a million little things Review
In the classic drama, I Never Sang For My Father, the play opens with the protagonist saying one of the great lines for any medium: “Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship.” I come back to that line frequently when looking at ABC’s newest ensemble series A Million Little Things. The series begins with a death — in this case, the suicide of John Dixon (Ron Livingston) a successful businessman, a husband with two children, and a circle of friends — in other words, the kind of man who literally had everything to live for.
The people who are especially shattered by his death are his three closest friends, each of whom was going through their own crisis. Eddie (David Glutnick) is in an unhappy marriage with his workaholic wife Katherine (Grace Park), and was planning to leave his wife for her within minutes of the death on John. Gary (James Roday, a revelation to those who only knew him from Psych) is still reeling from being in remission from breast cancer, something that has given him a grim sense of humor towards life. And Rome (Romany Malco) was a cheerful filmmaker, who the moment he received the call telling him about his friends death had a mouthful of pills. None of the three survivors knew about their crises any more than they knew why John killed himself.
The response to all the suicide shakes all of them to their core, but for other reasons than the obvious. Eddie was having an affair with Delilah, John’s wife — and in the last episode, everybody found out the details. Rome has been trying to come to grips with his own depression, and can’t understand how a man who was always smiling was in such a dark place. Gary is still reeling from it, but seems to be getting into a better through a relationship with a fellow breast cancer survivor, Maggie (Allison Miller) They have great sexual chemistry, but seem unwilling to open themselves up emotionally. Paradoxically, this seems to draw him to liking her even more, and everyone can tell it. And the women in the story are well drawn as well. Regina, Rome’s wife, is not just an appendage. She had a failed restaurant earlier in her career, and wanted to try again. When she learns that John’s last deal was to make sure that she had her own restaurant, she’s overjoyed — but puzzled when she learns that Delilah is the co-owner, and is enraged when she learns that Delilah was having an affair with Eddie. Maggie clearly has an emotional bond, and while she is a therapist, the series doesn’t do the obvious and make her open to helping Rome. She makes the conflict very clear, and has been very reluctant to help him, and its clear that she has secrets that she doesn’t want to share.
The writers have tried to open the possibility of a mystery by having John’s secretary appear to be this secretive woman who is hiding information from the group of friends. Paradoxically, I hope they stay away from this storyline. A Million Little Things works more when it deals with the friendships and interrelationships between all of the regulars. To turn it into a mystery would add a soap opera element that I just don’t think is worthy of the series.
A Million Little Things will not be for everybody. Some have already said this is a This is Us clone; I think Things is the kind of series that would give a fan of the former series as too much to take. Death stalks this series, not just that of John, but Rome’s depression and Gary’s knowledge that remission is only successful until the cancer comes back. I’m not surprising the ratings have been low initially, this is not a cheerful series. But it’s not a pessimistic one, either — there’s a desire for friendship and life that permeates this show in a way that is uncommon for television these days. ABC’s had a lot of trouble finding hit series that aren’t connected to Shonda Rhimes, and with her gone, that well may be drying up. I hope they have the fortitude to stay with A Million Little Things. It deserves to live.
My score: 4.25 stars.