Archive | 1:44 pm

Spring 2014 Review: About a Boy

26 Feb

About a Boy

So About a Boy was first a book by Nick Hornby. Next, it was a film adaptation starring Hugh Grant and Toni Collette. And then, several years later, we get a television adaptation starring David Walton (of Bent, New Girl, Perfect Couples) and Minne Driver.

It’s easy to see why someone might want to adopt this again. There’s a lot to like. Frankly, just in terms of basic sitcom set up, About a Boy has a different layout than most. The main character are a single guy, a kid, and a single woman, the kid’s mother. The central plot thread is a non-creepy heartwarming friendship that develops between the  kid and the single guy. And if you didn’t know better, and you read this,  you’d naturally assume the guy and the woman have a will-they, won’t-they, eventually-probably-get-together relationship. Except one of my favorite things about the About a Boy story (and I love Nick Hornby and the book, so there’s a bunch) is that there isn’t. They become friends, but they’re never any sexual tension between them and that’s thoroughly refreshing for its different-ness. I’ve written about sitcom incest before and one of my favorite things about this story and what looks to be true from the premise is that the single guy and single woman can get along and learn to be friends without any romantic interest. Amazing!

Anyway, so I suppose I need to actually review this show instead of just talking about the premise. Will, the lead (Walton), is a single guy, who is essentially financially set for life and just hangs out. In the original, Will’s dad wrote a Christmas song, from he collected royalties; in the show, he earned royalties from his former band’s Christmas-related one-hit wonder. The boy, Marcus, and his hippie-esque mother, Fiona, both having a tough time in their lives, move out to San Francisco, right next to Will.

The precocious Marcus, whose best friend is his mother, clearly doesn’t have the social skills to fare well at school. He ends up running in Will’s place to save him from some kids chasing him when his mom isn’t home. Will, on the other hand, initially irritated by the kid, finds the arrangement to his benefit when he can pretend Will is his to hit on hot single moms. They hang out and bond in montage fashion, getting to know each other.

The show tries to stuff the basic events of the movie into the episode, in what basically follows the rom com format, but rather than a romantic relationship, it’s a relationship between Will and Marcus, as Will and Marcus meet cute and start to become friends. At a dinner with the two and Fiona, Will and Marcus get into a fight when Will is unwilling to call himself the Marcus’s. Feeling guilty, Will comes to save the kid from an absolutely disastrous talent show performance of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” (rather than “Killing Me Softly”).

The episode suffers a little bit from having to stuff a bunch of necessary premise plot points into 20 minutes. This is particularly on display in the one scene that Daily Show correspondent Al Madrigal, as Will’s friend Andy gets.  Before Will saves the kid at the talent show, after he had his fight with Marcus, Andy lays out Will and the premise is an incredibly on-the-nose fashion, pointing out that Will hasn’t ever tried to commit to anything, and this kid actually liking him is an opportunity to have a meaningful relationship.

At the end, it seems like we can actually move on with the established fact that Will and the boy are buds without having to explain the actual character development of why this guy would possibly want to spend time with this kid.

None of this yet answer the question about whether the show is funny, and the answer is sort of. It’s not hilarious; I didn’t laugh too much, and there’s nothing that made me immediately want to come back for more. That said, I did smile, and it was heartwarming (About a Boy, after all, is from Jason Katims, of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood), so I came away with a somewhat positive feeling even if i didn’t laugh a lot. I think the personalities are likeable, and I think there’s potential for the show to be funnier, but it definitely has at least some ways to go. That said, in particularly I liked it enough that I’m curious to see whether an episode that doesn’t have to spend as much time establishing the premise, is funnier, and then I’ll have a better idea of how I feel about the show.

Will I watch it again? I think I probably will, but the show is about on par with other similarly decent comedy pilots that I didn’t watch again. If I do, it’s largely because it has the good fortune to come out at a time where there isn’t a lot of new show competition, because I like About a Boy, the book and movie, and because I’d like to see an episode that doesn’t suffer the weight of premise explanation.