Review: About a Boy 1×1 (NBC)

About A Boy

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC

David Walton has something of a reputation. Two reputations in fact.

  1. He’s NBC’s unofficial comedy mascot, having now appeared as a regular cast member in mid-season replacement shows 100 Questions, Perfect Couples and Bent
  2. He’s a show-killer, 100 Questions, Perfect Couples and Bent all having been cancelled after a season or even before that.

To be fair, although 100 Questions had its moments, these were largely quite bad shows, in which Walton did little apart from be a feckless, aimless, but amiable womaniser who learns the error of his ways when he meets that special lady.

So now we can perform some actual science. Given Walton’s experience in this area, it’s understandable that NBC called him yet again when they had a very similar role for him in yet another mid-season comedy replacement. But unlike those previous shows, this new one should in theory be very good. It’s About A Boy, based on Nick Hornby’s book and movie of the same name. It’s got Minnie Driver as the love interest. It’s got Jon Favreau directing its pilot episode and even got Leslie Bibb (Iron Man, Popular, GCB) to guest. It’s got Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) show-running it.

If it fails, it must therefore be because

  1. No one will watch a comedy on NBC any more
  2. David Walton is a show-killer

Which do you think it is?

Here’s a trailer. And just for comparison, I’ve added the trailer for the Hugh Grant movie below. See if that helps.

Plot
Based on the best-selling novel by Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “An Education”), written and produced by Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”), and directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Revolution”) comes a different kind of coming-of-age story.

After writing a hit song, Will Freeman (David Walton, “Bent,” “Perfect Couples”) was granted a life of free time, free love and freedom from financial woes. He’s single, unemployed and loving it. So imagine his surprise when Fiona (Minnie Driver, “Good Will Hunting,” “Barney’s Version”), a needy single mom and her oddly charming 11-year-old son, Marcus (Benjamin Stockham, “1600 Penn”), move in next door and disrupt his perfect world.

Is it any good?
Only slightly.

To be fair, there was a secret third option I didn’t tell you about – see? Science is hard – which is that Jason Katims has screwed up the adaptation and the script largely isn’t funny so not all blame can be levelled at Walton.

Much of the movie is compressed down into this first episode and along the way, a lot of the depth (if it can be described as such) has been planed off with a rusty bit of metal. Essentially, Minnie Driver’s character is now a composite of Rachel Weisz (love interest)’s and Toni Collette (neighbour)’s characters, meaning the show is now really a “will they, won’t they?” odd-couple romance, with Walton having to learn to love his British, vegan, meditating single mum neighbour, her son acting as the catalyst that allows them even to occupy the same room as each other.

And that’s been done before. Lots and lots of times. A lot of them with David Walton in them.

Walton’s Will is also blander than Hugh Grant’s Will, who rather than just being a somewhat aimless womaniser actually had a proper, slightly dark philosophy of uninvolvement. Walton, by contrast, is just not ready for commitment yet. Or is he?

And that’s been done before.

Indeed, everything’s blander and as expected. We have the same jokes as always about how tofu isn’t quite as tasty as meat so why would anyone eat it? Walton has a guy pal (Al Madrigal from The Daily Show and NBC’s last Brit remake, Free Agents) who’s already got a kid and who can put forward the virtues of American family life. Even Driver, usually so good, seems to be doing things by the numbers.

The pilot’s not without some sparks and everyone’s pleasing enough. But the good moments are few and far between, as are the jokes.

And the boy? He’s okay. And it’s all about the boy.