New PBS MASTERPIECE Series, ‘Us,” Takes Viewers On A Family Vacation To Europe
Family vacations are typically filled with high expectations. This is certainly the case for Douglas Peterson (played by Tom Hollander), one of the protagonists of Us, a new dramedy scheduled to premier on MASTERPIECE on PBS.
The show’s two, two-hour segments will air on successive Sundays, June 20 and June 27, at 9/8c.
Viewers who have put off family vacations during the pandemic will be able to travel vicariously with the Petersons from their suburban home in Great Britain—through the Chunnel—to Paris and then, on trains to Amsterdam, Venice, Siena and Barcelona. (The series was filmed in the pre-mask, pre-pandemic epoch when Europe was still teeming with tourists).
Just as Peterson, his wife Connie (Saskia Reeves), and the couple’s 17-year-old son Albie (Tom Taylor) are about to embark on this ambitious, tightly-scheduled—three-week, six-country,12-city—European summer vacation, Connie throws a monkey wrench in the hopes of it serving as a joyful bonding experience for the family.
With their only child planning to head off to college after the summer, Connie is unsettled over the prospect of becoming an empty-nester and living the rest of her life alone—with Douglas. As the series opens, she tells her unsuspecting husband she wants out of their 20-year marriage. “I’ve been thinking about leaving. I think our marriage might be over,” she says to him, point-blank.
Blindsided by Connie’s pronouncement and clueless about what has gone wrong, Douglas hopes that their already-planned (and paid for) multi-city family trip can salvage their relationship: He is determined to change and become the husband she wants to grow old with. He also thinks that this time together will allow him to repair his distant and somewhat fractious relationship with his rebellious teenage son, who isn’t eager to be traveling in tow with his parents.
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Now a pharmaceutical executive and trained as a scientist, Douglas is methodical and perfectionistic, bordering on rigid. Connie has the soul and inclinations of a carefree, creative artist who flaunts convention. He is a planful traveler, always with itinerary and map in hand; she’s more spontaneous. The story includes flashbacks to the couple’s younger years when they were lovers and newlyweds, shedding light on their initial attraction to one other.
While the series offers many of the same comedic travel mishaps that characterized the uber-popular National Lampoon’s Vacation (and its four sequels), the plot of Us turns more serious as Albie meets Kat, an aspiring street musician and Douglas meets Freja, a fellow traveler who is emerging from a divorce.
By the end of this quirky trip—antithetical to the concept of Us—is an unexpected but happy ending. Douglas, Connie and Albie find their respective paths to fulfillment as individuals as well as a new acceptance of one another.