I have a theory about the birth of the show, a simple one: writer Dan Fogelman binge-watched Sense8 on Netflix like we all did past summer, enjoyed it and thought it would be a good idea to take the “all born on the same day” part of the pitch to make a family dramedy out of it. Who could blame him? It’s a good idea and Thirty-Six has nothing else to do with Sense8 in the end. It’s not a rip-off of any kind. It’s something completely different and something quite good, actually. Of course, when he came with this script wrote on spec to FOX Studios where he has an overall deal, FOX looked the other way. Let’s be honest: it’s not a good fit with the network. But what is anymore? Anyway, they took the idea to other channels and NBC bought it and ordered a pilot in the room. Something rare. It’s totally understandeable: it’s exactly what they need to extend their portfolio, a dramedy in the vein of Parenthood, even if we’re not there yet and the cast does not look good on paper (Justin Hartley?! Why guys?!). Let’s hope for some magic now, because having Thirty-Six on our TV every week would make a lot of us happy, I assure you.
Thirty-Six can become exactly this type of series that makes us laugh and cry, either alternately or at the same time. And those are nowhere to be found on network television since Parenthood departed. Sure, there are half-hour dramedies, cute, smart and ballsy like Girls, Transparent, Casual, Master of None and so many others everywhere on cable and streaming services, but their simpler, family friendlier versions, where are they now? Fogelman is some kind of genius when you look at all those movies he wrote and series he created in such a short amount of time. He always goes for originality (whether you like The Neighbors & Galavant or not, they are original!) and a big chunk of heart (Crazy Stupid Love was heartbreaking, Tangled moved us all). He knows exactly how to make us giggle and how to make us whimper. Thirty-Six is no exception. It doesn’t bring something never seen before to the table, but the writing is vivid, with a few brilliant lines, and there’s a twist “à la Shyamalan” I don’t want to spoil -but I guess the promos will, if it’s ultimately ordered to series.
All of the characters click, because there are just like you and me. They feel real. Even though few people are as funny as they are! There’s the young pregnant couple, Jack & Rebecca (Milo Ventimiglia & Mandy Moore) who are waiting for their triplets to be born. There’s Randall, an african-american family man who’s looking for his real dad who abandoned him at a fireman station the day of his birth. And there’s Kate & Kevin, who are not a couple. They’re brothers & sisters, twins. He’s the sad TV star of a successful but really bad TV show -that resembles Fogelman’s Grandfathered!- and she’s her sad and overweight assistant manager, but lucky girl: she just met someone at a Weight Watchers reunion who could be the one! These people don’t live in the same city, they don’t share the same kind of lives, but they’re connected. Because of their date of birth, but not only. They form a family. And in the end of the pilot, we can’t wait to watch them interact with each others. When will that happen? I have no idea. The sooner the better?
I can’t say much more without giving away the spoiler I try to avoid so badly, so I’ll be very quick and vague: Thirty-Six shows a lot of promise based on this pilot but once the cat is out of the bag -meaning the twist is out- the writers will find a lot of traps on their way and I really hope they already know how they will handle them ‘cos the whole success of the show depends on it. It could be the next great network family dramedy we’re desperately waiting for, with some diversity that doesn’t feel forced. NBC, just breath and make it happen!
NEXT: INSECURE (HBO)