Thursday, October 02, 2014

NBC Fall Pilot Review: A to Z - Premieres Tonight; TV Land Orders 2 New Single-Camera Comedies for 2015

A to Z

A to Z - Thursdays at 9:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 9:30PM ET/PT


by Vincent

A to Z is a romantic comedy that tracks the relationship of Andrew, a whimsical employee for an internet dating site, and Zelda, a no-nonsense lawyer who have an accidental meet-up and wind up falling for each other. He thinks it's chance. He thinks it's fate. After all, he's convinced she's the shimmering girl in the silver dress. Is it true love forever or just a detour in destiny?

Cast Details:

Ben Feldman as Andrew
Cristin Milioti as Zelda
Henry Zebrowski as Stu
Leonora Crichlow as Stephie
Katey Sagal as The Narrator

Ben Feldman (Andrew) is best known for his role as Michael Ginsberg on AMC's Mad Men. He also appeared regularly as Fred on Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva. His other television work includes appearances on The Mindy Project, Silicon Valley, and CSI.

Cristin Milioti (Zelda) is best known as Tracy McConnel, or "The Mother," on How I Met Your Mother. She is also well-known for her role in the popular Broadway musical Once. Her other work includes appearances on The Good Wife, 30 Rock, and Nurse Jackie.

Henry Zebrowski (Stu) has appeared on several TV shows, including Blue Bloods, Royal Pains, and Law & Order: SVU. Most recently, he had a small role in the film The Wolf of Wall Street.

Leonora Crishlow (Stephie) has appeared in a handful of TV shows, including Doctor Who, Being Human, and Back in the Game.

Katey Sagal (The Narrator) is well-known for her TV work, including long-running roles as Peggy Bundy on Married...with Children and as Leela on Futurama. She currently stars as Gemma Teller Morrow on FX's Sons of Anarchy and was on the popular sitcom 8 Simple Rules, opposite the late John Ritter.

Pilot Plot:

"A is for Acquaintances" (Thursday, Oct. 2 at 9:30PM ET/PT)

When a computer glitch sends Zelda on a total mismatch, she's asked to come in for an interview at the internet dating site where Andrew works, and this is where it all begins. Andrew and Zelda meet for the first time and despite their differences, sparks fly. She thinks it's chance. He thinks it's fate and is convinced she's the shimmering girl in the silver dress he saw several years earlier.

Analysis:

Romantic comedy seems to be a big trend in sitcom pilots this fall. Between this show, Marry Me (also on NBC), and ABC's Selfie and Manhattan Love Story, the networks seem to be obsessed with the idea of a TV series that documents two unlikely people falling in love. Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be any real catalyst for this trend – I guess maybe you could attribute it to the success of How I Met Your Mother, which was really mostly an ensemble comedy but had a strong romantic comedy pipeline running through it, or perhaps even the far more modest success of a show like The Mindy Project. And yet, both of those shows demonstrate just how difficult it is to truly nail a romantic comedy. How I Met Your Mother was an incredibly popular series, sure, but after the very divisive series finale, few would argue it really nailed the rom-com elements of its premise.

The Mindy Project has struggled both critically and commercially through-out its run (though critics seem to be more on its side lately), and it's been a while since we've had a rom-com film that managed to captivate the masses in the way something like When Harry Met Sally or Breakfast at Tiffany's did. Still, there's something uniquely satisfying about a romantic comedy when it's done right, and A to Z is attempting to be TV's answer to that pop culture niche. Does it succeed? Well, it gets some things right, particularly its two lead actors. Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti are terrific actors in their own right, but their chemistry together is undeniably electric, and it made me more invested in their courtship than I ever expected myself to be. The two sell their respective characters and their attraction to each other to the point where a lot of the faults of the writing tend to melt away, and their skills almost makes this worth watching alone. Unfortunately, the rest of A to Z is fairly inconsistent. One of the most common trappings romantic comedy as a genre has is that it has an overbearing sense of plot momentum - the story needs to get to certain places at certain times, which often leads its characters to act in ways that are not recognizably human. The best examples of the form find ways to rise above this – the excellent You're the Worst on FX (which gets my vote as the best entry in the apparent rom-com race) made its lead characters extremely flawed individuals, allowing their often outlandish behavior make sense in the context of their characters. A to Z is, unfortunately, not on that level – its characters often feel like confused messes of quirks that add up to vaguely stereotypical archetypes rather than fully-realized characters. This fault can be found at an even larger level with the very weak supporting cast, none of which seem to have a clear purpose on the show just yet. Of course, this is just a pilot, and these characters will hopefully develop over time, but right now it feels like the actors are far above the level the show is operating at.

Conclusion:

A to Z is an inconsistent show that's a little too impressed with itself and is more concerned with being "cute" than creating good, memorable characters. That said, the show has some undeniable strength in its two lead actors, and there's parts of this pilot that suggest a show that could eventually serve them well. If the show can simply strengthen its lead characters a bit more and define them beyond basic stereotypes, and if it can figure out just what the hell to do with its supporting cast, this could eventually become a show to look out for. Right now, it feels like a show with a lot of potential that isn’t quite being realized yet.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3/5
Funniness: 2.5/5
Overall: 3/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 at 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • A to Z Photo Gallery

    Preview:





  • Impastor

    TV Land has ordered 10-episode first seasons of two new single-camera comedies, Impastor and Teachers. Both series will premiere on TV Land in 2015. Impastor, a single-camera comedy from Christopher Vane, stars Michael Rosenbaum, Sara Rue (Less Than Perfect), Aimee Garcia (George Lopez), Mircea Monroe, Mike Kosinski, and David Rasche (Ugly Betty). The series revolves around Buddy Dobbs (Rosenbaum), a gambling, pot-smoking slacker on the run from a loan shark, who steals a man’s identity and ends up posing as the new gay pastor in a small, tight-knit town. Though he’s tempted to immediately run off with the pastor’s money, Buddy has a change of heart when he realizes that the people there, including his prim church assistant Dora (Rue), actually like this new and semi-improved alter ego...and he kind of likes them back. Other officials at Buddy’s new church include Alexa Cummings (Monroe), the gorgeous treasurer that has Buddy rethinking his whole con; Russell Kerry (Kosinski), the young secretary who's very excited to have a gay pastor; and Alden Schmidt (Rasche), the church president and the only person who seems to be just a little suspicious of Buddy. As Buddy deals with his new life, his bartender ex-girlfriend Leanne (Garcia), has to deal with the huge mess he left behind.

    Teachers

    Teachers revolves around six elementary school teachers who are trying to mold the minds and lives of America's youth, even though they don't really seem to have their own lives together at all. From refusing to read fairytales because "sometimes Prince Charming wants to date other people" to hitting on the resident "hot dad," these teachers are certainly changing the world, one student at a time. The series stars improv group The Katydids - Caitlin Barlow, Katy Colloton, Cate Freedman, Kate Lambert, Katie O'Brien and Katie Thomas – who also wrote and starred in the web hit that the TV series is based on. In addition to writing for and starring in Teachers, they will also serve as executive producers alongside Alison Brie (Community) and showrunners Ian Roberts and Jay Martel (Key and Peele).


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (January/February)

    I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized) The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two Hooperman - Season One 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek) Fuller House - The Complete First Season

    01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
    01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
    01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
    01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
    01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
    01/24 - Hooperman - Season One / Review
    01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two / Review
    01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
    02/07 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - Sabrina Down Under
    02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 1 - School's Cool - Boy Crazy
    02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 2 - About a Family - Hangin' Out
    02/07 - 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek)
    02/07 - Vice Principals - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
    02/14 - Beavis and Butt-Head - The Complete Collection
    02/14 - Grace and Frankie - Season Two
    02/28 - Fuller House - The Complete First Season
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Tuesday, February 21

    The Middle - "Dental Hijinks" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    After Frankie tries to get a stubborn Mike to go see Dr. Goodwin to take care of his toothache, Mike convinces the good doctor to leave his tooth alone and tell Frankie that everything was ok. But the two find themselves fabricating a story that’s so ludicrous that they fear Frankie will figure out the truth. Meanwhile, since they are nearing the end of their senior year at college, Axl, Hutch and Kenny decide it’s time to sell the fabled Winnebago; Sue tries her best to let college golf cart driver Tyler know that she likes him; and Brick attempts to write a historic Scottish rap musical – a la “Hamilton” – focusing on the life of Sergeant Charles Stuart MacKenzie.

    American Housewife - "The Man Date" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    Greg is delighted to finally have made a friend in Westport, fellow history buff Stan (guest star Timothy Omundson), but Katie isn’t as happy, especially since Stan is married to her nemesis, Chloe Brown Mueller (Jessica St. Clair).

    Fresh Off the Boat - "The Gloves Are Off" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    Jessica accidentally befriends Marvin’s ex-wife, Sarah (Heather Locklear), and tries to help her and Honey settle their longstanding rift. Meanwhile, Louis and the boys are on a mission to determine Grandma’s true age in hopes of surprising her with a new, free motorized wheelchair.

    The Real O'Neals - "The Real Confirmation" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    When Shannon asks VP Murray to be her godfather leading up to her confirmation, Eileen fears her own relationship with him might be moving too fast. Shannon’s big day also has a surprising effect on Kenny’s relationship when Brett says, “I love you,” sending Kenny into a tailspin. Meanwhile, the return of a hot former babysitter puts Pat and Jimmy at odds when she constantly makes passes at Pat.

    New Girl - "Rumsprings" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    When Jess gets nervous about starting her new position as principal, Nick and Schmidt decide to take her on a relaxing day trip to Solvang, which quickly goes “sideways.” Meanwhile, with Cece’s help, Winston tries to finalize his divorce from Rhonda, but finds that he and Aly are caught in a series of never-ending pranks.

    The Mick - "The Baggage" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    Mickey’s unwanted suitors team up to thwart her new romance. Meanwhile, Sabrina and Alba teach Ben a lesson in responsibility.

    The Detour - "The City" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    Robin isn't thrilled about Nate's new job in New York City, but the family heads out from Syracuse anyway.

    Teachers - "Brokebitch Mountain" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    Ms. Feldman can’t make ends meet on her salary and takes a second job. Ms. Watson notices a romantic spark between two of her second grade students. The Teachers take advantage of Principal Pearson.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 20)

    Tuesday, February 21

    • Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies) - Catch Tom on a repeat of the 2011 Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars special at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth/The Cleveland Show) - Will visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
    • Yvette Nicole Brown (The Odd Couple/Community) - Yvette appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Allison Williams (Girls) - Allison talks about Girls and Get Out on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour. She will also be on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings. Finally, she will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
    • Mae Whitman (Arrested Development) - Mae visits LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings. She also talks about Rock Dog on the AOL Build Show at 12pm.
    • Zach Braff (Scrubs) - Zach guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
    • NeNe Leakes (The New Normal) - NeNe guest co-hosts The Real, so check your local listings.
    • Jason Jones (The Detour) - Jason talks about The Detour on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on the AOL Build Show at 3pm.
    • Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs/Rules of Engagement/Reno 911!) - Wendi is a guest on the AOL Build Show at 1pm. She will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
    • Malin Akerman (Trophy Wife/Sin City Saints) - Malin chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Judd Hirsch (Superior Donuts/Dear John/Taxi) and Jermaine Fowler (Superior Donuts) - Judd and Jermaine are guests on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
    • Kym Whitley (Young & Hungry/Animal Practice/Sparks) - Kym and Kim Gravel help a woman snoop through two bachelors' homes in order to choose which she should date on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
    • Ashley Gerasimovich (The Detour) - Ashley is a guest on Cheddar at 12:15pm. Ashley and Liam Carroll will be on Facebook Live on the TBS Facebook account at approx. 4:00pm. Ashley, Liam, Jason Jones and Natalie Zea will be on Facebook live at approx. 8:00PM EST on the official The Detour Facebook page.