THIS IS US -- Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

THIS IS US — Pilot — Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

NBC has more recently been establishing itself as the go-to network for action dramas and Dick Wolf procedurals, ending PARENTHOOD after 6 years, losing FNL to DirecTV before that, and embracing the entire work force of CHICAGO to fill slots in the schedule.  Based on where I thought they were heading, it come as a surprise to me that they’re taking a complete left turn this Fall, bringing one of the most solid and well-written modern-family dramas to our screens in the form of THIS IS US, the story of characters dealing with life and what comes along – think parenthood, career, family, friendship, love, body issues, medical emergencies, and adoption (and that’s just in the pilot alone).

From the mind of Dan Fogelman (guy behind this season’s PITCH as well), the official tagline is “This is real. This is love. This is life. THIS IS US.” The US in question are a cast of incredibly likeable and relatable characters going about their lives – expectant parents Rebecca and Jack (Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia, who should always act together in everything else for the rest of their lives; they bring out something so good in each other) who go into early labor (Gerald McRaney as their doc is aces); Kate (a very good Chrissy Metz), a woman struggling with body issues and finding love; mostly-naked-all-the-time Justin Hartley plays Kevin, a soap actor unsatisfied with his superficial life; and Randall (Emmy winner (!!!!) Sterling K Brown) who has decided to reach out to his biological father (a divine Ron Cephas Jones) after being raised by his loving adoptive family.

As we meet these characters, we’re immediately drawn into their struggle, and the pilot does a great job of telling a complete story while leaving the series open for a million other directions it could go.  Milo Ventimiglia is a revelation in the first hour – sure, the butt that launched a million+ YouTube hits is something to talk about, but the depth of emotion he carries as Jack, dealing with Rebecca’s labor and delivery, the weight he gives to this role?  It’s beautiful, and I hope we’re finally at the point where he becomes the big star he deserves to be.  Mandy Moore, in the first series to land, after a few failed pilot attempts, has always been a favorite and as I mentioned above, her chemistry with Milo is off the charts.

I am not in the camp of THIS IS US being a show that will move mountains, reinvent the wheel, or change your life in a miraculous way, like some others out there who have previewed the first episode.  But I will tell you that the show offers a unique look at life among seemingly random groups of people and there’s something there to relate to. You are likely to cry, you are likely to feel for these characters right away, and you are likely to want to set your series recording to see just what happens next.