NBC’s “This is Us” finds relatable levity in gravity…

Okay, so there’s a show I really enjoy on NBC. It’s one of a few that’s caught my eyes this season.

This one’s called “This is Us.” I’m about five recaps late to this party, but no me importa, it still gets mad love.  “This is Us” toggles back and forth between the present day and, I want to say, the 1980s.  Maybe the cusp of the 70s and 80s.  Now that I think of it… it looks like some of those short-shorts… Yeah, they came from the early 80s. And in one flashback episode, one character was touting her Care Bears bikini as if it were the sh!# like Underoos were back in the dizz-ay.

But anyway, the show toggles back and forth between the 1980s and the present day.  It’s about a husband and wife, and their three children.  So, the first scene opens with a woman, Rebecca (played by Mandy Moore) who is very pregnant. With triplets. Rebecca and her husband Jake (Milo Ventimiglia) are in what looks like their sparsely furnished home on his birthday. Rebecca’s so very, very pregnant, and he wants her to do this little sexy dance. Imagine: she’s not feeling it at all probably because of her triple-packed uterus. Oh the humanity (inside). She starts to indulge him, but her water breaks. All goes well… until it doesn’t. One of their babies dies.  So now Jake shares glory and tragedy with his triplets:  The birthday of a girl and boy, and the death day of a son.

So into the hospital nursery comes a baby, a freshly-born little black boy whose drugged-out daddy (cliche) dropped him off in front of a fire house.  After Rebecca and Jake lose one third of their triplets, they decide to adopt and raise this little boy, Kyle, as their own. That’s what they called him at first. In one episode, there was even a line about giving each of their three kids names that start with K. “

Kevin, Kate and Kyle. All Ks,” Jake proclaimed to the doctor.

The issue seems a little obvious to me, but different realities, different perspectives. I love that line. Why? Because it doesn’t overtly preach against the obvious OBLIVIOUSNESS “Kyle’s” parents.  The obvious reason (to me) why it might not be a good idea to name their three kids K names, especially when one of them is black, remains unsaid.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, maybe not. Thankfully, “Kyle’s” biological dad, William (Ron Cephas Jones) comes up with a better suggestion.  Randall.


Back at one

In the first episode, Randall, a grown up Randall that is—finds his biological father. From what I understand, he had a PI look for him. Randall showed up at his biological dad’s home—some teeny rat-trap looking apartment, and essentially told him:

 Hey, I’ve been fine without you. Look at the car I drive. I paid cash for it because I wanted to.  I just wanted to let you know that I did fine without you and I paid cash ‘cause I have it like that.

And his dad just looked at him. At that moment, I wondered if they would get into a spat, wondered if the William was going to make excuses. That’s what I expected him to do. Excuses about why he wasn’t there for Randall, why he dropped him off at a firehouse but he remains fault free.

Randall’s dad said “You want to come in?”

Blew my expectations.

“Yes,” Randall replied and walked in.

Blew my expectations, again.

The moment was so human to me. The writers, directors and actors took a serious interaction and infused a little comedy into it. I’ve had those moments in my life.

For example…   when my mom’s mother died , my sister and I were sitting in one of the front two pews at our church. We were holding hands, were crying, sniffling and everything like that.  T’was a very sad occasion.  Our grandmother passed away and she was pretty young as far as grandmothers go.  Later on we recapped the day’s events, ’cause of course at black funerals you always have somebody who, goes wild-n-out and drama crying.  But in this case, I don’t recall that kind of carrying on, because folks on mom’s side of the family don’t tend to express emotions that way in public.

We saw our cousins, got a chance to hang out with them, which was fun.

When my sister and I talked over all our observations, and compared notes, we struck a chord.

“Girrrrrlll did you notice that FINE organist?”

Yup, we seent (saw) that dude through our individual tears at that very solemn, serious, extremely sad moment.  Grandma’s eyes were permanently shut. Not ours.  Our  eyes still worked. And we couldn’t deny fine… even at her funeral.

So that was an extremely funny moment with thoughts some ultra straight-laced human might find reprehensible.  Just because we noticed the fine organist didn’t mean we were disrespecting our grandmother.  Now it would be wack if, during the service, my 18-year-old sister and my 14 year old self were both talking bout “Ooo he fine, After the fernerul imma give him my number.” First of all, we were too young. At least I was.  There was propriety, but, as I said earlier, our eyes were not sewn shut.

So, again, like this moment on This is Us, it takes a serious snapshot and infuses it with humor, which is one of the things I like about the show. It’s not the only moment.  So fast-forward to episode 4, an episode where Randall’s father was going out and about walking in the neighborhood. Randall, his wife and kids live in a mostly white neighborhood. And Randall’s neighbors get concerned about this, you know, random-looking dude wondering around in their streets. Of course he wasn’t merely wandering around. He had been taking a daily morning walk for the week that he been staying with his biological son.  But his neighbors didn’t know who William was. So they called the neighborhood security guy. So Randall explained that William was staying with him.

Afterwards, Randall took William  shopping for some new clothes. And so they go into the store, a pretty straight-laced casual place that probably sold  $90 khakis  you could probably wash every day for 50 years and they would still hold together.

And so Randall said to his dad “OK so are we going to talk about it or are we just going to ignore this like it’s not happening?”

“I’m not sure what you mean,” William replies. So Randall broke it down for him. It was the race issue and being a black man in America. Randall essentially told William

 You think that just because I grew up in a white home and I had some of these advantages that I don’t know what it’s like to be a black man in America.  You think I don’t notice that the salesman has been eyeing us since we got it to the store, and the security guard is slightly off his mark just so he can also keep an eye on us. You think I don’t notice things like that just because how and where I grew up? Please. I’m so woke.

Randall told William he’s actually noticed these things his whole life.  And that was his “I got money but I know what it’s like to be black in America,” speech.

So after Randall got that off his chest, he commanded his dad  “So go try on the straight, flat-front chinos, I think those will work well.”

Yeah. Once again, the show and fuses serious situations with just a little bit of humor and sometimes it’s the right touch of levity. While they’re addressing heavy topics, it doesn’t trivialize them.

Kinda reminds me that when I’m dealing with difficult situations with people that I love, like my grandmother’s funeral so long ago. We also infuse humor while dealing with hard times. It’s just how we roll.  That be we.

Please follow and like Planet Noun: