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).


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Tuesday, January 23

    The Middle - "Meet the Parents" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Frankie is stoked when Axl invites her and Mike to meet and have dinner with girlfriend Lexie’s rich parents, Tammy (Lisa Rinna) and Bennett. But Frankie is worried that their less then luxurious lifestyle may put a damper on their meeting. Meanwhile, Brick is excited to be a part of the Sophomore Slammer fundraiser, in which fellow classmates fake arrest each other and friends come to pay money – which will go to charity – to bail them out. But Brick soon discovers that no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t get arrested.

    Fresh Off the Boat - "B as in Best Friends" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Still homeless, the Huangs move in with Honey and Marvin. Jessica’s dreams come true when she gets a chance to compete on “Wheel of Fortune” during Best Friends Week with Honey. Eddie starts high school and is still on the outs with his pals but finds unexpected sympathy from Nicole. Michael Bolton offers to step in at the restaurant to give Louis more time with his family, but does he have an ulterior motive?

    black-ish - "First and Last" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Diane experiences a big life event toward becoming a woman and Bow, Ruby, Zoey and Alicia are there to support her. Meanwhile, afraid that he may never be able to beat Junior at basketball again, Dre conducts psychological warfare on Junior before challenging him to a game.

    Modern Family - "Ten Years Later" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Claire is determined to make up for her less-than-joyful mood at Jay and Gloria’s wedding by throwing their tenth-anniversary party. As part of the festivities, Phil is going to perform a magic trick featuring Gloria appearing out of thin air in her wedding dress; that is if Gloria can still get into it!

    LA to Vegas - "The Affair" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    Ronnie thinks about exposing a regular passenger when she realizes that he may be cheating on his wife; Capt. Dave becomes interested in an air traffic controller; the passengers are overly enthused by the new credit card scanners.

    The Mick - "The Dump" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    While Mickey and Alba chaperone Ben's field trip to a local dump, they find an unfamiliar young boy who snuck onto the bus on the trip back home; Chip and Sabrina's plan to benefit from Colonel's veteran status soon goes awry.

    Baskets - "Wild Horses" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    Chip learns how to transfer a call.

    K.C. Undercover - "Cassandra Undercover" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    A high-school math whiz trains to be an undercover spy.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 22)

    Tuesday, January 23

    • Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) - Catch Sarah on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Eugene Levy (Schitt's Creek/Greg the Bunny/Hiller and Diller) - Eugene is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Ross Lynch (Austin & Ally) - Ross appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Kathy Bates (Disjointed) - Kathy visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Louie Anderson (Baskets/The Louie Show/Life with Louie) - Louie stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Jason Jones (The Detour) - Jason is a guest on Desus & Mero at 11pm on Viceland.
    • Max Greenfield (New Girl/Modern Men) - Max chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • David Duchovny (Californication) - David talks about The X-Files on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
    • Susan Kelechi Watson (Louie) - Susan stops by LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings. She will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
    • AnnaLynne McCord (Let's Get Physical) - AnnaLynne talks about Pop's Let's Get Physical on Steve, so check your local listings.
    • Sean Giambrone (The Goldbergs) - Sean is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
    • Dylan McDermott (LA to Vegas) - Dylan cooks with Clinton Kelly on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT. He will also be on the BUILD Series at 12pm.
    • The Cast of Schitt's Creek - Daniel Levy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Annie Murphy and Emily Hampshire are guests on the BUILD Series at 11am.
    • Derek Waters (Married to the Kellys) - Derek appears on the BUILD Series at 2pm.
    • The Cast of Let's Get Physical - Jane Seymour, Matt Jones, AnnaLynne McCord and Chris Diamantopoulos are guests on the BUILD Series at 3pm.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (November/December/January)

    The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Third Season Living Single - The Complete Third Season Alice - The Complete Sixth Season One Day at a Time - The Complete Series Fuller House - The Complete Second Season

    11/07 - American Dad! - Volume 12
    11/07 - Family Guy - Season Fifteen
    11/07 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Third Season
    11/14 - D.C. Follies - The Complete Series
    11/21 - Living Single - The Complete Third Season
    11/24 - Grandfathered - Season 1
    12/05 - Alice - The Complete Sixth Season
    12/05 - One Day at a Time - The Complete Series
    12/05 - The Simpsons - The Eighteenth Season
    12/05 - South Park - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
    12/12 - Fuller House - The Complete Second Season
    12/19 - South Park - The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray) / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11
    01/09 - Girlfriends - The Complete Series
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest