In the first moments of Tuesday evening It’s us First, Madison (Caitlin Thompson) confides in Kevin (Justin Hartley) about her stress of being pregnant with twins at this particular time. “It feels like everything is happening when the world is falling apart,” she says.
“The virus thing?” he replies, dating the events of the two-hour two-hour premiere to the spring part when the coronavirus was heading to America. “Madison, believe me, I’m a movie star. I think if there was really something to worry about my agent would… ”He stops because he’s interrupted by a phone call – and also, possibly, the reality of what exactly is to come.
And thus launches what will be, from a pop-culture point of view, our new normal. Or, depending on how you watch it – and your feelings about this show – our new nightmare.
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The first draft pandemic program has been completed. Scripted shows at the start of the lockdown, filmed using Zoom videos, or self-propelled to performers documented the first, often awkward and subjectively obnoxious attempts to dramatize these unprecedented times for television.
Love in the time of Corona, Coastal elites, Connection…, and Social distance were admirable experiences, albeit uneven. These efforts struggled to quell the searing storm of emotions and fears of those early spring months, but were unable to keep up with the pace and escalation of it all, often becoming either scenic or flattering.
But now we have TV shows back in production on real settings. We have beloved longtime series returning that are forced to consider how the pandemic would change the lives of the characters we have followed and loved. COVID is expected to consider a series of returning fall TV series, including Grey’s Anatomy and Hypermarket, who will both tell how essential workers are affected. And It’s us could be the first big fan favorite to return with the coronavirus as a major character.
At the end of the season five premiere, this first exchange of dialogue between Madison and Kevin ended up feeling like a fitting introduction to how the drama series was going to handle COVID in its storylines.
The instinct is to flinch when Kevin drops “the virus?” bombshell, such a visceral name check given everything that’s going on, it’s like he’s just uttered your own name and transported you to the show. And if your gut feeling is to look at the delusional, in retrospect, the way it initially downplays its seriousness, this probably won’t be the last you ride them.
The episode accelerates the naivety of the character’s attitudes in the first few months of the pandemic, weaves its way through exaggerated social distancing protocols that allow the family to be together, and ends up calling a true BINGO map of trauma. of the seven months. since the last broadcast of the series. (Even the underestimation of the One day at a time the reboot gets airtime, though the episode doesn’t already feel like a surreal mirror room.)
That said, there is something significantly different about seeing COVID introduced to a series that already existed, rather than watching one of these new shows centered around it. It may even be more appetizing.
One of the consequences of the last seven months of separation from loved ones, not to mention illness and death, is that people think more about their family: how much they miss them and how the memories should stay. together . So there’s something unmistakably emotional about watching those same things reflected in the Pearsons.
“And now we live in a world where Tom Hanks being the first celebrity to contract COVID is a conspiracy on “This Is Us”.“
It’s us: Once a cryfest, always a cryfest. You can imagine how a pandemic releases the tap of those tears.
The CliffsNotes version of the setup from the premiere is that, as previously mentioned, Kevin and Madison are expecting twins after an overnight fling. Her own twin sister – and Madison’s best friend – Kate (Chrissy Metz) adopts a second child with Toby.
Mum Rebecca (Mandy Moore) is showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and Pearson Big Three third pillar Randall (Sterling K. Brown) doesn’t talk to Kevin after an explosive fight in the season finale previous one that ended with, “Pass your hand to God, Randall, the worst thing that happened to me was the day they brought you home.” Yowza!
It’s a bird’s nest of intrigues even before we introduce a pandemic.
We see Randall’s children exchanging rumors about the severity of the virus. Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) sounds an alarm when she reads that Tom Hanks has been diagnosed. “Hanks in the crown ?!” Randall asks incredulously. Her daughter Deja echoes the gravity: “People are going to wake up now.” And now we live in a world where Tom Hanks being the first celebrity to contract COVID is conspiring to It’s us.
It takes about four minutes for the first “oh my god that’s a It’s us character wearing a mask ‘moment to happen, and, truth be told, it’s so shocking to see. From there, it’s a Who’s Who of early pandemic talking points, as dramatized by the Pearsons: six-foot outdoor encounters, hand sanitizer, PPE, business loans, quarantines, lockdowns that last longer. than anyone thought, zooms in, virtual therapy sessions, the Karen people, crumbling finances, then most dramatic: the Black Lives Matter movement.
In what is perhaps the most touching thread woven into the first two hours, Randall and Beth are shaken by the death of George Floyd. This forces Randall to grapple with his feelings about his racial identity having grown up as the adopted son of a white family. His family, mostly Kate, don’t know how to express their grief for him, although Kate makes the white girl mistake of throwing the emotional labor on Randall. Their forthright talk about it is possibly the strongest scene in the episode.
There are flashbacks to the day Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca went to the hospital so she could give birth, which is also the day Randall was born and left at the door of a fire station. As they become entangled, you learn more about Randall’s parents, especially his mother, and what that day was like to them than you did in previous seasons. This leads to a last second twist that is juicy, even though it is extremely soapy.
But the centerpiece of the two hours is the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Big Three, a celebration that takes place a) in a pandemic and b) without Randall, who is too angry with Kevin and still grappling with his feelings in the aftermath. . of George Floyd’s murder to attend.
If your first question is, “How do they justify this birthday party where the whole family (without Randall) is gathered in a cabin?” so rest assured the show is running so feverishly to explain it you can practically see the sweat.
There’s a frenzied explanation of who was tested, when and for how long they were quarantined together and who is six feet from whom. It’s the TV drama version of that tweet from Kim Kardashian from earlier in the afternoon – or, you know, all the friends you have who post selfies on a trip to the beach with 10 friends with a monologue caption explaining why this is somehow safe.
It doesn’t mean anything about the somewhat infuriating, albeit meta-meta, experience of watching actors on set together, meaning they’ve been treated with intense and expensive COVID testing protocols in order to come back. to a semblance of their normal. Meanwhile, so many essential people who need rapid testing don’t have access to them, and we’ve been watching them all from our continued lockdowns amid warnings from local politicians not to travel to see family while on vacation.
But it’s part of this new standard. If we’re going to watch any scripted dramas that take place in the present day, it’s going to have to be the floor gymnastics routine that explains how any situation where two characters are together is possible … and it’s unlikely that many will. stick to that. landing. Yet my understanding is that gymnastics scoring includes bonus points for the degree of difficulty, and a company like this wins the scoring curve.
It wasn’t that long ago that scripted TV series never recognized real world events and news, and certainly not in real time. Popular New York-based shows that have been credited with bringing some healing after 9/11 –friends, Gender and city, Law and order, or even NYPD Blue– did not recognize him in their plots in any way. And if for years there have been replacements for “Trump” and “Clinton” in legal and political drama, it is only after The good fight broke the roadblock that other series have started to call the current administration by name and specific atrocities.
Who knows what “too early” or “too real” reactions viewers might have – or not – to their favorite returning shows in the face of a pandemic that is still turning their lives upside down.
At first, it’s scandalous to hear the indelible acoustic flicker that makes so many It’s us, so twee and manipulative, behind conversations about mask wearing, PPE distribution and Black Lives Matter protests. If you already had an allergy to It’s us‘specific tone, which will likely send you into anaphylactic shock.
On the other hand, maybe It’s us is a great series for this first COVID outing. It has a way of falling asleep in a total emotional collapse. And if that isn’t a timely vibe, I don’t know what it is.
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