This coming Sunday, there are two huge events on television. The first is one involving football and commercials. The other is the death of Jack Pearson on This Is Us. This is an episode two years in the making, a super-sized hour that will reveal all the answers to the questions fans have been asking since the beginning of Season 1. It's not only the longest but the most expense hour of the show to date, as this episode of This Is Us cost as much as a “superhero” movie to make.
One reason for the high cost is that the fan obsession drove production to film the burning house scenes in secret. It's not easy to burn a house down, film a TV show around it, and have nobody notice. According to Dan Fogelson, the first quarter of the episode cost more to make than anything the show had done in two years. Talking to Entertainment Weekly, he said:
I will say that the opening five to 10 minutes of the episode — we spent a fortune, we went into the middle of nowhere so nobody would see us, and we built our house. We brought in the people who had done Backdraft, and for you, as an audience member, it’s very hard to breathe. It’s extraordinary...
Sterling K. Brown, who plays Randall Pearson, says this episode is worth the wait. For the record, the synopsis tells us that the scenes from the night of the fire, which happened post-Super Bowl Sunday 1998, will be interspersed with Randall hosting his own present day Super Bowl Sunday party.
He may have written his best hour of television. It is cinematic, it’s epic in scope. He is able to take the mundane and turn it into a superhero movie. Each one of us, once we read it we were like, ‘Did you read this yet? Yeah. It’s off the chain!' We were giddy.
It's also promising to be heartbreaking. But then again, if it wasn't heartbreaking and tearjerking, it wouldn't be This Is Us. As Fogelman puts it:
Generally speaking, when people are getting emotional or crying over the show, there’s a hint of melancholy to it, but it’s also an uplifting, cathartic, emotional cry. Next week is a very, very heavy episode, and I think the end of this week’s episode and next week’s episode have a different kind of emotional reaction to them. The episode is alternately thrilling and brutally heartbreaking and sad. And then surprising. If you stick with it and can make it through it [laughs], it’s very rewarding.
But while this might be the "superhero movie" version of This Is Us, Fogelman insists that the quieter, more intimate moments of life — the things that really make the show special — are what's important, and they won't forget that.
[It's] a big moment that’s like out of a movie — one of the moments that rarely happens in our life, when something extraordinarily big happens, like a house fire. But one of the things that we’ve always tried to accomplish in the show — and you saw it both this week and you’ll see it next week — is: It’s little things and the quiet moments, and sometimes the biggest moments of our lives are the simplest and most surprising and the quietest, even amidst the big stuff.
This Is Us is scheduled to start airing at 10:15 p.m. ET/7:15 p.m. PT, but fans should be advised this is an approximate placeholder time, assuming the game does not run over. If something like last year's Super Bowl overtime happens, then the show will start later. The cast of the show will then turn up on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon after the local news.