The shows that had us crying before ‘This Is Us’

Each week the Pearson family on NBC’s hit show, “This Is Us” tugs at our heartstrings. Tackling real life issues like addiction and the loss of loved ones, the show’s emotional themes hit home for millions of Americans. The last two episodes, featuring the death of patriarch Jack Pearson [Milo Ventimiglia] and painful aftermath for his family, were the just the latest to drive viewers to the tissue box.

But before “This Is Us” was providing a weekly outlet for our tears, there were several other TV dramas leaving those of us on the entertainment beat at CNN puffy-eyed.

Grey’s Anatomy

“Grey’s Anatomy” probably causes more tears during any given season than Seattle gets in total rainfall during a calendar year. We’re not being dramatic. Whether it’s a disaster episode (see: the shooting, the plane crash, the train crash, the bomb episode, etc), a devastating case-of-the-week (remember when the doctors had two golden-hearted patients impaled by a tree and could only save one of them?), or a major death (R.I.P Derek, George, Lexi, Mark, Denny, Henry…you get the point), this show knows how to produce high-quality, emotionally draining drama. It also owes us a lot of money in therapy bills,” writes CNN entertainment reporter Sandra Gonzalez.

Six Feet Under

“When Nate told Brenda he wanted a divorce I felt like he was breaking up with me,” says CNN senior entertainment writer Lisa Respers France. “But his death scene was excruciating and probably one of the most emotional things I’ve ever seen on TV.”


“I loved ABC’s hit show “Lost” because of its unique premise and because it touched on all my favorite storytelling elements and themes: the supernatural, science fiction, philosophy. It was also not afraid to sacrifice popular characters or protagonists to advance a storyline. The show was unpredictable and exciting in that way. You never know which of the characters you’ve grown attached to was going to get killed off. I was devastated when Charlie died by drowning so he can save the others. His death was full of symbolism and significance. The deluge of water and the urgency played out like a final baptism, a redemption,” writes CNN deputy media editor An Phung.

Stranger Things

“You wouldn’t think that a show that involves Demogorgons and upside down parallel universes wouldn’t tug on the ‘ole heart strings, but Netflix’s “Stranger Things” does just,” writes CNN media writer Frank Pallotta. “From the relationship between Joyce and her lost son, Will, in Season 1 to the relationship between Sheriff Hopper and his adopted daughter, Eleven, in Season 2 the show is the perfect mix of make you cry sadness and make you scream horror. I dare you to watch the kids dance at their winter recital in the final scene of Season 2 and not tear up. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Barb!”

Friday Night Lights

“‘Friday Night Lights’ was filled with hope, longing and melancholy, chronicling the commitment of a Texas high-school football coach, Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), to his family and his players, many of whom saw football as the ticket out of their small town,” writes CNN media critic Brian Lowry. “The show was filled with emotional moments, perhaps none more so than an arc in which Taylor went out of his way to rehabilitate his star running back, “Smash” Williams (Gaius Charles), whose college career had been threatened by an injury.

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