[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"About a Boy" (NBC)
Airs:Midseason TBD
The Pitch: "It's like 'About a Boy,' only warmer and fuzzier."
Quick Response: On one hand, Jason Katims' adaptation of Chris and Paul Weitz's adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel works very well. It successfully brings nearly a full movie or book's worth of story into 22 minutes and, thanks to both Katims and director Jon Favreau, there are a couple laughs and three or four totally effective warm fuzzies. Nobody does warm-fuzzies like Jason Katims. David Walton brings ample charm to the lead role and, after having been rascally and winning in a slew of failed NBC comedies, perhaps this'll be the one that brings him a certain level of stardom. Minnie Driver is a neurotic, sometimes hilarious mess and once you accept that you're not going to instantly embrace her -- You aren't supposed to, just as you weren't immediately supposed to love Toni Collette's character in the movie -- I think she's very, very good. Even though we're mostly in the early antagonistic stage of things, I think there's fine chemistry between Walton and Driver. And although Benjamin Stockham is more of a sitcom kid than I'd like -- I prefer Nicholas Hoult's understated eyebrow-driven work in the movie to Stockham's expressive mugging any day -- he's funny enough and I think the sitcomization of the semi-eponymous "boy" sets up the the "... on the other hand," which you knew was coming. On the other hand, Katims and Favreau have pretty solidly missed the point of Hornsby's book and the movie. Or changed the point. I think Walton's well-cast for what Katims and Favreau want to do, but I think he's probably miscast for the source material. At 34, Walton is still young enough that the character's boyish behavior is almost entirely unconditionally winning. Yes, he's childlike, but he's not so old that it's a problem and just because he's got friends who have more mature lives and just because he's got a different lifestyle from the Driver character, that doesn't mean he's doing anything wrong. Hugh Grant was 42 in the movie and part of why his performance there is SO great is because he's also charming, but you see the cracks in his charm, you see the desperation and sadness that maybe the character *doesn't* initially feel, but maybe he *should* feel. There's a lesson that the character *has* to learn in the book and the movie, whereas with this casting and this tone, you figure that David Walton's character has a few good years before he can legitimately be judged. If you age down that main character, you drain the title of its double meaning and you take away what's at the core of Hornby's book. Maybe. Of course, there's room for wiggling. Grant was a little older than Hornby's Will, if memory serves, and that added age brought the melancholy of the book to the surface for the movie. If Walton is younger, what aspect will that bring to the surface of the TV show? And will whatever aspect that is justify the change? We'll see. As it stands here, the main dynamic is less like "About a Boy" and more like "Bent," only with a kid. A few people loved "Bent." I liked "Bent" a lot. If attaching a brand name to a remake of "Bent" gets "Bent" back, some people will be perfectly happy (and some people will feel mighty bait-and-switched).
Desire To Watch Again: Ample. My reservations about the pilot stemmed largely from familiarity with two versions of the source material that this doesn't adhere to in terms tone/theme. Probably I need to get over that. At a certain point "About a Boy" will become its own thing. Katims worked on "Friday Night Lights," which wasn't the book or the movie, but was awesome as its own thing. He has worked on "Parenthood," which isn't the Ron Howard movie and has been, in my opinion, much better as its own thing. I like Walton and Driver. A lot. Once I see what "its own thing" is, I can easily imagine enjoying "About a Boy" as its own thing. But it's not Nick Hornby's "About a Boy." So get ready for that.

 

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