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This Is Us' final season feels like another end of an era for network TV

  • The sixth and final season is a "bittersweet moment for NBC and broadcast TV in general," says Michael Schneider. "This Is Us was an out-of-the-box smash, the kind that doesn’t come along often, and definitely not these days at the networks. The drama and ABC’s also-retiring comedy Black-ish represent two of the last broadcast series to achieve any sort of major recognition at the Primetime Emmys and other awards shows — another reason this feels a bit like one of those 'end of an era' moments for legacy media." As Schneider points out, "the entire television business has undergone a seismic shift since This Is Us debuted on NBC in (September) 2016. When (creator Dan) Fogelman first began pitching the series, streaming was in its infancy and fall TV launches came with major fanfare, and there was much higher awareness even for shows without major preexisting IP. At the time, prestige TV was still emerging from its dark, antihero era. Family dramas without a gritty edge weren’t getting much traction in primetime anymore. This Is Us flew in the face of that, bringing relationship-driven series back to the forefront." This Is Us star Mandy Moore remembers being told early on that This Is Us' success signaled the end of an era. “Like: ‘This is the last monolith as network television," she says. "You guys are a part of something really special.’ Who knows if that’s really going to be the case. But it does feel like that in certain respects. I mean, our viewing habits have changed.” Fellow This Is Us star Chrissy Metz adds: “We were actually one of the shows that people would stand around when we were (still) at our watercoolers at the offices, talking to each other and wanting to watch it week to week instead of bingeing it.” 


    • Creator Dan Fogelman says he's not interested in This Is Us spinoffs or reboots: Fogelman says he's asked about extending This Is Us into a franchise multiple times a day. He even had talks with 20th Television. But he's not interested. “Once you’ve seen the completion of Season 6, the stories of these characters are told,” he says. “So there is no real spinoff because you kind of know everything. Is there another play for the show? I guess you’d never say never, but I don’t see it. It’s personal to me, and I don’t see myself picking this thing back up.”
    • Fogelman explains how the Challenger disaster influenced the Season 6 premiere and the series: "I was close to 36 years old when I first sat down to write the series," says Fogelman. "By the time it actually got made and put on television, I was a couple of years older than the characters. So, these characters were like 6, 7 and I was more like 9-10. I had a very blessed childhood, growing up, a pretty normal childhood in Pittsburgh, where grandparents, including a set of grandparents who had divorced and gotten remarried, nobody had died. I had not experienced a lot of personal loss, and so, that experience of watching the Challenger explode on national television in a classroom when I was a kid was a really early moment of trauma for a lot of kids who hadn’t experienced personal loss yet. It’s hard to just accomplish it in one episode of television, but at that time — and everybody who’s seen it who’s roughly of the same generation as I am remembers that experience very viscerally — the television being wheeled into the room and then quickly being shut off when the teachers realized what was happening and wheeled out of the room; it was very formative. I can’t even speak to what it did to me as much as just I do have a really tangible memory of it where I was sitting in the room when it happened. In order to really understand it, you have to understand that kids at that time, we had been fed at school, it was such a big deal that this teacher was going up into space. We had had a lot of time sitting and getting educated about it and about her, and so it was very personal to a whole generation, I think, of American kids, when it happened, who were of that age."
    • Fogelman explains the "slow build" for the Big Three in the final season: "I think we have a tendency when we’re viewing marriages disintegrating on film or television that it can be so ugly, because so many parts of it are," says Fogelman. "With time, and because the show has the ability to span time, maybe there’s the opportunity to see different shavings of things — how certain relationships lead to future relationships and how certain things lead to other things. And while everybody talks about how much they cry when they watch this television show and how sad it can be, we’ve always kind of smiled because I’ve always found the show to be wildly optimistic about human nature, about people in general, and hopefully we can bring a part of that to what Toby and Kate are going through this season."
    • Season 6 is This Is Us' most ambitious season: "By the end, it may be the most ambitious," says Fogelman, adding: "How we're playing with the form to get to the point where I've wanted to get to since the beginning has required a lot of planning. What we're asking of some of the actors — particularly Mandy Moore right now — is beyond ambitious. I'm hesitant to say (that Season 6 is) more emotional, because then there's 9,000 things about how much people cry [laughs], but as the season builds and builds, and as you feel it come to an end, I think you're going to feel the weight of that emotion as well."
    • If there’s one thing This Is Us excels at, it’s knowing its characters inside and out: "And that’s the quality that’s most on display in this poignant, funny, melancholy premiere," says Caroline Siede. "In fact, I love that I can spend this whole review just digging into character stuff like that without having to hash out some big twist and what it means for the future of the show. The only twist here is that there is no twist. This premiere doesn’t revisit the future timeline where Rebecca is on her deathbed or even the near future timeline where Kate is marrying her boss Philip (which was the major reveal of last season’s finale). Instead, 'The Challenger' confidently deploys the classic This Is Us template of present-day storylines for the whole Pearson family with a relevant flashback to their past."
    • Chrissy Metz says the final season, as a whole, "will be the most emotional": "Because we are seeing so much take place, whether it's with Rebecca or a relationship such as Kate and Toby's," she says. "Also, there's already heightened emotion because it's the last season, so I definitely think it will be the most emotional. But also there's going to be a lot of contentment."
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    TOPICS: This Is Us, NBC, Chrissy Metz, Dan Fogelman, Mandy Moore