Katey Sagal and Brad Garrett are among the stars who will be seen in early episodes of NBC’s new ensemble series This Is Us. And, Gerald McRaney, seen in the pilot, will be back, based on very favorable reaction to his appearance, executive producer/showrunner Dan Fogelman beamed at TCA.

The unusual show format, which he described as a “dramedy version of Lost,”  was not difficult to pitch to NBC, because then went into the meeting with “a whole plan for the series.”

“We did not just make a pilot” thinking they’d “figure it out” if it got picked up to series,” Fogelman said. Four storylines all are interconnected, in the same way “I sometimes think I have a great grandfather out there somewhere” who raised one of his grandparents, who raised one of his parents, and so on.

Sagal will play a super agent – “Our take on Ari Emanuel,” Fogelman said – and Garrett will play a powerful TV network executive. “We’re getting a high caliber of actors wanting to play,” he said, calling it a “neat experience” to have “people contacting us and saying they want to be part of the show they haven’t even seen yet.”

This Is Us - Season Pilot
NBC

The new NBC dramedy series from Fogelman and 20th TV follows an ensemble — some of them sharing the same birthday — whose life stories intertwine in curious ways, is resonating with fans; there is a high level of social media shares and favorable reactions and comments. In May, the trailer for the yet-to-debut series crossed the 50 million views mark on Facebook, in just 11 days. Factoring in additional views on YouTube, Moviefone’s Facebook post, and on NBC.com, it has reached about 80 million, which is considered pretty impressive considering the trailer is so low in celebrity stink, not to mention its lack of special effects, superheroes, etc.

“This world is growing more cynical, art is growing more cynical,” Fogelman said this afternoon. “It’s becoming a slog for me sometimes. It’s all so dark and cynical.” He speculated there is “something about not just the trailer” that is touching people.

“Maybe it’s the right place for a show that has a little hope and optimism and makes you cry but also makes you feel good,” adding, “I didn’t get into this business” to create programming that, when people turn off, “they feel worse than they did an hour ago.”