By the time a story enters its third medium, it’s probably entered our cultural collective unconscious as well. I’ve never read Nick Hornby’s novel About a Boy, nor have I seen the popular movie version starring Hugh Grant, but I’m pretty sure I get the gist.
Attractive, financially comfortable single man thinks he has life figured out until he learns a series of lessons from the well-loved if emotionally incomplete child that fate thrusts into his life. Got it.
The key word in that description is now “series” as NBC has developed the material into one, airing Tuesdays at 9 pm And, good for them, it’s a hit! Not too terribly hard to see why, either, even if (or perhaps because) the latest About a Boy is about as formulaic as it gets.
David Walton stars as Will, a former rock star living off his royalties in San Francisco. Will sleeps around, plays video games, and grills steaks behind his lovely condo. What a tortured soul, right? Let’s send some enlightenment this guy’s way.
Enter Minnie Driver as single mother Fiona, Will’s new next-door neighbor. Fiona’s got a precocious son, Marcus, who sticks to to Will like glue. Will satisfies a key need for Marcus, who is smart but socially tone-deaf: he wears girly sweaters and openly tells his classmates that his mother is his best friend.
You can see where this is going, right? Even if you’re fresh to the material too? Every week Will and Marcus are going to show each other the wisdom of pushing outside of their respective comfort zones. Marcus will learn to be a little less afraid of life, and Will will learn to make more human connections and let people rely on him.
It’s so cut-and-paste they might as well be solving a crime each Tuesday. The writing is fine, the acting is fine, but I don’t feel like I’m learning as much these characters …
In the pilot, Will shamelessly pretends Marcus is his own son in an attempt to score with a hot, cello-playing blonde. That’s despicable enough to have bite, but by the end Will is saving the kid from an embarrassing talent show performance by playing backup and bringing on the smoke machine while Marcus sings One Direction. Bite gone.
The two dudes have decent interplay, but is this enough to keep you coming back episode after episode?
In short: it’s not quite funny enough for how sweet it wants to be, and too predictable to be much else anyways.
I definitely feel like I’ve seen it before.