NBC’s “This is Us” sets the standard for successful storytelling

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ne of the most important skills in communications is being able to captivate an audience. With the mass amount of entertainment and content being published daily, cutting through the noise is challenging. NBC’s hit show “This is Us has become the storytelling sensation of the season with almost 13 million people tuning in weekly, exceeding viewership of any other season premier this year.

“This is Us” gives communications students some valuable lessons as to how they can be better storytellers. The show has captured America because of its impressive ability to get individuals invested in a story. If you haven’t watched “This is Us”, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. Grab a box of tissues and be ready for all the feels.

The show follows the life of the Pearson family, Jack and Rebecca and their triplets Kate, Kevin and Randall, through the different struggles of an average American family. The show flashes back and forth from the triplets birth and adolescence to the “present day” adulthood. With these heart-wrenching experiences at the core of the show, “This is Us” showcases three attributes communications students should apply in their storytelling endeavors.

This is Emotional

 There is a very fine line between high impact emotional content and cliché and sappy narratives when it comes to storytelling. Communications students must learn how to appeal to emotion without manipulating or coming across as overly dramatic. “This Is Us” takes the story of Jack and Rebecca and highlights the struggles and joys found in every marriage. It portrays the real pain Randall faces with perfectionism and the overwhelming disappointments of Kate’s weight loss journey. Viewers understand these issues all too well, because in these character’s struggles, they see themselves.

Actor Gerald McRaney, who plays the triplet’s doctor in season one said, “At their core, these (the Pearson’s) are good, decent people. I think a lot of people in the country want to be reminded of the goodness that’s in us.”

Watching “This is Us” can be an emotional roller coaster- but it’s also showcases the best storytelling of the year. Photo Credit: Sarah matheson

“This is Us”fills a deep emotional need in society today. It is reminding viewers that despite the emotional struggles we all face, we can rise up and conquer.

 This is Innovative

Many think that to break through the noise of hundreds of movies and TV shows, you have to reinvent the storytelling wheel. Innovation in storytelling is strongest when it is built on the successful tactics of the past, but with a little twist.

Star Tribune TV critic Neal Justin said, “‘This Is Us’ breaks many rules: Jumping back and forth in time, leaving major characters on the sidelines for entire episodes, making time for long, uninterrupted monologues that a short-attention-span audience isn’t supposed to sit still for.”

Show writers Dan Fogelman, Donald Todd and Kay Oyegun string together the classic stereotypes surrounding family drama, but package it in a way that few have been able to master. Viewers understand more about the Pearson’s lives than the characters themselves do because of the way past and present are brought together. Innovative story telling is identifying ideas and principles that have captivated audiences in the past, and making slight adjustments to create a new kind of story.

 This is Mystery

You never know what you’re going to get in a “This is Us” episode, except for a little teary eyed and a whole lot of questions. The pivotal question that is currently captivating fans is the question of what happened to Jack. Like a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery, characters are constantly on the brink of making life altering decisions, and right at the climax the scene changes, leaving viewers gasping for a resolution. New York Times chief TV critic James Poniewozik wrote, “‘This Is Us’ used storytelling twists as a hook from the first episode, whose ending unveiled the flashback structure in the closing seconds.” Adding a bit of mystery to a story will keep audiences hooked until the end. If there’s one thing human beings crave, it’s a resolution. “This is Us” is slowly bringing together the pieces of the Pearson family puzzle, and people just can’t get enough.

Written by Sarah Matheson


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