
  • Turn of the Millennium: Flashbacks to the Pearson kids' twenties are set throughout the decade.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: After finally revealing how Jack died, the show starts a new storyline about an adult Tess sometime in the 2030s.
  • Twin Telepathy: Kevin and Kate occasionally share moments of thinking alike or sensing each other's emotions. When little Kate was hospitalized with appendicitis on Christmas Eve, little Kevin can be seen in the hospital waiting room clutching his side where the appendix is.
  • The Unfavorite: As a child, Kevin felt that his parents neglected him, with Jack trying to boost Kate's self-confidence and Rebecca trying to make Randall feel more accepted as her son. When the family heads to the pool, Kevin nearly drowned in the deep end trying to get Jack's attention and even yells at him for not watching him. As an adult, he bitterly calls out Randall for being Rebecca's favorite. Kevin's feelings about not being paid enough attention as a child is probably the reason he became an actor as an adult.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: Jack has to borrow money from his abusive father when Rebecca is pregnant.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Jack's death, along with the house burning down is ultimately caused by the faulty switch on the slow cooker Jack and Rebecca got from the old couple whose house they bought.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Kevin's always being made to show off his body on The Man-ny, and has a meltdown about it when the director instructs him to take off his shirt during a live taping.
  • Weight Woe: Kate suffers from this, and attends a support group for overweight people. Side character Madison annoys Kate for being an obviously skinny girl at her support group, only for Kate to find out she's bulimic.
  • Well, This Is Not That Trope: Randall hopes that his sheer desire to impress his children at Career Day will make him an Instant Expert at singing and playing piano. Unfortunately for all, he comes up embarrassingly short.
    Randall: You know how in movies, somebody’s bad at something but they don’t wanna be. And so they set their mind to it. And then we see this montage where they are practicing and practicing. And then comes the big moment, and they’re amazing, and everybody cheers.
    William: I think I’ve seen a few movies like that, yeah.
    Randall: I think I skipped the montage.
  • Wham Line:
    • When Randall introduces the elder Rebecca to William, she asks they be left alone to talk. As soon as Randall leaves, William says to Rebecca "you look well," revealing that he and Rebecca have actually met before without Randall knowing it.
    • In-universe for Jack and Rebecca as Miguel and Shelly announce to them over mutual dinner that they're getting divorced.
    • On their anniversary, Rebecca quietly tells Jack, "The band just booked a five-state tour. I think I want to go", indicating that cracks are beginning to show in the marriage.
    • One of the new characters introduced in the Season 4 premiere is a blind singer, whose identity is revealed when Kate and Toby are informed that their prematurely born son Jack is permanently blind, followed by his name being spoken for the first time as he takes the stage.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In the pilot—The firefighter who left the baby at the hospital lights up a cigarette. And then a Walter Cronkite news broadcast pulls back to reveal hospital staff and patients dressed in '70s attire, meaning Jack turned thirty-six in 1980; Kevin, Kate, and Randall are his children, and their stories are showing their present day lives as adults.
    • In the second episode: Present-day Rebecca is married to Jack's best friend Miguel while still wearing the necklace Jack gave her. Randall's kids call them "Grandma and Grandpa".
    • The start of the third episode as Rebecca and Jack are leaving the hospital and she sees William, revealing they knew each other all along.
    • Jack's urn when Toby asks Kate if he could meet her dad.
    • In the first midseason finale Toby collapsing in the living room after Christmas dinner.
    • In the season two premiere, the burned Pearson house on the night of Jack's death.
    • The smoke detector with the batteries missing in "Clooney".
    • After finally revealing the story behind Jack’s death, the show introduces its new twist as an older Randall greets the social worker we saw earlier in the season telling a young boy a foster family has been found for him, revealing her to be an adult Tess.
    • The final moments of the Season 5 finale - we jump ahead five years, and get two back-to-back bombshells as we learn that Kate and Toby will divorce, and Kate is about to marry Phillip, the teacher she works with.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: After Randall calls out William for abandoning him and invites him to meet his family, William reveals that he's slowly dying from stage-four stomach cancer, which is rarely caught early enough to be successfully treated even in healthy people. He was given three months to live—six months ago.


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