ABOUT A BOY
**1/2(out of ****)
I think I miss Hugh Grant. I know he had a specific schtick, but almost all leading men and women do. Maybe he relied on it more than he should have, but I always thought he could deliver a joke so effortlessly that it made up for his mumbling and constantly flopping hair. His best performance was in About a Boy, which was also the best movie he was ever in. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Mickey Blue Eyes, so please excuse me if I’m overlooking it. In About a Boy, Hugh Grant plays a slacker, but the twist here is that he’s a rich one. He’s also a bit of a douche bag, one of those douche bags who would lie about the fact that he has a son in order to fuck single moms. Not Hitler, but not Mr. Rogers either. The thing about Hugh Grant is that we automatically assume he’s a douche bag within the first five minutes of listening to him speak, which made About a Boy’s Will the perfect character for him. The character at the beginning of the story gels with what we believe, and now the movie just has to get us to root for him by the end.
Fast forward 12 years later, and someone decided that this very modest hit should now be a one camera sitcom on NBC. That might sound dumb, but that someone is Jason “Friday Night Lightsâ€ Katim, who probably has one of the ten most trustworthy names, as far as show creators go. So Katims was a big fan of the movie. Or he thought that the ending left a lot of potential, and two hours isn’t enough for this story. I have no idea why this movie, and not the thousands of other movies that have come out since then, became the chosen one. But who cares. If Katim is attached, I’m in. I missed the boat on Parenthood, which is in the same universe as this show, and I’m not going to let it happen again.
And almost immediately, you can feel the problems, or what the problems are going to be, with this initial episode. The problems are so glaring because…well…the show’s kind of good. At the very least, it isn’t as painful as you would expect from a recent NBC comedy pilot. It’s got a flow to it, and although it’s not particularly funny – or funny at all for that matter – it’s extremely watchable. Obviously, though, you can’t help comparing it to the original movie. And the movie had two things going for it: it had Hugh Grant, and it had a feature length runtime in order to tell a feature length story.
If you watch television regularly, or even occasionally, you’ve seen David Walton, Hugh Grant’s replacement. The sitcom world, but mostly NBC, has banded together in an attempt to create a superstar, or at least someone that can make it to “season two.â€ He’s been in at least a dozen shows over the last five years, either as a series regular in a failed pilot, or as a guest star on already established shows. He’s dated or tried to date both Jess from New Girl and Alex from Happy Endings. And he’s OK. Likeable enough. Bit of a doof. And this seems like it can be a vehicle. There’s a lot on the line here for him, even considering the deal he made with the network devils. I haven’t seen all of the other shows he’s been in, but other than the fact that he’s a tall drink of water, nothing has really stood out. This is his chance to create a character that shows us what he can actually do. It’s not a Dick Wolf show, where everyone just has to be cardboard cutouts, nor is it an already established show where he has to fit into a tone that may or may not totally gel with him. I can’t just say that he can’t carry a show – we don’t know that yet. But I think we’re going to find out soon.
As far as the rest of the show goes, it really does jam the entirety of the movie into 22 minutes. It’s pretty breakneck, and impossible to tell what the show would be like if it had a second to breathe. There’s no way the rest of the episodes are going to be like this, unless the second episode exactly follows the plot of Mickey Blue Eyes, so it’s hard to know what it will be. I wish they would have just started from the end of the movie. Even if literally no one had ever seen the movie, it probably still would have been OK. It’s not like you’d be jumping in halfway through the third season of The Wire. As it is now, people who have seen About a Boy will be a little bored, and people who haven’t will be confused as to why all of this shit would need to happen in one episode. Classic pilotitis, but with these names attached, there’s hope for the future.
– Ryan Haley