Pilot Preview: NBC's Man-Child Comedy About a Boy

By Tim Surette

Jul 05, 2013

Hey you! This isn't a review, it's a PREview. Huge difference. Most notably, the "P." Also, these PREviews are based on early cuts of pilots that might change drastically by the time they officially hit the air, so we can't properly review them. But we CAN give you an idea of what to expect. In this series of early looks at the new shows of fall 2013, there's no contemplating, no deep analysis; just super-duper quick thoughts on what we just watched that we're passing on to you. We'll revisit each previewed show in the fall with the hyper-intellectual breakdowns and fart jokes you're used to from us goons here at TV.com. 

About a Boy – Midseason on NBC

STARRING AND CREATED BY: The cast includes David Walton (Bent), Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, The Riches), Benjamin Stockham (1600 Penn) as the titular boy, and Al Madrigal (The Daily Show). It's an adaptation of the 2002 movie starring Hugh Grant, which itself was an adaptation of Nick Hornby's 1998 novel. Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) ushered the series to television and wrote the pilot, and Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directed it. 

THE GIST: In San Francisco, man-child and horny bro-dude Will (Walton) drums up a friendship with his neighbor's 11-year-old son, Marcus (Stockham). But Marcus's single mother Fiona is a vegan who's into meditating her problems away, and she's not too fond of Will's influence on Marcus. UH-OH! Do you see where this is going? 

SNAP JUDGMENT: The book was great, the movie was pretty good, the television show is not the movie or the book. The pilot is essentially a rote rom-com condensed into 22 minutes, with no time spent on developing characters beyond their one-word descriptions (he likes meat, she likes seitan, he likes to bang blondes, she weeps over her difficult single-mom life). Walton's definitely a talent, but this probably isn't the role to make him a household name. And Driver is way too good to play a crying single mom. Finally, if you're looking for laughs? Not here. This is an example of NBC's broad-comedy initiative. The kid's okay, though!

PILOTITIS DIAGNOSIS: About a Boy's pilot really feels like a pilot given the awful gender-specific roles the show gives its characters to play. In fact, both Will and Fiona are pretty much insufferable for most of the episode as the man who thinks with his penis and the woman who's an anal-retentive, joyless bore. It's shocking that someone like Katims, who regularly delivers multidimensional characters on his other shows, would write these stereotypes. Yeah, it's just the pilot, but eesh. Not a good start.

FACES TO LOOK OUT FOR:  Madrigal is hilarious, but he only has a few small bits in the pilot. Walton is the guy with the most potential to break out, though after a great run on the surprising Bent

RANDOM THOUGHTS: It's always great to see shows set in San Francisco that actually shoot in San Francisco (I assume regular episodes will be filmed elsewhere due to $$$). The pilot features a real eye-roller of an ending.

EXCITEMENT LEVEL: About the same as a dentist visit. If we're putting a number on this, let's say 3 out of 10. 

(Where we rank the fall season's pilots based on very early impressions)

1. Almost Human - J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman's robotic buddy-cop drama

1. About a Boy - Jason Katims' TV adaptation of the film adaption of Nick Hornby's novel about a man-boy friendship

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  • JosephCecil Jul 08, 2013

    I hope it fails. Hard. All the actors are talented enough to find more work and I want NBC to learn a lesson with its "broader comedy" (i.e. "we can be just like CBS!") initiative: it's not the TYPE of comedies that's hurting you, it's the comedies you decide to keep airing that's killing you.

  • CoryBarker1 Jul 07, 2013

    I really liked it? I don't disagree with anything you said, but Walton's just so good that his charm carried me through the mediocre parts.

  • antdude Jul 07, 2013


  • Taccado Jul 06, 2013

    Every year they come up with these kind of sitcoms which seem to have so little chances to survive. Do they really think that this will last for, say, four-five seasons? I feel bad for Minnie Driver for signing up for this. Sure, there are shows that manage to surprise you, so maybe I shouldn't be so quick to judge. When I heard about Raising Hope for the first time, I did not believe it would make it to season four. But it's still much more common that a sitcom like this does not survive for long, and being on NBC doesn't help. I'm not expecting every TV show to be wildly original, if that was the case they would run out of ideas in a few years, but this show just sounds so generic. How can they put a fresh spin on an Oscar nominated film which most people already know?

  • bstolemyremote Jul 06, 2013

    Oh no! We're really looking forward to this one considering the talent. Walton is so overdue for success (hopefully the woh-woh pilot will lead into a stronger second ep/series)

  • hockeyrick Jul 06, 2013

    looks like another horrible attempt at comedy! At least no laugh track!!!

  • modernfamily120 Jul 06, 2013

    Why is there always so much hate for sitcoms with laughter? (from a studio audience or laugh track) I really don't care, and almost prefer those kind better. It's like the classics like Friends and Seinfeld.

  • Tvking00 Jul 08, 2013

    I think its because laugh tracks sound really corny in this day & age.

  • Muderboy Jul 06, 2013

    I notice we haven't talked about NBC's new summer show, Crossing Lines. Yeah, it's NBC, but so what. I thought it was pretty good--like way better than Under the Dome good. A few folks mentioned that there were a few stupid things in the pilot, but we do things for sake of time and plot--"Now why the hell did he do that?" kinda stuff--but I didn't have any problem with any of it. Surely Crossing Lines is more topical than something you're giving a three, what's up with that?

  • ludoTV Jul 05, 2013

    I really liked the movie and I love both Walton and Driver so I would love if this could result in a good show but the Preview is pretty damning... I think the whole premise can get really corny real fast... This was avoided in the film with quite a few dark-ish elements like the school bullies, the boy's mother's attempted suicide and Hugh Grant acting quite douchy initially rather than being mister fun & games which is what they've done here... Also in the film the Walton character does not hook up with the boy's mum but with another mum who appears later... This plot change does not look like a great idea to me... I guess we'll have to see the finished product and judge but not great expectations here...

  • sdtessen Jul 05, 2013

    Noooooo! I saw this and liked it! It's better than the other pilots I've seen for next season.

  • zachattack12 Jul 05, 2013

    I'm with you. I saw this pilot, and it was really awesome (save for the One Direction bit). It wasn't particularly broad. I definitely want to see more.

  • modernfamily120 Jul 05, 2013

    How did you all see the pilot?
    And remember that this site judges comedies more harshly than it does dramas.

  • zachattack12 Jul 05, 2013

    I was one of their test subjects.

  • JT_Kirk Jul 05, 2013

    Minnie Driver good, Minnie Driver in a sitcom is a waste of talent. And look at that, Tim says that's what happens, what a surprise. This one is a super pass.

    And this article is the last time "About a Boy" will end up at the top of any list ever.

  • Muderboy Jul 06, 2013

    Justa boy justa boy justa boy justa boy justa boy with a bad attitude...

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