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About a Boy S01E01: "Pilot"


At first glance, Jason KatimsAbout a Boy could very well be just be another line item on the increasingly long list of recent TV series adapted from books or movies, which are currently multiplying like rabbits. Nick Hornby's 1998 novel about an emotionally stunted man and the young boy who comes into his life and subsequently forces him to grow up was already adapted into a successful movie starring Hugh Grant in 2002, so it might seem a bit redundant to revisit the same story for TV in 2014, but if anyone can make it work—and possibly make it work better than either of its sources—it's Katims. 

Katims was the head writer and executive producer of Friday Night Lights, which was also a book and a movie before the Taylors ruined our lives in the best possible way. He's currently the creator and executive producer of Parenthood, yet another adaptation—even if in name only—of a popular movie from the 1980s. And don't think I've forgotten that he developed Roswell from the Roswell High books in the early '00s, because no one forgets Michael Guerin. Katims is an old pro at this by now, and his ability to blend humor and heart is what I think will make About a Boy work, even if the series isn't quite where it could or maybe should be yet.


David Walton—who most recently starred in NBC's short-lived comedy Bent and recurred on New Girl as Jess's boyfriend Dr. Sam—plays Will, the immature cad at the heart of the story. He's currently single, unemployed, and living in San Francisco, supporting himself with the royalties from a one-hit-wonder song he wrote a long time ago and now hates with a passion. His main hobby is complaining about how all of his friends are grown up and married with kids, while he's still lying to and manipulating women so they'll have sex with him. In the pilot, when a young boy named Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and his high-strung single mother Fiona (Minnie Driver) moved in next door, Will immediately raised an eyebrow at the pair. But that didn't stop him from enlisting Marcus in his quest to sleep with a woman named Dakota (guest-star Leslie Bibb), which he did by plying Marcus with some delicious ribs (Fiona is a vegan). As the episode progressed, Will eventually—albeit begrudgingly—came around to the idea of befriending Marcus, even going so far as to join him on stage in the middle school talent show to perform a One Direction song. Will realized that Marcus and Fiona aren't all bad, and vice versa, and everybody lived mostly happily ever after.

About a Boy's pilot was perfectly fine. The show comes from a strong showrunner, and the cast is solid. But I've had the luxury of screening the first three episodes, and here's what's plaguing the series at the outset: In its current form, About a Boy is simply too predictable to exist as a TV show in 2014. Right now, it appears that each week, we'll see Will start an episode as a likable-but-sarcastic asshole. Then we'll see him eff something up and learn an important lesson about not being an asshole, only to relapse in the very next episode. It doesn't matter how charming Walton is as Will, or how great Stockham is as the precocious child next door; for most viewers, such an obvious formula is going to get old. If you're content with a series that follows the same pattern every week—and many people are; that's what makes procedurals so successful—About a Boy is probably worth checking out right from the get-go. But it might be awhile before we see any tangible character growth.


Katims has promised that, as the series progresses, we'll see both Will and Marcus, not to mention Fiona, evolve as a result their newfound friendship. It's just that I have yet to see any signs of growth, and that worries me. The good news is that it's a relatively simple problem to fix; Katims is a talented man working with talented actors, and if he puts in the effort to develop About a Boy's characters so they don't feel quite so "lather, rinse, repeat" every week, then he just might unearth the heartwarming comedy he clearly wants to make. 

In the meantime, he's got some strong elements to work with. Minnie Driver adds life to a Fiona who's much more integrated into the story than the original character was in the book or the movie. Stockham is believable as an impressionable kid who sometimes has a better grasp on reality than the adults in his life. And Will is way more likable than you'd think, given what a flake he can be (though that might just be David Walton's presence in general?). I actually thought Will's sarcastic schtick was one of the more successful parts of the pilot; it wobbled when it delved too deep into saccharine territory after Will realized (and tried to right) his mistakes. 

But, I genuinely like what Katims is trying to do with About a Boy, and I'm interested in the relationship between Will and Marcus. I'm of the opinion that comedies are better when they come with a bit of heart—that's why I'm still chugging along with How I Met Your Mother, and why Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite shows—and there's a lot of potential for that here. If About a Boy can find a way to switch up its format from week-to-week while picking up the pace on its character development, it has a shot at success. But it's gotta move fast, or it's not going to last long enough to try. 


What'd you think of the series premiere? Will you be back for Episode 2?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 7/20/2015

Season 2 : Episode 20

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We were disappointed that there was no rating and the last episode we watched was not for children. It is hard to find a family oriented show and even the ones that are supposed to be about a boy became very adult who is sleeping with who kind of show. Sorry I think you are losing some audience but you probably gained those who like sex and mixed moral issures.
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Poorly chosen title for the article, considering that I consider 2.5 men to have gone in the bottle along with Charlie Sheen's exit. It was flailing long before that. ANd I disagree about moving fast. That might be wise for the modern skimmer mentality, but it would not satisfy me the way this show is already beginning to do.
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I absolutely loved it! That was awesome and one of the best pilots in a while! Of course it was the same plot as the movie with Hugh Grant (which was also great), but still. The leads are fantastic! Reminded me a little of "Seed"...similar dude and all...bottom line, this is awesome!
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It was ok not bad but not brilliant well after see how it goes
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It was actually pretty good. Will see how it takes shape cuz somethings clearly aren't in place yet.
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i caught it after the olympics the other night while playing my PS Vita. it seemed pretty funny at times, but the end was just SOOOO corny.

I liked Leslie Bibbs character.

to me it seemed like they crammed a ton of stuff into the pilot that could easily have been over a few eps, but i guess they do that to get you invested up front.
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Corny is the word! and yep the Leslie Bibbs character was funnier than anyone else... That actress deserves a good comedy (that show in Texas doesn't count was it GBT or something). Will's male friend with the kids was also pretty good considering he wasn't on screen much
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so far enjoyable, but that is based upon a 1st episode that reminded me of the movie with Hugh Grant in 1/2 hour.
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I've read the book multiple times and seen the movie even more times, and I thought the pilot was a good Americanisation of the FILM. The book is far grittier, as it deals with Fiona's attempted suicide and the effects of Kurt Cobain's suicide (topical when the book was written), and whilst I think they lost a lot of the movie by making it so sunshiney, it's still enjoyable. I wish Will and Marcus were a lot more uncool (eg, his haircut in the film and Will making a fool of himself at the talent show), but maybe America's uncool is the UK's cool? There is so much great material in the book and film that will be stretched over the series, I hope, such as the dead duck scene! I wonder if the pilot seemed better to people completely new to the story?
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Well, as someone who didn't read the book or watch the movie (I know, I know! My friend is bugging me to watch the movie and the book is on my very long list of to-reads), I will say that I wasn't terribly impressed. I love David Walton and most of what Katims's work, but the pilot fell flat for me. I will keep watching because I think that it can get better with the level of talent there, but it needs some serious work. The pilot did move too quickly and they did seem to gloss over the fact that the mom "cries sometimes" issue way too quickly- and then ignored it in the second episode. I'm surprised so many people did enjoy it right off the bat!

Here's to hoping it gets better!
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I can pretty much expect that I will like anything Kaitlin doesn't like.
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But I liked About A Boy?
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Oooh gurrl....she went there!
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Really? I didn't get that from your review. Anyway, I liked the pilot, even if it was the whole movie in a half hour. We'll see how it goes from here.
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"But, I genuinely like what Katims is trying to do with About a Boy, and I'm interested in the relationship between Will and Marcus."


You're right, this sounds just flat-out hateful, doesn't it?
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Those mommies are a scary bunch. You don't want to be on the receiving end of the mommy mafia. lol
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I didn't say she hated it. Just that it doesn't sound like she likes it very much.
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I didn't think they would do the entire movie in the first episode but hey...it was mildly funny. Idk if I will tune in again.
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It was cute! I've returned for a second episode for shows much worse than this, so yes, I'll definitely be watching again next week (Tuesday?). The kid was cute, Walton was cute, Leslie Bibb was cute, Minnie Driver was cute at times.

I don't know why -- maybe because it was off-screen -- but when a kid threw a paper ball or something at Marcus on stage and yelled something like "Hey, that went in one direction!" I found myself giggling and at the same time, was confused about my giggling. It's certainly not a funny joke or anything, but I think I just liked that the show did small things like that and made it off-screen.

However, it's not just because Walton's the star, but this has 'canceled' written all over it.
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I thought this was absolutely fantastic! I loved it. I hope it's sucessful and can stay on the air.
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Glad there's at least one other person with similar superlatives! :D
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Oh, Michael Guerin. Good times.
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Having seen the movie, the pilot felt like a rushed summary version of the movie so unfortunately clumsier and less subtle than the movie. The actors were fine enough but Will's caddiness and Fiona's new-age-iness were just too jarring. Infinitely less funny. It may get better if the characters get more fleshed out instead of being just parodies... Perhaps it will be less predictable once they have non-movie related plots but it'd better get funnier to stand a chance...
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i'm not sure i even saw the movie, but i half watched it while playing on my PS Vita and i thought they crammed a ton of stuff into 1 ep.
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The movie is not bad at all imo, better than your average romcom (not sure if it fits completely in the genre) - Hugh grant did a good job as did the kid who is now a grown up good actor i think?
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It was all right. Nice mix of characters. If they were smart they would keep Leslie Bibb around because she was funny. It had a nice mix of things and all the characters seemed to mesh well.

However, this could get repetitive really fast. Three central characters limits what they can do. You can only hit on the carnivore vs herbivore thing so many times, Will can only save Marcus so many times etc become it just becomes the same thing over and over again.

Like Go On before it, this show is going to live or die based on either the guest characters or the recurring characters. Al Madrigal is a pretty good get because the man is hilarious. Bibb as I said above is funny, she really should have a show of her own because she has been in some great comedy. Bringing people in for the central characters to react to is going to make or sink the show. Leave them to their own devices and likely it sinks.
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Leslie Bibb comes back!
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i just finished watching the pilot and must say that i'm already in love with marcus and the show overall... but marcus singing 1d was just too cute i wanted to pinch his cheeks!... and minnie is waaaay better than the weird mom from the movie :D
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Hold up....Toni Collette was brilliant in the movie! How dare you!
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i thought the ending was SO corny. no way that would ever happen (clapping along)...kids are cruel.
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well i like corny stuff...
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Totally - watch the movie to see kid and adult being really embarrassing singing 'Killing me Softly' (I blushed it was so cringeworthy) and everyone booing...
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Here is the link to the feat film scene - both 'Will' & kid are worst performers ever... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80QJRGg46DA
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I wouldn't say you can really complain on the growth of the characters 3 episodes in because if they developed faster than maybe just in what happened during the pilot, that in my book would be a complaint, but I see your point on where the concern lies. IMHO I think this shows heart is enough to keep me watching for a while. Great pilot, only too reminiscent of the movie which was kind of expected as well!
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The pilot was very much a re-hash of the movie plot (and thereby the book, I suppose, although I haven't read it) so I may have to watch a couple of more episodes to get a feel for what they're trying to do, even if it ends up being, as Kaitlin said following the same pattern week in week out.

I find Dalton's version of Will to be lacking the dry wit and smarts that Grant bought to the character in the film. In that version Grant was making a conscience effort to act detached and childish in relation to the world and his role in it because he knew he could, whereas this Will comes across as slightly dumber and more sex-obsessed.

As for Fiona, well at least in the film her berating temperament had a sympathetic feel towards it because of her depression, which unfortunately here was played for laughs. I think a major problem the series will face is that the movie was able to create some beautifully poignant material by blending drama and comedy, which a sitcom just doesn't have the luxury to do. My point being that Fiona's character will therefore need a revamp. With the series unable to delve too deeply into the subject matter of her depression, they'll need a new way to make her likable, otherwise she'll just come across as the generic nagging wife character in every sitcom.
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I LOVE LOVE LOVE this program!

it is substantially better than most of the programs which premiered in the Fall.

Benjamin Stockham is amazing. He is one of the appealing child actors in a generation. David Walton manages to make an immature jerk seem sympathetic and charming in a smarmy way. Minnie Driver did not make much of an impact in the pilot - but hopefully she will be given enough screen time to establish her character in future episodes.

i certainly hope NBC gives this little program with heart a chance!

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Liked the show. Great to see Minnie Driver on tv
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I thought it was very cute, and I also enjoyed that it had a lot of heart, an aspect I think many new sitcoms seem to be lacking these days, and one of the reasons I wish Go On hadn't been cancelled. I think this show has a lot of potential, and while I won't say I'm in it for the long haul just yet, I'll definitely be giving a few more episodes.
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I enjoyed the pilot a lot! I will definitely keep watching and also Parks and Rec is one of my favorite shows also.
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