A Million Little Things has a strong message and seems liable to improve, but the messy and maudlin premiere didn’t do ABC’s new drama many favours.
I’m hopeful about A Million Little Things. It’s a drama about men and masculinity, but not in the amped-up Hollywood mode that we’re used to. The men are middle-aged and sensitive; they’re at crossroads in their lives and their friendship is what they cling to as everything else slips away. It’s a gentler side to a gender that is more commonly maligned in 2018 than it perhaps ever has been. It’s also, at least in the premiere episode, not very good.
It’s not bad, either. Just average. The elements feel cherry-picked from other popular TV shows and assembled in a way that’s hackneyed and a bit unnecessarily cloying, which likely won’t sit well with a mainstream audience who want tearjerkers to earn their keep. Perhaps, going forwards, it will; the right elements are there and the material is ripe for exploration.
A Million Little Things takes place in the aftermath of a suicide, but not the one you’re expecting when the premiere opens with Rome (Romany Malco), a commercial director with feature-film aspirations, stuffing pills in his mouth. But Rome is interrupted by a call from Gary (James Roday), a male breast cancer survivor (this is played for fewer laughs than when Archer did it), who informs him that their other bestie, Jon (Ron Livingston), has thrown himself from the balcony of his office building.
It’s a strong opening, and the death is unexpected. Jon was a slick and successful businessman who left behind a wife and kids. He showed no signs of depression or a desire to end his own life, so his friends, including Eddie (David Giuntoli), a failed rock star, can’t figure out why he did what he did. They pore over recent footage of the four of them together at a Bruins game, where the group do their therapeutic male bonding. They return after the funeral where, in the premiere’s best scene, Rome has a minor breakdown as he admits he was attempting suicide himself when he received the call about Jon.
Stuff like that is what A Million Little Things does very well, and will likely do better as the season progresses. The premiere had a lot of work to do in introducing the four leads and their respective quirks, spouses and anxieties, so it’s no surprise that it came out feeling messy. But the show’s approach to male friendship is refreshing, and probably important. I hope it gets better.