Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pilot Talk 2014: About a Boy

Every TV season, networks bring out a new crop of shows, in hopes that they'll be the next big hit.  Pilot Talk is devoted to figuring out whether these shows are worth your time based on the first episode.

Tuesdays at 9:00 PM on NBC

If, by some small chance, I ever become a TV writer, the person whose writing I'd most try to emulate would be Jason Katims.  Friday Night Lights and Parenthood are two of my favorite shows; they're some of the most humanistic dramas I've ever seen.  He's not placed in the pantheon of genius creators like David Simon, Joss Whedon, Vince Gilligan, or David Milch; but the way he's able to instill his shows with a sense of nuance and warmth isn't often seen elsewhere on television.  With those two shows, he was able to adapt well-known properties and quiet the skeptics by allowing them to take on a whole new life of their own.

With his latest, About a Boy, Katims attempts to do the same.  Not only is the show based on a well-known and highly regarded film from 2002, but the film itself was adapted from a bestselling Nick Hornby novel of the same name.  As always, there's a skepticism going into the pilot based on whether it will be able to do right by its source material, but this time around there's another reason to be wary: this is Katims' first half-hour comedy.  Friday Night Lights and Parenthood could often be very funny -- I'm sure Roswell was too, unintentionally or not -- but they're unambiguously dramas in terms of both structure and content.

There are definitely kinks that need to be worked out in terms of Katims getting used to the format.  Comedy wise, the pilot isn't particularly funny.  But that isn't much of a problem so far -- what it lacks in laugh-out-loud moments, it makes up for in sweet, smiling-inducing ones.  The bigger problems come from the structure.  It attempts to condense much of the film's story into just the pilot, yet the episode still feels far too loose.  Most of all, it's just hard to tell what the rest of show will be about, given its thin premise.  Granted, the best moments of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood existed between the plot points, but both of those two had pilots that clearly defined what the long-term arcs were going to be.  Nevertheless, the pilot is still charming.  King of the Cancelled Comedy David Walton is great as the lead, but so is Benjamin Stockman, who manages to be cute and precocious in a way that isn't nauseating (at least not yet).  About a Boy is far from the best that I could've hoped for, but it's Katims, so I'm in it for the long haul.

Grade: B-

No comments:

Post a Comment