About A Boy has a pretty impressive pedigree for a half-hour comedy that’s just starting out. First, it’s loosely based on Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel and the 2002 Hugh Grant film, which was nominated for Golden Globes, BAFTAs and an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Second, it is tied to another NBC show (not exactly a hit, but a critical darling), Parenthood. What gives this series a fighting chance, though, is a winning cast and a decent American adaptation that actually works. Third, the first episode will have a special preview after NBC’s Olympic coverage on Saturday, February 22nd, at approximately 11:05 (it will also air at 10:00 the following night on Global). Although that’s not exactly the kind of time many people will go looking for a sitcom, it will benefit from the Olympics’ holdover audience (and it’s the kind of show that would make me plan to be there, even though I’m not watching the Winter Games).
David Walton (most recently seen as a recurring character on New Girl) is Will, a musician who had one hit song that now allows him to live comfortably without have to work. That fits in with his lifestyle. While all of his friends have gotten married and settled down, Will is quite content to glide through life with no discernible attachments to anyone or anything. That is, until a mother and her 11-year-old son move into the San Francisco townhouse next door.
Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) is Fiona, an uptight vegan single mother who has moved to San Francisco to start a new job, which abruptly falls through. She doesn’t seem to realize that all of the meditating that she does isn’t keeping the real world from wounding her at every turn. She meets Will at a moment when all she wants to do is meditate in her backyard. When she gets a whiff of Will’s barbecuing, their first impressions of each other appear doomed (Will tells her not to worry; he can turn up his music so as not to hear her chanting).
Benjamin Stockham (who deserves a break after last year’s disastrous NBC sitcom, 1600 Penn) is Fiona’s son Marcus, a boy who finds himself doing whatever he can to please his mom, (because—really—she doesn’t need anything else to go wrong in her life). His sensitive nature makes him the instant target of bullies, and that isn’t helped by his intention to sing an A Capella version of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful at a school talent show. Will know this will be a disaster for the boy, but does this mesh with his lifestyle (you know, the one where he wants to remain unattached)?
What works for me about this series is that Will isn’t being forced into evolving against his will. He’s not grumbling his way to the school auditorium to save the day. He goes because he actually cares…About A Boy…who is on the verge of sealing his fate as the most ostracized kid in school. What happens next is…something you should see for yourself.
If you watch Parenthood, this isn’t the first time you’ve seen Will. The character was on an episode earlier this season, when Crosby had some friends over for poker night. Executive Producer Jason Katims says Crosby and Will are friends, so we will see both characters on both shows (although you can still watch one without watching the other). Katims, who also EPed the outstanding Friday Night Lights, has an impressive pedigree himself, and that is another reason why this series should have a chance.
TV Gord verdict: One of my personal favourites!