Four strangers get stuck in an elevator together for 20 minutes and emerge as friends.
As incredulous as it sounds, successful businessman Jon (Ron Livingston), wise-cracking cancer survivor Gary (James Roday), music teacher and stay-at-home dad Eddie (David Giuntoli) and filmmaker Rome (Romany Malco) bond over the discovery that they are all Boston Bruins ice hockey fans.
After they part that day, Jon convinces his new friends to get season tickets to the games so that they can continue to bond. Guess what? They agree.
Before you know it, years pass and the guys and their wives and children become one big extended family.
But this isn’t where the story of new TV drama, A Million Little Things, begins.
The story starts when Jon – the glue that holds the group together, the guy with the can-do attitude and never-ending catalogue of platitudes – takes his own life. (This happens in the pilot and isn’t a spoiler!)
His suicide sends his wife, Delilah (Stephanie Szostak), his children and everyone in the tight-knit group reeling.
Why did Jon take his own life?
As each of the characters tries to understand the reason behind his suicide (one of Jon’s platitudes was that “everything happens for a reason”. What could his reason be?), they also struggle to make sense of their own grief ... and their fractured lives. The men, especially, are going through their own personal crisis.
Jon, as it turns out, was everyone’s healer as well as cheerleader.
He sat with Gary as he went through chemotherapy. In the moments when Gary wanted to give up, Jon encouraged him to look beyond cancer. He made plans to travel with Gary once he got better. He exuded hope and love and he inspired Gary to believe in a future.
Jon also helped Eddie get sober. Eddie is a middle-aged former rocker who left his performing days behind to start a family. Obviously a little resentful, Eddie isn’t happy in his marriage and when Jon finds out, he encourages Eddie to find happiness because, “life is too short”.
Every character has a story of how Jon helped them (even the wives) get through some crises and we get to see all these stories mostly through flashbacks (the storytelling method du jour, as used in popular series This Is Us and teen drama, 13 Reasons Why).
But, as each character remembers their special relationship with Jon, secrets start to unravel and the show seems to go in a different direction altogether.
You see, A Million Little Things isn’t content on being a human-centred ensemble drama about friendship and loss. Instead it adds mystery into the mix.
And here’s where the problems start to surface for me even though initially I thought it seemed like a neat twist to the drama genre.
First mystery is Jon’s assistant Ashley (Christina Ochoa) – the one who discovers his suicide. Apart from being a supporting character, Ashley becomes this shifty character who lurks around.
She skulks in Jon’s office, deleting files from his laptop, shredding documents and making secret phone calls to a mystery guy who seems to have something on Jon.
The more we delve into the secrets and mysteries, the more the series glosses over the core plot – the brotherhood of the four main characters.
As a result, Jon’s suicide becomes just a vehicle for some convoluted stories to move forward.
There’s just too much going on in A Million Little Things.
We are introduced to a lot of characters but none of them are really well fleshed out and their stories aren’t well developed either.
As a result, none of them are particularly relatable or even likable. Except Gary who comes across as the most sincere of the lot. And he has the best lines too.
I’ve only seen a handful of episodes so far, so I am hoping that things get a little more focused.
While I was initially interested in the “mystery” element, I hope the series finds its way back to what made it good in the first place.
A Million Little Things airs every Thursday at 10pm on Foxlife (Astro Ch 711).