March 4, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “About A Boy”


ABOUT A BOY:  Tuesday 9PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on ABOUT A BOY:  Will Freeman (David Walton) lives a happily superficial, bimbo-laden life in San Francisco, supported indefinitely by the royalties from the one successful song he ever wrote–when one day, 11-year old misfit Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and his vegan, neurotic, disapproving mother Fiona (Minnie Driver) move in next door.  Reluctantly, the man-child befriends the boy, and the mother learns to tolerate the man.

Episode 2:  The About A Boy pilot basically retraced the steps of Nick Hornby’s novel and Chris & Paul Weitz’s 2002 film adaptation, so the 2d episode was our first chance to see what the television series had in mind to do on its own.  Sadly, the answer was to repeat the whole dynamic all over again.  In the pilot (and movie), Marcus was about to humiliate himself in public at a school talent show when Will stepped out there with him and saved the day; here their climactic scene was on the high diving board at an exclusive pool party to which a babysitting Will had brought Marcus to tag along while he hit on women.  In both cases, Will begrudgingly but goodheartedly Did The Right Thing in the end.

Traditional sitcoms, of course, are built around the notion of characters acting exactly the same way a hundred times or more over the years, never changing their behavior or their personalities.  One had hoped for something more substantial, though, from Jason Katims, the man behind the TV versions of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, who developed this series and wrote the episode (directed by Todd Holland).  David Walton continues to be far less self-knowingly acerbic than Hugh Grant was in the film, while the TV version of Marcus has a sitcom-ish verve that makes him less appealing than Hornby’s more woebegone (and wittier) character.  The original Fiona’s suicidal depression would have been too much of a downer for TV, so here she’s just a batty, annoying mom.  Only Al Madrigal as Will’s married dad pal Andy does anything with his character–even if Chris Pratt provided a funnier version of basically the same guy in the recent Vince Vaughn flop Delivery Man.

There’s no real chemistry between Walton and Stockham, and the prickliness between Will and Fiona is so cliched (she frowns on videogames and plays acoustic guitar) that it’s hard to take much interest in them, although Walton had his best scene at the end of the episode when Fiona needed Will to provide a fake reference so she could get a job.  Parenthood took most of its first season to find its proper tone, and perhaps About a Boy, if it lasts that long, will reach a creative destination worth the journey.  It has one of television’s strongest lead-ins from The Voice, which will give it time and exposure–but in the end, even The Voice couldn’t save last season’s Go On.  For now, About a Boy is mostly about tired retreads of better forebears.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  Not Worth Skipping NEW GIRL


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."