A Million Little Things, the new ABC drama, will likely remind viewers of NBC’s hit drama This is Us. Both programs focus on a close-knit group of individuals whose personal struggles are integral to the plot. However, this show quickly establishes its own identity by focusing on the fallout from a suicide.
In the show’s opening moments, successful real estate businessman Jonathan Dixon (Ron Livingston) jumps over his office balcony, plunging to his death. Jonathan seemingly has an ideal life: loving wife, beautiful children and a job that offers him enough money to live comfortably and treat his friends to season tickets to the Boston Bruins. But something seems to be missing.
After his death, his three closest friends come together to grieve their loss. These friends, who attended the Bruins games with Jon, are Eddie Saville (David Giuntoli), Rome Howard (Romany Malco) and Gary Mendez (James Roday). None of them knew what Jon was going through and they all struggle with his tragic demise.
Although there are some moments of laughter (especially in flashbacks featuring Jon), the program has a strong seriousness of purpose and never makes light of Jon’s death or the depression that affects Rome. In fact, even Gary admits that the great friendship that he shared with Eddie, Rome and Jon isn’t that deep at all. It looks like Jon’s death will permanently change that and will bring this cast of characters together even more.
In addition to Jon’s male friends, the pilot also introduces Jon’s grief-stricken wife Delilah (Stephanie Szostak), Rome’s kind-hearted spouse Regina (Christina Marie Moses) and Gary’s new girlfriend Molly (Allison Miller). The program also introduces Eddie’s workaholic wife Katherine (Grace Park).
Much of the plot revolves around the male friends and how they relate to each other. It’s here where the show finds something really interesting to consider: the depth of male friendships. In the first episode, Gary notes that even though his male friends are his best allies, they usually only relate to each other on a superficial level. They talk about sports and complain about their jobs but never really speak about deeper things.
Jon’s death leads Rome to open about about his depression, a notable subject that could make this drama stand out. Shows don’t often deal with tricky subjects like this but this drama really focuses on that. In another storyline, Gary is recovering from breast cancer and attends a support group for survivors (a support group that leads him to Molly in the first episode).
There are clearly aspects of this show that other dramas have dealt with before but this show offers a unique perspective.
The program’s title refers to Jon’s belief that friendship isn’t about one thing. “It’s a million little things,” he says. Along with the questions of what led Jon to his death, the program also sets up some early other mysteries: what are the contents of the note Jon left behind, what past is Molly running from and how will the friendships survive both Jon’s death and the secrets that come to life because of it?
The cast, which features an eclectic group of actors (some are best known for their comedic work while others come from more dramatic background) keep this show grounded but it’s the show’s ability to tackle tough subjects in a satisfying way that truly stands out.
Review by: John Hanlon