A Million Little Things is back… Thanks, Shonda (shudder)
I really hate to give her any credit for anything, but I owe Shonda Rhimes a favor. Last year, I thought A Million Little Things was one of those gems of a series that never get a chance to live. But like so many good series on broadcast television, it’s ratings were weak, it wasn’t a police procedural, and it was in a time slot — Wednesdays at 10pm that was a dead zone. And then, in 2019, for reason which boggle the mind, ABC moved into Thursday night at 9, right between Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away With Murder, even though it bore absolutely no resemblance to any Shondaland series. It worked, though — the series ratings doubled overnight, and it was renewed for a second season. Furthermore, ABC now has enough confidence (and is running out of Shondaland series) to keep it there in the new fall season.
Things have gotten more complicated for the group even though they learned at least part of the mysteries behind John’s death, which made up so much of Season 1’s backstory. Now, most of them are dealing with life after John, which is not much easier. Eddie (David Glutnick) spent much of season 1, trying to repair his marriage with Katherine (Grace Park, doing some of her best work period for the medium). They just about seemed to have healed — then in the Season 2 premiere, Eddie revealed that he was the father of Delilah’s child. Katherine has spent the last couple of episodes trying desperately to recover.
Rome (Romany Malco) seems to be on the other side of the suicidal tendencies he was battling for awhile, and is trying to take steps forward, volunteering at a suicide hotline, and finally making steps towards realizing his dream as a filmmaker. His wife, Regina, is still moving forward with her restaurant, clashing with her boss Andrew, and trying to figure out her relationship with her husband’s desire for a child himself.
The only couple that seems to be in a uniformly good place are Greg (James Roday) and Maggie (Alison Miller). Maggie finally went into remission, and is now willing to move in with Greg. Miller and Roday are by far the strongest performers in this cast, and both of them lead to truly humorous sections, and some of the best moments. When Maggie attacked the lactation specialist who spent the season premier bullying Delilah for wanted to use a bottle, it was one of those painful, joyous moments that are just there. Watching Miller trying to deal with the world — and in the last episode, her mother who moved to Boston for reasons still unclear — is incredible TV.
A Million Little Things was one of the bigger and more impressive surprises of the 2018–2019 broadcast season. It still draws a lot of comparisons to This is Us, which is both logical and unfair. There is a certain mythology to the show, surrounding the back stories. At the end of last season, we learned that John had an illegitimate child named P.J., who until the season finale, didn’t know that the man who said he was his father had been lying to him his whole life. P.J. has spent the last couple of episodes stalking the gang, trying to get answers. This is frankly the one part of the series I’m not entirely comfortable with — we dealt with John’s backstory last year, and the lack of resolution to his suicide, was actually one of the better things about it. The fact that despite everything, we might never really know our friends is a bold, dark statement. To try and follow it up seems to border on turning us into so much of a soap opera — which makes me wonder if the writers are under pressure to make the story fit into TGIT, a night that grows weaker by the year.
But for all that, this is still one of the most endearing shows I’ve seen in awhile. The performances are genuinely arresting, and the characters are fully dimensional — something that many Shondaland shows were never able to pull off even after years on the air. I hope A Million Little Things becomes the bedrock for a totally different TGIT. This is a superb series, the kind they literally almost don’t make anymore.
My score: 4.5 stars.