By Mike Hughes
LOS ANGELES -- After
almost a half-century of TV roles, Gerald McRaney should be kind of
Or maybe not. “I
was crying the first time I saw this episode,” McRaney said.
He won't be the only
one. The “This Is Us” episode -- 9 p.m. Tuesday on NBC – is
deeply and quietly moving. “This is one I've wanted to do since the
beginning,” said Dan Fogelman, the show's creator.
In the first 11
episodes, “Us” has had a tricky architecture: Each hour leaps
between the current lives of three adults – twins and their adopted
brother, born the same day – and their childhood.
The result has done
well in the ratings, while gathering awards and praise. “Dan is
doing a beautifully crafted show that is very emotional,” said Gary
Newman, whose Fox Television produces the show, but sold it to its
For one episode,
however, Fogelman has set aside his own formula. There are no
time-shifts here; except for a moment at the end, the entire hour
focuses on the night the kids were born.
We get a deeper view
of the young parents and of two key people that night – the
firefighter who found an abandoned baby and Dr. Nathan Katowski, the
widower who delivered the others.
characters have one thing in common, said McRaney, who plays the
doctor: “These are good, decent people.”
They clearly have
flaws, which we're still learning about. Viewers have many questions
about the dad who – somewhere between the childhood scenes and
nowadays – has died. “This is still a flawed man,” said Milo
Ventimiglia, who plays him. “He has his demons; he has his
But mostly, he tries
to do the right thing. “This is all part of the human experience,”
McRaney said. “Yes, we are capable of doing bad. But we are also
capable of doing much good.”
The showis a detour
for Fogelman, who's been writing comedy for TV (“Galavant”) and
movies (“Guilt Trip,” “Crazy, Stupid Love” and animated
films). He brought two drama series to the Fox studio:
-- “Pitch” was
on the Fox network and promptly died in the ratings. Its 10 episodes
have already aired.
-- “This Is Us,”
however, was sold to NBC. “It was a show that seemed consistent
with 'Parenthood,' with 'Friday Night Lights' that NBC had some
success with,” Newman said.
He was right. Like
“House” previously, “This Is Us” is made by Fox, but airs on
NBC. “We have the No. 1 new (TV drama) at our studio,” Newman
said. “'This Is Us' is going to be a lucrative, important show for
us and will live in our library for the rest of time.”
And now it has this
episode, with a quietly potent scene in which Dr. K talks to his
wife's gravestone. “All I had to do was think of my own wife and
how much I would miss her,” McRaney said.
He's been married
for 27 years to Delta Burke, the former “Designing Women” star.
For McRaney, there are key lessons in the “This Is Us” stories.
“I'm pushing 70,”
he said. “You've got to engage in life and in all the good people
-- “This Is Us,”
9 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC; the special, day-of-birth episode is Jan. 17