March 7 is shaping up to be a must-see television night.
That’s the date of the first season finale of NBC’s popular series “This Is Us” and the season premiere of FX’s critically-acclaimed series “The Americans.”
By my calculations, that means there are only six episodes left of “This Is Us” this season after tonight.
The good news is that creator Dan Fogelman told the nation’s television critics the day after I left Pasadena, Calif. that the episode airing tonight shouldn’t be missed.
Not that any Western New Yorkers who have fallen in love with the Pearson family would miss any of the seven episodes left primarily dealing with siblings Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and their parents Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore).
Additionally, NBC announced that the series has been renewed for two more seasons for a total of 36 episodes.
In the press conference, Fogelman noted the show’s writers have to give out some information about the family dynamic weekly without revealing too much. One of the biggest mysteries is what happened to Jack that led his wife Rebecca to eventually marry his best friend. That startling piece of news was revealed early in the season, without explanation.
“The needle we have to continue to thread is parsing out information so it never becomes too frustrating for people, but at the same point, it's obvious ‑‑ there's a before and after to this family,” said Fogleman “I think when you see the kids, even in the pilot, even well before you knew anything was off with Jack, there's a hinge in this family, and it's kind of before with Jack and an after. And that will be really interesting in future seasons and as we go forward to kind of show what that ‑‑ where that hinge was, how it happened and what happened to the people before and after it. So slowly but surely you will learn when, then much later how, and then we'll see it. But that will take hopefully many, many episodes.”
Fogelman wouldn’t reveal his end game about when those details would occur and if the 36-episode renewal has changed his game plan.
“I know where the show goes,” said Fogelman. “I have a number of seasons in my brain, and we'll see as we get there. In success, people are always going to want more. In failure, people are going to want many less. I know where the series goes for multiple, multiple seasons. Beyond that, in terms of an overriding number, I don't really have them in my head.”
Fogelman added the series will continue to have the surprises that have helped make it successful.
“We have a lot,” he said. “I think our theme, something we play with inside the show, is that life will surprise you a little bit, and we try and attack it as writers, and I try and attack it. I feel like I know this family. I know the history of this family. It was a starting point for all of us. I wrote out the history of the family for these guys. There’s no real surprises for us. It's almost as if you could take your family or I could take mine, and if you knew the whole history of your family, it's just simply the order that you're revealing pieces of information about their life that would make things surprising.
“It's not a big surprise to say a young woman wound up with a different husband many years down the line. What's surprising for us, for the audience, I think, is the order in which we choose to tell the story.”
Now on to “The Americans,” which has an end game. The series, which has won a Peabody Award and has been nominated for an Emmy, has been renewed for two seasons, including the fifth one of 13 episodes beginning March 7. The final season in 2018 is scheduled to be 10 episodes.
In a press conference in Pasadena, creator Weisberg addressed whether his job was "easier or harder" now that a show set in the 1980s during the Cold War seems to have become a contemporary program now that America's relationship with Russia has changed. The questioner apparently was referring to the widely-held belief that Russia interfered with the American presidential election to help elect Donald Trump.
“I don’t know if it’s exactly easier or harder,” said Weisberg. “ There’s something in a twisted way that’s kind of fun about seeing all this stuff in the headlines that we’re trafficking in all the time.
“In a very twisted way. But, on the other hand, as you all recall from when we sat here many years ago, the initial idea of the show was really to say, ‘Hey, look. These people who we think of as enemies are really just like us,’ and that was at a more peaceful time in U.S./Russian relations, and to see things have spiraled so out of control, frankly, just doesn’t feel so good.”