All There in the Manual: In the years that take place after Kate's second wedding, the years are never specified. However, Mandy Moore shared the official prop or the funeral booklet for Rebecca done by show creators, which confirms that Rebecca died in 2033 at the age of 82. While the time of year is not specified, this means:
Jack Damon is 13-14 years old;
Hailey, Nick, and Franny are 12-13;
The Big Three are all 52-53;
Beth is 51
Déja is 27-28 and Malik is 29-30;
Tess is 24-25;
Nicky is approximately 85
Rebecca lived another seven years after Kate's second wedding;
Since Fogelman has stated that the Adult Jack Damon scenes take place 12 years after Rebecca passes, this means it is 2045 and Jack meets Lucy at age 26. When Kate, Toby, Phillip and Lauren watch his show, they are all in their mid-60s.
After lots of griping about how the actress for teenage Kate is clearly not overweight, it's eventually revealed that during this period she actually had gotten to a healthy weight, but relapsed from it as she didn't feel any better like she was expecting. Explored further with the fact that after Jack's death, she starts binge eating. In the first few months, she gains 25 pounds. The actress starts wearing padding during this period.
After all the controversy over Toby not being played by a real overweight actor as noted below, they made sure to hire a genuinely blind actor to play the adult Jack Damon in Season 4. The same season also features genuine stroke victim Timothy Omundson playing a character who’s disabled for the same reason, who was created specifically for him.
Several sites including The AV Club have pointed out that throughout Season 3 and especially Season 4, the show is much more self-aware than it's given credit for and seems fully aware that the Pearsons are often selfish, short-sighted and very emotionally unhealthy. Taken to extremes in "After The Fire" when Randall imagines a schmaltzy, perfect future for himself if Jack had survived the fire – and his therapist rightly calls him out on what he's really projecting. He then imagines a nightmare, worst-case scenario, and the therapist still detects some extremely unhealthy coping mechanisms there. Three seasons ago, Randall would have been seen as The Woobie, but the show has gradually shown that no character is completely straightforward or sympathetic.
It's also defied the initial characterization that the show lionized Jack as the ultimate hero dad; the third and fourth seasons start to examine the ways in which the Big Three's idolization and perfect view of their dad has been extremely unhealthy for them, and how a lot of the advice he gave them during formative years actually developed them into adults with terrible coping mechanisms.
Immediately after the reveal of Laurel's survival in the Season 5 premiere, Dan Fogelman openly announced the very next day that further details about the twist would not be dragged out for years like Jack's death and the identity of "her" (not least because the show now had a definite endpoint to be working towards). He also stated in no uncertain terms that this was the very last time the show would do such a twist, nipping any jokes about "Whoops, turns out Jack survived the fire" in the bud.
A bit later, the season went even further in this direction, as after a winter cliffhanger that Kate got pregnant as a teenager, the very first line after it came back from hiatus casually reveals that she got an abortion.
After many questioned how Beth had managed to get her dance studio up and running seemingly to a point of profitability within one season, and that her and Randall's relative lack of stress about money during the fourth season was unrealistic, Beth's livelihood was among the hardest hit by COVID. By the fifth season, it's a major problem for the family.
The story of Tess' coming out had gotten some grumblings for years that Randall and Beth don't actually seem to be handling it nearly as well as the show wants us to think. Season 5 has Tess finally call Beth out for it, and acknowledges that while she's clearly making a good effort, refuses to let her off the hook for how it shouldn't take that much work to have the same attachment with Tess as her other daughters.
Season 5 finally acknowledges how Kevin has built up a reputation for walking out on his commitments, no matter how justified each one was.
Even though the reveal of Laurel, Randall's birth mother, surviving her OD was still considered one of the biggest Ass Pull moves the show has ever pulled, the episode "Birth Mother" which reveals her story was one of the most well-reviewed episodes of Season 5, and Randall's moment of closure with his mother's ghost was considered a satisfying conclusion to what could have been an otherwise awful plot.
Two of the things the show has been criticized for occasionally by activists – adoption and weight – were addressed in more nuanced ways in the fifth and sixth season respectively.
For adoption, particularly transracial adoption, the show finally touches on the fact that not all adoptees feel immense gratitude toward their adoptive families, even those who love their adoptive families deeply. Randall's experience and telling Kevin that no one ever considered that he didn't get a choice in being adopted, as well as the stories of the other adoptees in his support group, show that it's much more complicated than simply telling someone to be grateful for being "chosen." The group also highlights the reality that transracial adoptees often lose their language, their cultures and practices, and other connections to who they are when they're adopted – and how processing these emotions can hurt their relationships with their adoptive families.
For weight, one of the biggest criticisms of Kate's character is that she is seemingly always defined by her weight and that there are so many plots about her trying to lose weight. As the series goes on, we not only see that her weight gain in her twenties was largely a trauma response – losing Jack and dealing with her relationship with Mark – but also see her confront the fact that shaming herself away from food didn't do her any good. She and Toby develop different views about weight – Toby wants his children to avoid gaining weight because he doesn't want them to be bullied for it, but Kate fears that if her children grow up with sugar and "bad" foods being taboo they won't have healthy relationships with food. The episode with this argument also shows how Kate, Rebecca and her mother all dealt with food shame at some point in their lives – and the future scenes show that Jack Damon and Hailey are both in relatively good shape, demonstrating that just because Kate let them eat sweets doesn't mean they grew up chubby.
Mandy Moore's acting career went very low key after the flop of License to Wed, as she again focused more on her singing with only Tangled getting her noticed, until she considered retiring from it. Then her performance on this show received a ton of praise and got a lot of speculation going on how she could build off it.
Milo Ventimiglia, to a lesser extent. After Heroes ended, the only high-profile thing he did after that was a supporting role in the reviled Adam Sandler comedy That's My Boy. Ventimiglia stuck to doing some low-profile work in indie movies and appeared in some short-lived TV series before This is Us made him a star again.
Cast the Expert: A behind the scenes case, as all the Vietnam War material was written by Tim O'Brien, a veteran of the war who went on to great acclaim for his semi-autobiographical novels and short stories about it.
Channel Hop: In the UK, the first two seasons aired onMore4, before becoming an Amazon Prime exclusive with episodes being released as they aired in America, with the final season being simultaneously released on Prime and Star (Disney+) two days after each episode premiered on NBC.
Content Leak: After the first airing of "Day of the Wedding", which ended on a cliffhanger revealing Kevin spent time with Sophie, Cassidy, and Arielle (the wedding singer) the night before Kate's wedding and driving up the drama about which one of those three women will be Kevin's wife, Ken Olin posted a photo from flashforward filming with only Sophie present, seemingly confirming she will be Kevin's wife in the future.
Deleted Scene: Just a few days before "The 20's" aired came Anthony Rapp's accusations that Kevin Spacey had molested him at a party, causing the crew to hastily cut a scene where Kevin's roommate offers to take him to a party at Spacey's. Apparently the crew seems to think that Canada exists in a bubble since the scene was left intact for the Canadian airing.
Blind theater actor Blake Stadnik makes his onscreen acting debut as the blind character Jack Damon. Though unlike the character, he had six years of sight rather than being blind from birth.
Timothy Omundson, who two years earlier suffered a stroke that physically affected him so much that he now refers to himself as "Timothy 2.0," has his first acting role since it happened as a man who similarly has just recently started to recover from a devastating stroke.
Dyeing for Your Art: Before the show premiered, Milo Ventimiglia was sporting a thick mustache and long hair, which had a lot of media outlets puzzled until the pilot premiered and revealed that because Jack is from the 1970s and 1980s, the shaggy hair and mustache is period appropriate. As he joked to Chelsea Handler:
Milo: [Dan Fogelman] walked around, asking every female in the office if she liked it or didn't like it in more explicit terms. Chelsea: You can use those terms. Milo: "Do you want to fuck Milo, yes?" or "Do you want to fuck Milo, no?" And it was split right down the middle!
Enforced Method Acting: In a deleted or hidden video clip on Entertainment Weekly's website, Milo said he had to change the babies' diapers for real while filming because they really did need their diapers changed.
While most viewers didn't recognize the twist ending, some were able to figure out that Randall had to be somehow related to the others because of the whole birthday concept and the fact that he's the only main character of color among the predominantly white cast. It's the fact that Jack and Rebecca are their parents and lived during a different time period that caught everyone.
After the Wham Shot of Miguel and Rebecca, most viewers were already guessing that Jack was dead, especially after a line William said in the pilot appeared to have referenced Jack in the past tense. Episode 5 confirmed that he did pass away and Kate keeps his ashes on her mantle.
Quite a few fans called that the reason Kate blames herself for her father’s death was because he stayed in the burning house to save her dog rather than escaping with the others.
Most fan communities guessed that Kevin would end up with Sophie in the end.
No one was surprised when Miguel was out-lived by Rebecca despite being much healthier than her. There's Truth in Television in this since most able-bodied caregivers for Alzheimer's and Dementia patients end up declining physically very rapidly while giving care, since they tend to neglect themselves, as Miguel does.
Meaningful Release Date: The episode "Super Bowl Sunday" premiered on a Super Bowl Sunday, specifically Super Bowl LII.
Additionally, footage from the actual game can be seen playing on the TV in the background during one scene.
An episode of Will & Grace. In "The Wedding," Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) claims to have a foolproof method to find the one gay cop out of a group of cops. He asks them one by one what their favorite show is. Most of them predictably say The Wire. But Officer Drew (Ryan Pinkston) says his favorite show is This Is Us. Soon Jack and Drew hook up in the men's room. By the way, Officer Murphy is played by Jack McGee, who has so far appeared on one episode of This Is Us.
An episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that first aired in June 2022, promising an even sadder seventh season of This Is Us in which every single episode is a funeral.
Troubled Production: The episode "There" went through some especially huge COVID-related production issues, resulting in the show going on an unplanned hiatus for nearly a month, just two episodes after it returned from the winter hiatus. Then another hiatus was forced just a few episodes later when Mandy Moore went on maternity leave, so Rebecca wouldn't be completely absent from the rest of the season.
A line was cut from the pilot that casually revealed Jack was no longer alive in the present, turning his status into a mystery for a few episodes.
Present day Rebecca was going to be a separate actress, but Mandy Moore quickly convinced the crew she could do it.
The decision to integrate the COVID-19 Pandemic into the show rather than pretend it didn't exist forced some significant changes to the story plans. Most notably, Kevin and Randall's big argument is rendered All for Nothing when the dementia drug trial is cancelled, and the changes in how doctor visits work prevented their plans for Kevin and Madison to keep meeting with Eli and his horse-whispering daughter.
After the scene of Randall talking with Mr. Rogers in Season 5, the producers stated that they'd had the possibility for such a scene in mind from the start due to his show being filmed in Pittsburgh, but it took that long to figure out the best and most meaningful way to do it.
A few months after the series finale, Alexandra Breckenridge confirmed in an interview that the original plan for her return was for her to become pregnant, suggesting Kevin’s “pregnant fiancee” teased in Season 4 was supposed to be Sophie and not Madison. This plan was changed due to her commitments to Virgin River.
Dan Fogelman stated that while Kate followed Kevin to Los Angeles as he pursued his acting career, Randall stayed behind on the East Coast to stay close to their parents.
At the start of Season 4, Fogelman specified that the Jack Damon storyline takes place twelve years after the future scenes in the previous two seasons.
Following the airing of "Katoby", Dan Fogelman admitted that the production had intended to have Alexandra Breckenridge appear as Sophie during Season 5 and 6, but COVID protocols meant that it wasn’t feasible due Breckinridge’s role on Virgin River. Ultimately, Breckinridge would wrap production on Virgin River in time to reprise her role over the remaining episodes of the series.