Family vacations are typically filled with high expectations. This is certainly the case for Douglas Peterson (played by Tom Hollander), one of the main characters in U.S, a new dramedy scheduled to premiere on Masterpiece on PBS.
The show’s two, two-hour segments will be broadcast on consecutive Sundays, June 20 and June 27, at 9 / 8c.
Viewers who have interrupted family holidays during the pandemic will be able to travel alternately with Petersons from their suburbs in the UK – through the canal – to Paris and then by train to Amsterdam, Venice, Siena and Barcelona. (The series was filmed in the pre-mask, pre-pandemic era, 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 embarking on this ambitious, closely planned – three-week, six-country, 12-city – European summer vacation throws Connie a monkey key in hopes that it will serve as a joyful bonding experience for the family.
As their only child plans to go to college after the summer, Connie is worried about the prospect of becoming an empty nest and living the rest of her life alone – with Douglas. When the series opens, she tells her unsuspecting husband that she wants out of their 20-year marriage. “I have been thinking about traveling. I think our marriage may be over, ”she tells him bluntly.
Blinds of Connie’s statement and unclear about what has gone wrong, Douglas hopes their already planned (and paid) family town with more cities can save their relationship: He is determined to change and become the man she wants to be old with. He also believes that this time together will allow him to repair his distant and somewhat divided relationship with his rebellious teenage son, who is not eager to travel in a row with his parents.
Now he is a pharmaceutical manager and trained as a scientist, Douglas is methodical and perfectionist and borders on stiff. Connie has the soul and inclinations of a carefree, creative artist who boasts convention. He is a scheduled traveler, always with an itinerary and cards in hand; she is more spontaneous. The story includes flashbacks to the couple’s younger years, when they were lovers and newlyweds, shedding light on their original attraction to each other.
While the series features many of the same comic travel accidents that characterized the uber-popular National Lampoon’s Vacation (and its four successors), plot of U.S gets more serious when Albie meets Kat, an ambitious street musician, and Douglas meets Freja, a fellow traveler coming out of a divorce.
At the end of this crooked trip – contrary to the concept U.S—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 each other.
The two-piece miniseries is an adaptation of a bestseller Booker-Prize nominated novel by English novelist and screenwriter, David Nicholls.