The idea of any dramatic scripted show doing a live episode is an absolutely terrifying endeavor — which is probably why so few shows do it. (Does anyone remember when Undateable decided to do ALL of their episodes live? That was fascinating and we wish it lasted longer.) You eliminate all room for error, you need to have the right story, and for a show especially like This Is Us, it cannot just feel like a gimmick. It’s a rarity when a scripted comedy opts to take on this sort of mission; a drama doing it makes it immediately a unicorn.
For most scripted dramas, going live is basically impossible — a show like NCIS has too many chase scenes, for example, and superhero shows have too many effects to add it after the fact. What makes This Is Us different is that it does feel at times like a play already. Nobody’s got superpowers, nobody’s chasing down criminals, green-screen moments are rare, and nobody needs to necessarily be out on location for a specific episode. As a matter of fact, Tuesday’s new episode “The Waiting Room” is set entirely in one room. That’s it. One room with a number of major characters taking part. This is a chance for the Pearson family to care for Kate — and also find the way to air out some dirty laundry because they’ve got nothing better to do. You could easily do “The Waiting Room” as a live episode (even though it’s not), and the same could be said for some other stories the writers conjure up.
If you missed it … – Check out some recent This Is Us thoughts in the video at the bottom of this article! For more, subscribe to CarterMatt on YouTube — while you’re at it, check out our This Is Us playlist to ensure you don’t miss any further updates.
We should make the following very clear: There’s no guarantee that This Is Us will ever do a live episode. Yet, it’s reassuring to know that creator Dan Fogelman isn’t ruling it out! Here is what he had to say on the subject to The Hollywood Reporter:
“I would put our cast on live television very comfortably because of how good they all are and because there’s not a weak link you ever have to protect, which is usually the reason you don’t do it,” Fogelman told THR. “[‘The Waiting Room’], it’s not a live episode. But it very much feels like that. It’s long, long, long takes and it’s basically in one room, so I would do that.”
Do we want to actually see this?
Absolutely. There’s an innate fascination that comes with it, the viewership would likely spike up, and it’s an opportunity to refresh a show that, in its fourth season, will probably be starting to lose some steam. That just happens and it’s no indictment on what the cast or producers are doing. Unless you are Game of Thrones and more people somehow flock to you every year, shows like The Walking Dead are more the norm where every year there is viewer erosion.
If there is one bit of advice we’d hand down, it’s this: Don’t sprinkle in some game-changing information in the middle of the episode. You only have one shot at this so if something goes wrong and a moment gets botched, that could alter a lot unless you tried to retcon it and put some sort of “oops!” statement out after the fact. Not ideal to have to do that. Make a live episode important, but not change-the-entire-course-of-the-series important.
Preview “The Waiting Room” further
Check out some more insight on the episode over at this link, and let us know in the comments if you’d like to see a live This Is Us episode someday! (Photo: NBC.)