You’ll Like It If You Already Like: This Is Us, Thirtysomething, Brothers & Sisters, Parenthood…
Likely timeslot: Wednesday at 10 or Thursday at 9
There’s simply no words to tell you how enthusiastic I am about A Million Little Things. I’ll try to find some, though. First, we need to go back a year ago when ABC decided not to pick-up to series DJ Nash’s previous project, a comedy pilot called Losing It, about “three misfit adult siblings and their parents who — between divorce, new parenthood, early-onset dementia and let’s just say life — are all losing it in different ways“. An heartbreaking decision but understandable: though the script was good, it was definitely not your typical ABC family comedy, since it was pretty dark, with a cable-feel. Not a good fit. It was hard not to think of This Is Us, especially with Gerald McRaney playing the father and some sort of surprising twist towards the end (spoiler alert: the mother died). But ABC loved it and gave DJ Nash a second chance. It’s this “failure” that gave him the idea and the courage to work on A Million Little Things, based on a personal experience. “Sometimes in comedy, you have to apologize for adding drama, which is why I was so thrilled to see ABC’s passion for a drama that has comedy” he declared when the pilot got picked-up. Since then, it’s a clear frontrunner in the 2018 pilot race. And the script does live up to the expectations!
Again, I will quote DJ Nash, he’s the one who describes it the best way since he’s the brilliant mind behind it and I assure you it’s not just PR, it’s true, it’s what I felt too: “It’s an optimistic look at how the loss of a friend is the impetus for the other seven to finally start living, to make a promise to him and to themselves to finally be honest about what’s really going on (…) I know in my own life, my friend’s passing is a constant reminder to keep things in perspective“. There’s something really emotional and profound on the page that I hope will translate on the screen and with the cast they managed to assemble, I have a feeling it will. A Million Little Things could be summed up as “This Is Us with friends”, though it would be unfair to compare them too much. They come from the same place -a little something called heart- and they march to the beat of the same drum but they’re different enough so there’s a place for both in our lives. AMLT is about the power of friendship, the power of belonging to a group in a world where it’s easy to get lonely, to be left alone. People are not talking anymore, they don’t even look at each other on the bus, on the train, on the streets… Those seven realize they need to take care of each other a little bit better, tighter. They simply need to change, which is also the name of the song from Tracy Chapman we’re supposed to hear in the pilot if they got the rights for it.
At first, I was a bit taken aback when I discovered it was mostly about a male friendship. Not that it’s not interesting, but experience proved that shows centered around those rarely work (Men of a certain age, Big Shots, We Are Men…) for some reason. My guess is women are not that fascinated by this type of look behind the curtain -what do men do when we’re not around?- and men are not into soapy character-driven dramas as much as women are. What’s different with A Million Little Things is that those men are not stereotypes, they are modern and self-conscious -though they spend too much time at hockey games if you ask me- they’re multi-dimensional and they don’t avoid their emotions; while the women are not just on the background, they’re not just girlfriends or wives, they have their own stories to tell and their own journeys to live. It’s a bunch of promising characters and we’ll all fall in love with them I’m sure. Even when they’re not nice, even when they’re difficult. But don’t be afraid, they can also be a lot of fun. Let me introduce you to them.
Eddie (David Giuntoli) is the former front man of a local band turned music teacher and stay-at-home dad. His marriage is in trouble, and although he loves being a dad, he wonders what his life would have been like had he made different choices. He may be ready to take a big risk and leave his wife… for another woman he’s having an affair with. There’s a Netflix’s Friends From College vibe here, but it’s less cynical and more importantly: they didn’t meet at college! Then there’s Gary (James Roday), who is known for his deflective humor, a habit of sleeping with everyone, and complete control over his emotions. He’s in remission after battling a breast cancer and may want to take a chance at love. He’s both irritating and cute. Rome (Romany Malco) is a depressed but very successful commercial director. Not quite the gig he went to film school for, he longs to be doing something more important than making stupid commercials. He’s in a happy marriage but his wife knows nothing about his darker side. Also, he’s black. And it’s important because depression in the black comunity is even more taboo. Finally, there’s Jon (Ron Livingston), who appears to have it all: good looks, a beautiful family, and a successful career. But he takes his own life in the opening by jumping out of a window for reasons everyone has a hard time to understand. Don’t expect a Desperate Housewives‘ kind of mystery, but there’s certainly soapy elements in the DNA of the show, with a big reveals at the end of the pilot to make sure you’ll come back, including one shocker. And Jon’s suicide is still very much a question mark.
It’s the women’s turn now. Delilah (Stephanie Szostak) is Jon’s wife, who pushes through after his death for the sake of her children. She’s admirable and I love her already. Katherine (Anne Son) is Eddie’s wife, who was once the fun one in the group but now is the boring mom to a son she loves while juggling being the parent she wants to be with her very successful law career. She’ll be harder to love but it’s the type of character that could become fascinating after a while if she’s not labeled as “the bitchy one”. Regina (Christina Moses) is a talented chef with dreams of opening her own restaurant one day. She is living proof that there’s nothing stronger in this world than a determined woman. She’s married to Rome and he’ll need her more than ever. Finally, there’s Maggie (Allison Miller) who is amazing and comfortable in her own skin. She’s a therapist and her career and her life are focused on the emotional. She might be the one for Gary. But there’s something about her he doesn’t know yet… The scenes between the guys are cool but the scenes between the girls are even cooler. Most of the pilot is happening during Jon’s funeral, or right before and after, and there are flashbacks to tell us how they met. And a great speech. And much more.
A Million Little Things may or may not become the next This Is Us ratings-wise. It may or may not become the next best thing. But let me tell you it’s a good medecine, a great therapy a lot of us need and to which we could become addicted. It’s the kind of show that makes you realize you should be living your life at the fullest while you can. It’s the kind of show that makes your heart jumps a little, your eyes cry a little… Ultimately, it gives you a million different feelings. I don’t know about you but that’s exactly what I’m looking for in a television show. So please be part of our lives, AMLT.