Who: “About a Boy,” currently airs on network TV, specifically on NBC, Tuesdays at 9:00 PM.
What: “About a Boy,” a situation comedy based on the book and, loosely, the film of the same name starring Hugh Grant and Toni Collette, with David Walton and Minnie Driver in the respective roles. Essentially, Will (Walton), a confirmed bachelor, has his life encroached upon by a single, hippie, British mother named Fiona (Driver) with a precocious son named Marcus who has been influence by his new age mom and takes to Will like glue, proclaiming him to be his “best friend.”
When: The series premiered on NBC, Saturday, February 22, 2014, at 11:05 PM.
Where: The show is set in what appears to be San Francisco, California.
Why: I really liked the movie; it crept up on me, even though Hugh Grant was not as foppish as he normally is. Yet, it was a BritCom, set in Britain and couched in British humor. This TV version Americanized the whole story. I thought it had potential to be cute. And, I sometimes enjoy Minnie Driver.
How – as in How Was It?
The pilot/premiere rating scale:
***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING. HOLY SMOKES!
**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing. I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.
*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens. There are things I like, and things I don’t. We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.
** – I will give it three episodes. Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together. No matter how unlikely.
* – Pass on this one, guys. It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.
About a Boy = **1/2
Will is a songwriter, living on the royalties of his one hit and content to maintain the confirmed bachelor and ladies’ man lifestyle he’s enjoyed for years. Into the house next door moves Fiona, a vegan hippie bohemian free spirit, who has imparted much of her values and ways onto her precocious son Marcus (Benjamin Stockham). Marcus is clearly in need of a male influence, for he encounters Will and can’t seem to stay away, even attempting to fix his mom up with Will. Hilarity and hi-jinks ensue.
About a Boy the television show is certainly not About a Boy the film. David Walton is no Hugh Grant. He lacks boyish charm – he lacks any charm, really – except when his character relates to the goofy Marcus. Minnie Driver is also no Toni Collette, who played her version of the character with a lovable obtuseness that made it seem as if she simply didn’t understand things about life with which she didn’t agree. Minnie’s Fiona comes off like a bit of a shrew, unfortunately, for someone so free spirited and mellow, and her dialogue is atrocious much of the time. Of course, whether it’s the fault of the writers for the words, or the actor/directors for the delivery, this viewer cannot say for certain.
The supporting characters are forgettable but for Stockham. His Marcus is almost too cute, too awkward, too ebullient for the context, yet, ultimately, his chemistry with Walton centers the show, as it should the whole story underlying it, since he’s the literal, if not the figurative, “boy” of the title. He is winning, when he has not gone too far over the top, though he takes that trip at least once per episode so far.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve laughed very much. I’ve smiled, bemused, and even chuckled a little at the wily antics of young Marcus, who, in the second episode, invades Will’s bachelor pad through a dumb-waiter in the wall attaching the two houses. He also desires to fill in the “exuberance” wedge of his “feelings wheel” and to spend time with Will while he carouses at an industry party instead of babysitting as he agreed to do. On the other hand, Minnie Driver is never funny or even endearing. I’m sure the show is building up to the eventual romance between these two, as the film did, but I sense absolutely no chemistry between them. The whole dynamic feels a little off when the characters and premise are already eccentric of their own merit, and it leaves the whole affair a little flat and formulaic, despite its best attempts to stay honest, quirky, and endearing.
It’s also been pointed out in reviews on the web that, though the show is supposedly set in San Francisco, it doesn’t appear as if any on-location shots have been taken from that city. This viewer has watched two episodes, but this was apparent even to this Michigan native. The lack of on-location sets results in the show feeling inauthentic, exemplifies the sound stage aspect, and renders the whole idea of the show being set there nonsensical at best. It could have been set anywhere, really, and probably would have made more sense to be set in LA (where it seems to be shot), though the show worked best as a film from England, set in England, and with the English humor thrown into it.
In the end, this viewer rates the pilot 2.5 stars. I will give the show a four episode trial – notably, it premiered on a Saturday after the Olympics, which is not a good sign – and see if it gets any funnier. Unfortunately, I think what you see is what you get with this one.
About a Boy is recommended to anyone who enjoys quirky sitcoms remade from other sources, anyone who enjoys hammy children, or anyone who enjoys Minnie Driver, even when she is not at her best. Someone might relate to this show, anyway, even if this viewer is not a member of the target audience for it.
THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:
TVLine is calling renewal of this program “too early to tell.” Ratings measurement outlets say the ratings are climbing. There is not a lot of similar competition in the time slot and very little overlap in target audiences, which may contribute to this rise. Or, maybe the show gets funnier. One can only hope.