Third-episode verdict: A Million Little Things (US: ABC)

A drama about male friendships that's already run out of things to say

A Million Little Things

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

ABC’s A Million Little Things does not have a million little things going for it. Indeed, by the end of episode three, it already looks like it’s used up all it did have going for it. A slightly obvious attempt to rip off This Is Us, it sees three male friends’ relationship change when their fourth number commits suicide. They begin to re-evaluate their lives and start revealing their deeper emotions to each other. So many secrets! So many flashbacks! So many emotional moments!

To its credit, A Million Little Things is far less willing to indulge in forced emotional blackmail than This is Us is. Episode two was genuinely weepy at times, as ‘our band of dads’ get together to try to look after the daughter of their dead friend, and the show did earn those tears through drama, rather than simply the situation. It’s also less keen on serving up shiny new secrets every episode and is more content answering the secrets it’s already posed.

Trouble is, the initial secrets all seem to have been answered and those that remain either aren’t very exciting or seem easy to guess. So why bother watching? On top of that, the show’s raison d’être is “men talking about their emotions for the first time”. Nice idea, but the show started from a slightly repetitive foundation – one of the friends was planning to kill himself just as the fourth friend did kill himself; it then built on that foundation very little, the result so far seeming to be in episode three, “If you talk about your emotions, you will be ostracised, because no one wants to hear your bad secrets”. That’s not very encouraging and the whole response needed to produce that outcome seems manufactured.

Very few things

This forced drama goes against that initial selling point versus This is Us. And without any new secrets and with only forced drama now to rely on, there’s very little else going for A Million Little Things. The cast are still good, the female characters have finally been rounded out, James Roday proves there’s more to him than Psych, but the story engine powering the show along appears to have spluttered out into little more than musings about why people have affairs or become sad in a relationship. And the answers provided are pretty standard. And if the PA is planning on embezzling or has a secret plan from beyond the grave she’s following, I’m not sure I care.

All in all, then, after a promising start, A Million Little Things is getting crossed off the viewing list. A shame because a drama about men exploring men’s issues in a deeper, more emotional manner than we normally get on TV might have been worth watching. Unfortunately, this isn’t that show.

Barrometer rating: 3

The Barrometer for A Million Little Things