TV Shows Even Sadder Than This Is Us (Yes, They Exist)

I’ve long believed in the healing powers of a good weep. Which is good, because I’ll tear up at anything. Hallmark ads, kids with glasses reading novels in the subway, a spring morning on the cusp of summer. Last fall, I could rely on my weekly dose of This Is Us to elicit a sob.

Through a combination of endearing characters, flashbacks, and ‘70s music, the show found the perfect recipe for tears. Over the course of a season, we watched the Pearson clan come together, age, and grow apart. We saw each character grapple with his or her past, laid out so carefully in flashbacks. It was schmaltzy brilliance, and it did the trick — I cried each episode.

On September 26, This Is Us will return, and so will your source of heart-pangs. Other TV shows have played the same magic tricks on audiences. Whether through wrenching drama or family happiness, these shows will make you feel all the feelings.

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The Handmaid's Tale (2017-present)

Why It'll Make You Cry: The premise of The Handmaid's Tale is startling. The United States has been taken over by a conservative militia that restructures society based on Old Testament ideals. Women now are either Wives, Marthas (housekeepers), or Handmaids, who are assigned to houses to bear children. June (Elisabeth Moss) is torn apart from her family and forced to live in a extremely hostile environment, without any rights.

Saddest Moment: There are so, so many devastating moments. Though the saddest may be when June is separated from her husband and child, after being so close to escape. Or, what Emily (Alexis Bledel) is forced to witness from the back of a van.
Grey's Anatomy (2005-present)

Why It'll Make You Cry: Since it's set in a hospital, it follows that Grey's Anatomy confronts mortality head-on. And since it's a Shonda Rimes show, it follows that a lot of insane, dramatic, soapy things happen to the large ensemble cast. Many of those events will wrench your heart out. Since twists follow in close succession, you'll barely have time to recover from one, before the next axe falls.

Saddest Moment: Denny, of course. Denny.
Six Feet Under (2001-2005)

Why It'll Make You Cry: Six Feet Under is part family drama, part somber philosophical meditation on death, and part black humor comedy. The Fisher family owns a funeral home in California. Each episode begins with a sequence showing how the person having a funeral died — and in the first episode, it's the Fisher patriarch's (Richard Jenkins) turn. His widow and three adult children grapple with the void left in his absence.

Saddest Moment: Easily the show's finale, one of the saddest, and most triumphant, episodes of TV ever. It's worth watching the whole show just to get to that point.
Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock
Lost (2004-2010)

Why It'll Make You Cry: The conspiracy theories around the mysterious island, the convoluted and lofty plotlines, and the smoke monster are not what make you cry. It's the connections that form between the people stranded on the island following a plane crash. It's the characters' ongoing search for meaning and purpose. It's the possibility for redemption. These will make you cry.

Saddest Moment: When his consciousness won't stop shuttling between the years 2006 and 2014, Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) grounds himself by calling the love of his life, Penny (Sonya Walger) — she's his constant that breaks his time travel cycle. Also, Sun (Yunjin Kim) and Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) on the boat; you'll know it when you see it.
Doctor Who (2005-present)

Why It'll Make You Cry: In this long-running British show, a time-traveling alien takes a human companion on various adventures through space and time. And boy, do the show-runners know how to manipulate the viewers into tearing up at the beauty and sadness of the universe. Many episodes of Doctor Who, especially those starring David Tennant as the Doctor, inundate you with torrents of sweet, sweet sentimentality.

Saddest Moment: So many, but what most fans will go back to is "Doomsday," when the Doctor (David Tennant) and his companion, Rose (Billie Piper), are so close — yet so far.
Parenthood (2010-2015)

Why It'll Make You Cry: Parenthood is, in many ways, the most similar show to This is Us. The Braverman clan is the kind of family who has large group dinners, and enough drama to fuel many gossip sessions (strictly the kind-hearted variety) when the family's back to their small groups. Like This is Us, Parenthood is situated firmly in the kingdom of the heart.

Saddest Moment: When, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Kristin (Monica Potter) records a video for her family in case she doesn't make it.
Broadchurch (2013-2017)

Why It'll Make You Cry: The first season of Broadchurch is devastating because it's about tragedy striking really nice people. After Danny Latimer (Oscar McNamara), an 11-year-old boy, is found bloody and washed up on a beach, a small English beachside community is sent reeling. Neighbors turn on neighbors, and the Latimer family grieves knowing someone in their lives is likely responsible for murder. A local, Detective Sgt. Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), and an out-of-towner, Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant), wade through the town's emotions to find the cold hard truth.

Saddest Moment: Every time Danny Latimer's mother (Jodie Whitaker) keeps a steely resolve, even while grappling with the death of her 11-year-old.
The Fosters (2013-present)

Why It'll Make You Cry: This Freeform drama doesn't shy away from wrenching story lines. Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) have cobbled together a diverse family, composed of biological, adopted, and foster children. Everything changes when Lena takes in Callie (Maia Mitchell), who's been damaged by the foster care system.

Saddest Moment: Literally each episode has a sad moment. The amount of upheaval these characters go through is...intense.
Mark Schafer/SHOWTIME
The Affair (2014-present)

Why It'll Make You Cry: It's almost physically painful to watch this emotional train wreck play out, in slow motion, over the course of a few seasons. When a married waitress (Ruth Wilson) and a married father of four (Dominic West) begin an affair one summer, no one emerges unscathed.

Saddest Moment: Allison's backstory, and really just watching Helen (Maura Tierney) grapple with her new life as a single mom.
Ben King / HBO
The Leftovers (2014-2017)

Why It'll Make You Cry: The very concept of The Leftovers is astounding and will make you reconsider what you're devoting the minutes of your life to. The show begins with an event called the Sudden Departure: 140 million people suddenly disappear, leaving no trace. Everyone loses someone. We see large-scale grief play out in the town of Mapleton, New York, where police chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) tries to keep his family together as the town falls apart.

Saddest Moment: Most of what happens in The Leftovers is fundamentally sad, but the show's tone is set in moments like when Nora (Carrie Coon), who lost her husband and two sons in the Sudden Departure, hires people to shoot her in the chest while she wears a bulletproof vest. Then, in episode 6 of season 1, she hugs a mystic who promises to take the pain away.
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