Pilot preview: 'About a Boy' - Another movie-to-TV success story for NBC and Jason Katims?
In addition to this gallery of 22 shows we hope the networks order to series, we're also going to take a closer look at pilot scripts from each of the networks. While a lot can change between now and a series premiere, and these are by no means full reviews, we hope to offer some insight at some of the projects the networks are considering this spring.
Nick Hornby's terrific 1998 novel, "About a Boy," about a wealthy thirtysomething slacker bonding with a middle school outcast already inspired a well-liked movie starring Hugh Grant and a pre-"X-Men" Nicholas Hoult. Now NBC wants to see if it might work as a weekly TV series too.
What it's about: 36-year-old Will is living in a permanent state of arrested development. But when he needs to find a kid to pretend to be his son in order to keep up a lie he told a pretty single mom, Will begins to bond with Marcus, the oddball middle schooler who just moved in next door.
Who's in it: David Walton (who previously starred in NBC's "Bent" and recurred this season on "New Girl") and Benjamin Stockham (NBC's "1600 Penn") play Will and Marcus, respectively. Minnie Driver is Marcus' militant vegan mother, Fiona, while Al Madrigal ("Gary Unmarried," "Free Agents") and Anjelah Johnson ("Mad TV") are Will's married friends, Andy and Laurie. Leslie Bibb ("GCB") guest stars as the single mom Will hopes to woo in the pilot.
Who's behind it: Here's the good news: writer and executive producer Jason Katims, who previously helped steer the TV adaptations of "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood" to critical acclaim and multiple seasons (if not outright ratings success). Jon Favreau ("Iron Man") is directing the pilot, after helming "Revolution" for NBC last year.
Pros and cons: Katims' pilot doesn't make many drastic changes from either the novel or the film, and the series will have to find its own footing very quickly to avoid getting slammed as a poor imitation. The first half-hour builds up to Marcus' school talent show and won't surprise anyone who already knows the source material. (The debate over whether it's savvy or just lazy for TV to keep chasing these per-existing concepts will have to wait for another day.)
The few areas where the pilot script manages to go its own way -- the introduction of Will's friends Andy and Laurie and their cartoonish marriage; Will's portrayal as a typical Hollywood man child instead of the spoiled layabout so perfectly embodied by Grant -- don't feel right just yet.
On the plus side, the San Francisco locations haven't been overused in contemporary TV comedy and Driver seems like the right choice for a hippie mom who should be able to drive stories of her own.
Katims' track record is reason enough to hope for the best here, but everything about this intriguing gamble will ultimately hinge on the chemistry between Walton and Stockham. That's impossible to judge from the script. And it's worth noting that there's a remote possibility that NBC unexpectedly renews "1600 Penn" for Season 2, which means Marcus would have to be recast anyway.
Check out previous Zap2it pilot previews for ABC's "Super Fun Night," CBS' "The Surgeon General" and FOX's "Sleepy Hollow."