'A Million Little Things' Is Cliché But Important
ABC's newest Wednesday night drama isn't nuanced but it has its value.
A Million Little Things has been referred to as "This Is Us for men," a tear-jerking ensemble melodrama that revolves around the friendship of four middle aged guys. While TV shows that focus on male friendships are rare — and arguably necessary in today's climate — the mental health struggles A Million Little Things depicts are anything but.
The series premiere introduces us to friends Gary (James Roday), Rome (Romany Malco), Eddie (David Giuntoli), and Jon (Ron Livingston). Gary is a male breast cancer survivor who routinely sleeps with women in his support group — most recently, Maggie (Allison Miller), whom he took on a date to Jon's funeral. Rome has film directorial dreams but finds himself making commercials for the money. Eddie, sober seven years, is teaching children’s guitar lessons after his rockstar dreams didn’t pan out. And charming, personable real estate mogul Jon is the one we initially learn the least about, as he jumps to his death early in the episode.
The bits we do learn about Jon come from his friends' struggles to understand his seemingly unexpected suicide. Their friendship began when the foursome got trapped in an elevator and bonded over their love for the Boston Bruins, Jon securing them season tickets before the fire department sprang them free. His admittedly cliche life motto, "Everything happens for a reason," becomes a challenge for Gary, Rome, and Eddie as they seek out what a possible reason for Jon's death.
For Rome, it's more obvious: He had just finished writing a suicide note to his wife and put a handful of pills in his mouth when he received the call that Jon had died. But as the show moves through Jon's funeral, we begin to see the tangled web these friends and their families have weaved. Eddie is cheating on his wife with none other than Jon's wife, Delilah (Stephanie Szostak). Jon had called Eddie moments before he died, only for Eddie to ignore the call because he was in bed with Delilah. And Gary, who lives with the constant fear of his cancer returning, doesn't realize Maggie has returned ⏤ she listens to a voicemail from her doctor urging her to stick to her chemotherapy schedule after skipping out on that day's appointment.
The question of how Jon could've been hurting so badly and nobody have known threatens to splinter the group. Gary, Rome, and Eddie wonder if they actually know each other well enough to identify the other's pain.
Although A Million Little Things is a typical drama with friendships, relationships, infidelity, substance abuse, illness, and all the messiness that comes along with life amped up to TV size, its focus on men still has an important place. Seeing men deal with depression and suicide — even just seeing men cry together — is rare on TV. Although the show is filled with trite narratives, it still carries an important message.
This season of A Million Little Things promises a lot as we untangle these characters' relationships and histories and try to understand Jon's motto: the reasons behind why everything happens.