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, November 30

    The Last O.G. - "Smush" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
    After they find a suspicious hat in Amira's room, Tray and Josh decide to follow her and find out whose it is.

    Tyler Perry's House of Payne - "Paynefully Honest" (BET, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Calvin and Miranda are in uncharted waters as they begin navigating co-parenting; Ella and a reluctant Curtis work on their intimacy.

    Tyler Perry's Assisted Living - "Little Miss Sunshine" (BET, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    After Cora struggles to get the residents of Pleasant Days to partake in activities, a new resident comes in and breathes new life into everyone.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 29)

    Tuesday, November 30

    • Billy Crystal (The Comedians/Soap) - Catch Billy on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Jay Ellis (Insecure/The Game) - Jay appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Maya Rudolph (Forever/Up All Night) - Maya will be on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • Rita Moreno (One Day at a Time/Happily Divorced) - Rita is a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • Nicholas Braun (10 Things I Hate About You) - Nicholas will be on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • Kristin Chenoweth (Schmigadoon!/Trial & Error/Kristin) - Kristin appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. He will also be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Kal Penn (Sunnyside/Deadbeat/We Are Men) - Kal is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Harry Hamlin (Movie Stars) - Harry will be on Watch What Happens: Live at 10pm on Bravo. He talks about The Hot Zone: Anthrax on ABC's GMA 3: What You Need to Know at 1pm.
    • Leah Remini (Kevin Can Wait/The Exes/Family Tools/The King of Queens/Fired Up) - Leah guest co-hosts The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
    • Tisha Campbell (Dr. Ken/Rita Rocks/My Wife and Kids/Martin) - Tisha is a guest on The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
    • Jenifer Lewis (black-ish/The PJs) - Jenifer appears on The Real, so check your local listings.
    • Brooke Shields (Suddenly Susan) - Brooke is a guest on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
    • Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell/Saved by the Bell: The College Years) - NBC's Today catches up with Mario in the 9am hour.
    • Elizabeth Berkley (Saved by the Bell) - Elizabeth talks about Peacock's Saved by the Bell on Access Daily, so check your local listings.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (August-November)

    Young Sheldon - The Complete Fourth Season Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release) Mom - The Eighth and Final Season Punky Brewster (1984-88) - The Complete Series (2021 Release) I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

    08/20 - The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet - Deluxe Edition (100 Episodes) (Time Life)
    08/20 - The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet - Standard Edition (50 Episodes) (Time Life)
    08/24 - The Jim Gaffigan Show - Season 2
    09/07 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
    10/19 - Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
    11/02 - The Honeymooners Specials - A Christmas Carol
    11/02 - Mom - The Eighth and Final Season
    11/02 - Punky Brewster (1984-88) - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
    11/02 - Sex and the City - The Complete Collection (Blu-ray)
    11/09 - Saved by the Bell (2020) - Season One
    11/09 - Younger - The Complete Series
    11/16 - Kevin Can F*** Himself - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
    11/23 - Dead Pixels - Seasons One and Two
    11/30 - I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) (2021 Release) (Blu-ray)
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

    11/29 - Who's the Boss? Now on GAC Family; black-ish Farewell Season Starts Jan. 4
    11/28 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 29, 2021)
    11/27 - SitcomsOnline Digest: MacGruber Series Premiere Date Set; Saved by the Bell Pays Tribute to Dustin Diamond
    11/26 - 2021 Antenna TV Christmas and New Year's Schedule
    11/25 - 2021 Thanksgiving TV Marathons on TV This Holiday Weekend Include The Jeffersons on Starz Encore Black
    11/24 - First Look at Peacock's Bel-Air; Dollface Returns Feb. 11 on Hulu
    11/23 - Paramount+ Celebrates the Holidays with Sitcom Classics; HBO Max Gets in Holiday Spirit as Well with Christmas Comedy Series
    11/22 - Apple TV+ Announces The Afterparty Premiere Date; SNL Closes Out 2021 with 2 New December Episodes
    11/21 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 22, 2021)
    11/20 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Netflix Orders Last Blockbuster Video Comedy Series; Party Down Revival Set at Starz
    11/19 - Fri-Yay: Sitcom Thanksgiving Episodes to Be Thankful For; Live in Front of a Studio Audience Returns Dec. 7 with The Facts of Life and Diff'rent Strokes
    11/18 - COZI TV's 2021 Unexpected Guests Thanksgiving and Christmas; How I Met Your Father Premieres January 18 on Hulu
    11/17 - Freeform Announces January Schedule; Starz Releases Premiere Date for Shining Vale with Courteney Cox
    11/16 - MeTV Network Loses Columbo, Adds Andy Griffith and M*A*S*H Sundays; Remembering Gavan O'Herlihy, the Original Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days
    11/15 - NBC Winter Midseason 2022 Schedule; And Just Like That... Premieres Dec. 9 and Airs Thursdays
    11/14 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 15, 2021)
    11/13 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Night Court Reboot Set for 2022-2023 Debut on NBC; The Harper House Cancelled at Paramount+
    11/12 - The Newlywed Game Coming to BUZZR; Nick Renews Tyler Perry's Young Dylan for Season 3
    11/11 - CBS Winter 2022 Midseason Schedule; The Wonder Years Series Premiere Grows in Multi-Platform Viewing
    11/10 - HBO Max's Search Party Sets Final Season Launch on Jan. 7; The Wall Returns to Fill in on NBC
    11/09 - Fox Winter Midseason 2022 Schedule; The Righteous Gemstones Returns Jan. 9 on HBO
    11/08 - The CW Midseason 2022 Schedule; Dolly Parton to Appear on Final Season of Grace and Frankie
    11/07 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 8, 2021)
    11/06 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Season 2 Premiere Date Set for The Righteous Gemstones; Complete Series of The Andy Griffith Show Headed to Blu-ray
    11/05 - Fri-Yay: black-ish to Debut Final Season in January; Fox's Fantasy Island Gets Holiday Special and 2nd Season
    11/04 - NBC Slates Comedy Previews in December, Including American Auto & Grand Crew; It's Always Sunny to Surpass Ozzie & Harriet for Live-Action Comedy
    11/03 - 2021 Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas Schedule - The 25th Anniversary; The Simpsons in Plusaversary Special
    11/02 - ABC Winter Midseason 2022 Schedule; HBO Max Acquires Mr. Cooper, Martin, Jamie Foxx and More
    11/01 - Ovation TV Acquires Hart to Hart; MC Lyte Sitcom Premieres on ALLBLK
    10/31 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 1, 2021)
    10/30 - SitcomsOnline Digest: IMDb TV Orders Comedy from Creator of The Good Place; ABC Gives Full Season Orders to The Wonder Years and Home Economics
    10/29 - Fri-Yay: Curb Your Enthusiasm Still Produces Reliable Laughs 11 Seasons In; Jon Hamm Fox Animated Comedy Coming in 2023