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Alan Pergament: It's so easy for families to relate to 'This Is Us'

After the end of last week's episode of "This Is Us" that featured a raw, painful therapy session with the three siblings and their mother, my sister called me.

She had an observation and a simple question about herself, our older brother and me.

She loves the show about the Pearson family, but added she had never related to it more than in that episode.

The simple family question – which was derived from watching the episode and thinking about several others concerning the death of the Pearson patriarch at an early age – followed: "Do you think our mother's death affected the three of us?"

I'll get to the answer later.

But I think a lot of families were asking similar questions about family dynamics after watching the gut-wrenching, emotional episode.

My girlfriend said she and a co-worker had a similar conversation about how easy it was to relate to the episode.

I bet some viewers might even have said, "I wish our family could have had a therapy session like that to get all the cards on the table."

OK, maybe not so much. It was too raw.

I knew the episode would resonate.

Having seen a preview, I tweeted before it aired that it was very dark but a terrific episode. In a very dark season, it is one of my favorite episodes.

If you haven't seen it, the very raw session led by a therapist played by Kate Burton (the daughter of legendary actor Richard Burton) was part of the addiction treatment for handsome sibling and actor Kevin (Justin Hartley).

Kevin, who has messed up his career, a relationship and his body this season, felt that he got the least attention growing up from his mother Rebecca (Mandy Moore). He felt she favored Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and never had a special moment with him. Kevin also felt his late father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) gave his sister Kate (Chrissy Metz) the most attention growing up.

Of course, it isn't unusual for children to think their parents favor one child.

The joke among my three children is that I favor my daughter over my two sons. At least, I think it is a joke.

My sons are sure I favor my daughter. So is my daughter. I always tell them they are very different but I love them all the same.

Naturally, Randall, Kate and their mother Rebecca didn't like hearing Kevin's view of things. Things got tense, angry and emotional. Randall was especially angry and said some tough things to his brother.

Finally, Rebecca defended herself by blurting out to Kevin that Randall was "just easier." In a later one-on-one session with Kevin, she explained that he seemed to be the self-confident child growing up who didn't need as much attention.

Anyone who has seen the "This Is Us" flashbacks of the three children knows Kevin was anything but easy. He was a bit of a spoiled brat.

This being "This Is Us," things got settled amicably, first at a bench where they discussed sportscaster Warner Wolf and the movie "Boyhood."

I laughed at the Wolf reference. He was known for saying "let's go to the videotape" to show highlights. I loved the "Boyhood" reference, which was a way of saying, "wouldn't it be great to have a documentary crew follow us so we could look back and see if our memories reflect what really happened?"

"This Is Us" can be viewed as a backwards version of "Boyhood." The flashbacks in NBC's series show how things were in a similar way that "Boyhood" illustrated life in a linear fashion over the years.

One of the more poignant moments last week came in a flashback when Rebecca left the bed where Jack, Kate and Randall were to have a special moment with a left-out Kevin by sleeping on the floor with him.

But back to my sister.

I had thought about writing about the episode before it aired because I had similar feelings as she did after watching it.

The three of us were under the age of 10 when our mother died. Any therapist would likely conclude that children who lose a parent so young might have issues and worry too much about things.

I was 2 years old when our mother died, which is too young to have memories of her. Our father remarried when I was about 8 and we were raised by a loving stepmother who I call my mother and had a huge impact on our lives. The middle names of my daughter and one of my two granddaughters honor her.

On occasion, I wish we could "go to the videotape" to look back at our childhood.

My siblings considered me my stepmother's favorite because I was the youngest, got more attention because I was sick for years as a child and I was adorable. (OK, I am kidding about the last part.)

My sister, the middle child who really is the adorable one, received less attention, partly because of all the attention her sick brother received. Our older brother didn't seem to need as much attention. He was a father figure to us growing up and he has remained so to this day.

We all get along as well as any three siblings I know. I don't think we've had one fight or argument in our lives.

But did our mother's death impact us in different ways that we could have talked about in a therapy session? My sister's question was rhetorical. She knew the answer. Absolutely.

And I am absolutely certain that one of the huge secrets to the success of "This Is Us" is because viewers are impacted in different ways to the Pearson family dynamic on a weekly basis.

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