The hit NBC weekly soap opera This Is Us is certainly not easy to follow. If you haven't been watching for sometime, I don't think you can tune in now and have any idea what the heck is going on.
It is hard enough if you have been watching from day one, as I have. Because the storyline jumps backward and forward in time, and the actors change in most cases to fit the age differences, newcomers to the show are going to be baffled.
The family oriented theme revolves around a fairly large ensemble of people and their individual and collective storylines. The show is rich in plot, deep in character development and performed by extremely talented actors.
I love this form of drama. I think the writing is tight and the dialogue real. Personally, this is my favorite kind of weekly show, but I wonder why it has attracted such a wide audience simply because none of the other networks offer anything like it. Most highly rated shows reflect a predilection for fanciful escapism or formulaic cop shows. Reality shows attract massive audiences because everyone wants to see a train wreck.
There have been some great ensemble dramas in the past. Lost, St. Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues, The West Wing, and Thirtysomething come to mind, but This Is Us is quite different. It is all about family, whereas the other shows explored relationships that were forced by odd circumstance or unusual employment. And there is no contrivance other than the unusual circumstances of how the family came together and grew and reacted to each other and the changes in relationships as they age.
So what is the hook that makes This Is Us work so well?
There are constant elements to the success and appeal of any TV program: Writing is paramount, but that is obvious. So I would suggest that pacing is a key device to keep an audience glued to the screen. Every great TV drama mixes strong emotions into the story, blending humor and heartbreak, expectation and disappointment equally, so the viewer can't wait to see what is coming next week. This Is Us moves along at a rapid, sometimes disturbing pace because of the storylines that bridge the lifetimes of the people. In just one episode we may see a character in childhood, in adolescence and in middle-age. And that is just one theme. When intermingled with half a dozen dramatic and unexpected plot twists, the combination is compelling.
Finally, I think viewers can relate to how fast life seems to go by, and how little control we actually have on where it will eventually take all of us.
This is new territory.
My fellow Americans, we are pioneering a new frontier for our worldwide community. The Boomer generation and our children have never really been tested before. The fact is the wars in Vietnam and Korea, the attack on the World Trade Centers and the Great Recession were nothing compared to the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, the Great Depression, or World War II.
What we are experiencing during this pandemic is something our successors will be studying in the future. They will either be impressed or depressed by how we end up dealing with this international challenge.
Did we act as a unified species in defense of our existence or did we act as tribal adversaries in a way that selfishly diminished our ability to survive on Earth?
I have written about the fact that my generation and those behind the Boomers are unprepared for cultural upheaval and social chaos. I still believe that, but no one was prepared for what turned out to be a battle for the future of civilization that was World War II.
But Americans stepped up and led the way, and I believe Americans will do that again. If we get behind our quarterback and play as a team we have the people and resources to defeat this threat.
I believe Team America is the beacon of freedom, humility and humanity in the world today, and we will rise to the occasion again. The world is looking to us for leadership, as they always have. It may not be easy or pretty, and we may violate some privacy rights or hurt some feelings, but at this point we have to make some big plays before the clock runs out.
As I watched President Trump lead the warmup lap at the Daytona 500 last month, riding in the Presidential limo called The Beast, I thought it symbolized the challenge the Democrats face next Fall. Then watching the Democratic candidates stumble all over themselves at the CBS Candidate Debates, I said to myself, "Is this all they got?"
The Democratic Bandwagon is just not up to the challenge. It looks like a 4-cylinder eco-friendly Opel trying to compete with a state-of-the-art James Bond-like SuperTruck that can literally run over the opposition.
Recent events make it apparent the Democratic nomination is going to come down to two candidates: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. This week's announcements by Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, jumping off the bandwagon and endorsing Joe Biden have stripped the Old Grey Machine of much of it's horsepower. Having spent the past few months touting their bona fides, the power trio constantly reminded us of their unique gender perspectives, their managerial successes, and their youthful energy. To turn around now and endorse Sleepy Old Joe seems totally disingenuous. They knew he was a candidate, so why didn't they join his campaign from the beginning? The fact that they all belatedly endorsed Biden exposes some disturbing truths about the conflicted Democrat Party.
The dirty tricks the Clinton controlled super delegates orchestrated against the Sanders campaign in 2015 demonstrated Old School Democrats never liked Bernie and they aren't about to jump on his bandwagon as long as Sleepy Old Joe and the Old Grey Machine is still on the track. The one thing they all agree on is that they must remove Donald Trump from office, right? But now we can deduce that Job One is to deny Bernie Sanders the opportunity to drive the Old Grey Machine. They say they want to unify America, end racism, end discrimination, uplift the disadvantaged, provide opportunities for everyone and end unfair policies that put minorities in prison and keep woman from achieving independence. But isn't that the Modified Stock Car Bernie Sanders is driving?
Biden has a car in the race but up until now no sponsor. Which begs the question, is Bernie really a Democrat? Are the Democrats relevant anymore? Is Bernie doing to the Old School Democrat Party what Trump did to the Old Guard Republican Party in 2016?
Joe Biden has been in elective office for 36 years in Congress and 8 years in the White House. He has always identified as a Democrat while Bernie Sanders has, for the most part, always identified as a Socialist Progressive. Just as we need to note the distinction between legal and illegal immigration, maybe it is time anti-Trump voters recognize the distinction between Progressive Democrats and Old School Democrats.
The Democrat Old Grey Election Machine has an identity crisis. Their reliance on big government high-tax solutions is going to be a problem for whoever wins the nomination. The new tax initiative election results in Sanders-friendly California shows voters are not enthused about raising taxes.
As for Biden, the Obama/Biden administration's emphasis on social justice issues created a cultural crisis in America. They have failed to unseat Trump with spike-strip charges about womanizing, college-era rapes, Russian collusion, and quid pro quo obstruction conspiracy theories. So now it will be up to their insider campaign mechanics to recharge the Old Grey Machine's battery during a last minute pit stop.
In the wake of the 2016 Trump victory the Old Grey Machine embraced environmental apocalypse as their strong point. They propose massive tax initiatives to save the world. Of course they haven't and won't mention how those policies would bring down the booming economy and put millions back on the welfare roles. Nor has anyone come up with a credible explanation for paying for the $93 trillion price tag of the Progressive Green New Deal.
The Sanders Socialist movement is at least completely transparent if not delusional. Sanders is the Modern Day Robin Hood and history tells us that redistributing wealth has enormous voter appeal especially to unestablished young voters. Bernie thinks he can buy the race with Other People's Money.
Biden's Super Tuesday victories have forced Democrats to decide if putting such an ill-defined, inarticulate and inefficient machine as Sleepy Old Joe out on the track would have a chance against the Beast. Or if just pouring gasoline on the event and Bern-ing it down will be better. Either way, the Old Grey Machine ain't what she used to be.