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Pilot Review: “About a Boy” Is Pretty Damn Cute


Just like that the Olympics are over, and NBC’s focus is back on trying to rope people into watching their channel – increasingly doing it through a string of remakes.

About a Boy (based on the Nick Hornby novel and 2002 Hugh Grant film), isn’t particularly funny, but it is very charming. By using what is pretty much all of its book’s plot in its first episode, About a Boy moves fast, crams in character introductions surprisingly stylishly, and creates a fairly satisfying prospect.

The only problem?

About a Boy just used pretty much all its source material, in the first episode.

But the question to ask about pilots isn’t  really whether or not they’re good, but whether or not they can, or will, continue to be any good. Television is that one form of storytelling that can evolve and change almost instantly, and sometimes what you see in the first episode of a show can feel completely foreign just a few weeks later. So whether or not the pilot of something is good or not isn’t the question we need to ask. Instead, we need to look and see if the premise has promise.

And with About a Boy I think that it’s there. Sure, the plot’s been thrown at us in one twenty-two minute slot, but the best books and movies are the kind that leave you with an open ending and possibilities. David Walton (a serial lead in multiple cancelled sitcoms) plays Will, a bachelor and never-evolving man-child who lives next door to the newly moved in Fiona (Minnie Driver) and her son Marcus (Benjamin Stockham), who unwittingly becomes something of a friend to Will – and somehow, something of a role model, too.

Already, small changes have been made from About a Boy’s predecessors that provide opportunities for growth. Will doesn’t work due to royalties from an old Christmas song keeping him wealthy, and in the TV show it’s Will himself who wrote the song and made his success happen, rather than his father having already done it for him. It might seem a small divergence to focus on, but it indicates a lot more about this version of Will’s potential for change, rather than just a translation hiccup.

With Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) at the helm of this comedy, and a skilled cast leading the charge, About a Boy has all the right components for something perfectly charming. It might not have a lot of plot to focus on if it doesn’t move Will’s character quickly enough, as I fear it might not, but with David Walton and Minnie Driver knocking heads over a fence, while Benjamin Stockham gets caught in the middle?

Well. It’s pretty damn cute, is all.

About a Boy will air Tuesdays at 9pm on NBC. Check out the trailer below: