This Is Us' consistently strong ratings (10.9 million people watched the Season 2 finale) have given TV executives much-needed hope that young viewers haven't completely written off prime time network television. Since TV is as much about business as it is making people feel things, creators have been eyeing ways to steal some of that sweet, feel-so-bad-it's-good pie from The Big Three the moment they came home from the hospital. Now, as This Is Us heads into its third season (Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 9/8c) on the back of multiple Emmy nominations, potential peers in the tear-jerker space have emerged, keen to make viewers reach for their hankies just as much, if not more, than the NBC hit. Below are three new shows that, come fall, will have viewers fighting back tears in order to find the right emojis for expressing all the crushing feels.
A Million Little Things(Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 10/9c on ABC)
Prepare to be pummeled. Of all the shows that bear a resemblance to This Is Us, A Million Little Things is perhaps the most similar, right down to the plucky guitar strings that signal it's time for those lips to start trembling. The show starts when John (Ron Livingston) -- the leader of a group of pals who've also got some scars of their own -- ends his life unexpectedly. As his shocked and grieving loved ones piece together what happened, they realize they haven't been living authentically, let alone been good friends to one another, and they set out to really start living their best lives.
In fairness, A Million Little Things didn't set out to copy This Is Us; DJ Nash wrote the series after losing a friend with whom he had just made plans for lunch to suicide. But with its puzzling death and friends-as-family searching for meaning and existential musings, A Million Little Things promises to make people go through a million little tissues.
All American (Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 9/8c on The CW)
All American is an unabashed mashup of The O.Cand Friday Night Lights, and its producers aren't even afraid to admit it. That doesn't mean All American is without This Is Us flourishes though, especially since All American alsoconfronts issues of race, class and sexuality while putting family dynamics front and center.
Based on the life story of professional athlete Spencer Paysinger, All American tracks the journey of Spencer (Daniel Ezra) as he leaves a high school in South Central L.A. to attend Beverly Hills High to play football. Viewers don't need in-depth knowledge of Los Angeles to know this means going from poverty to the so-called good life. Of course, Spencer's relocation isn't all pool parties and fancy restaurants; he's bullied by schoolmates, alienated from his friends back home and comes to terms with being a pawn for the system. Anyone with a beating heart knows that Spencer is just one of many young people with promise who rise to beat the odds every day, and if all that won't loosen up those tear ducts, not much else will.
God Friended Me (Sunday, Sept. 30 at 8:30/7:30c on CBS)
Is God Friended Me, which follows an atheist named Miles (Brandon Micheal Hall) who goes around being a blessing to people after getting a Facebook friend request from God, implausible? Sure. But then again, so is talking to your dead dad while tripping balls at a cabin in the woods, which is what Randall (Sterling K. Brown) did in Season 1 of This Is Us. Viewers can expect Touched By an Angelvibes from the CBS comedy as Miles goes about healing the broken and stopping people from jumping in front of trains.
God Friended Me won't rely on one specific god either; instead, it preaches the virtues of shared humanity and believing in one another, so this new series is definitely going to pull that ugly cry face out of viewers on the regular. Count on it.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)