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

    Thursday, April 2

    Young Sheldon - "A House Sale and Serious Woman Stuff" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    When Sheldon learns the house next door is for sale, he takes it upon himself to find the perfect neighbors. Also, Missy is torn when she’s forced to pitch against her boyfriend at the baseball game.

    Man with a Plan - "The V-Word" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    When Andi’s doctor advises her to stop taking birth control pills, Adam and Andi disagree on an alternate option.

    Mom - "Texas Pete and a Parking Lot Carnival" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    Bonnie worries about her therapist, Trevor (Rainn Wilson), when his life hits a serious rough patch. Also, Christy comes to Marjorie’s aid when she has trouble adjusting to a new job.

    Broke - "Pilot" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    Jaime Camil and Pauley Perrette star in a new comedy about a single suburban mother, struggling to make ends meet, who finds her estranged sister and her sister’s outrageously wealthy husband in need of a place to live after the couple’s money dries up.

    Last Man Standing - "Keep the Change" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    When Mike and Vanessa invite Jen's father to her graduation, Jen struggles with accepting his "plus one" -- his girlfriend Fiona; the Outdoor Man crew debates over which word was said in a viral audio recording that's been tearing the internet apart.

    Last Man Standing - "Mysterious Ways" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Vanessa is secretly obsessed with Jen's new video game.

    Superstore - "Customer Safari" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Amy joins Jonah for lunch with his parents and brother, but she's caught off guard by their family dynamic. Dina worries about being fun and spontaneous when her new boyfriend surprises her at work. Meanwhile, Garrett and the other employees create a game around the store's weird customers, with a suspicious Glenn hot on their tails.

    Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "Admiral Peralta" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    Jake and his father deal with unsettled family business. Amy and Rosa work a high-profile case. Terry wants to join the NYPD band.

    Will & Grace - "Bi-Plane" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Will and Grace decide to intervene when they discover Grace’s niece (guest start Billie Lourd) is dating a bisexual man (guest star Peter Graham). Jack gets permission from his husband, Estefan (guest star Brian Jordan Alvarez), to sleep with his celebrity hall pass, guest star Ryan Phillippe. Karen struggles to adapt when her assistant, Friday (guest star Vanessa Bayer), books them on an economy flight.

    Indebted - "Everybody's Talking About Neighbors" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    After realizing Debbie and Stew are forcing the neighbors to socialize, Dave and Rebecca try to convince them to keep to themselves, insisting neighbors should just be neighbors.

    Better Things - "New Orleans" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    Sam goes to a wedding.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 30)

    Thursday, April 2

    • Jennifer Aniston (Friends/Muddling Through/Ferris Bueller/Molloy) - Catch Jennifer Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 12:05am on ABC.
    • Amy Poehler (Bless the Harts/Parks and Recreation) - Amy is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Cedric the Entertainer (The Neighborhood/The Last O.G./The Soul Man/The Steve Harvey Show) - Cedric appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Rob Huebel (Medical Police/Transparent/Burning Love) - Rob is a guest on A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Sean Hayes (Will & Grace/The Millers/Sean Saves the World) - Sean stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Kyle Richards (Down to Earth) - Kyle is a guest on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
    • Jaime Camil (Broke) and Pauley Perrette (Broke) - Jaime and Pauley talk about Broke on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT. Jaime will also be on People Now at 1pm.
    • Mario Cantone (Sex and the City) - Mario appears on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
    • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly/Samantha Who?) - Melissa is a guest on a repeat of The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
    • Tisha Campbell (Outmatched/Dr. Ken/Rita Rocks/My Wife and Kids/Martin) - Tisha talks about Outmatched on a repeat of Access Daily, so check your local listings.
    • Marsai Martin (black-ish) - Marsai appears on a repeat of Tamron Hall, so check your local listings.


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

    My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One Martin - The Complete Series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - The Complete Series Step by Step - The Complete Sixth Season Step by Step - The Complete Seventh and Final Season

    01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One
    01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume Two
    01/14 - Veep - The Final (Seventh) Season (Blu-ray)
    01/14 - Veep - The Complete Series (DVD)
    01/21 - Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete Third Season (WBShop.com)
    01/21 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Fifth and Final Season
    01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Series
    01/28 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (DVD)
    02/04 - Martin - The Complete Series (WBShop.com)
    02/11 - Step by Step - The Complete Sixth Season (WBShop.com)
    02/18 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    02/25 - Better Things - The Complete Third Season
    03/17 - Crashing - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
    04/07 - Cheers - The Complete Series (2020 Release)
    04/14 - Police Squad! - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    04/14 - The Righteous Gemstones - The Complete First Season
    04/21 - Step by Step - The Complete Seventh and Final Season (WBShop.com)
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

    04/02 - American Dad! Celebrates 15th Anniversary; The Official Robin Williams YouTube Channel Launches
    04/01 - CBS All Access Is Tooning Out the News in This Pandemic Crisis; The CW Summer 2020 Schedule
    03/31 - The CW Announces Returns of Series Affected; Adult Swim Orders YOLO: Crystal Fantasy
    03/30 - Schedule Changes on ABC, CW Due to COVID-19; Insecure: The Game
    03/29 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 30, 2020)
    03/28 - SitcomsOnline Digest: One Day at a Time a Hit in Ratings; Late Night Talk Set to Return Next Week
    03/27 - Fri-Yay: Review of One Day at a Time Season 4 Premiere; NBC Sets Will & Grace Finale Night and Special I Love Lucy Episode
    03/26 - CBS Slates Primetime Special from Home with James Corden; Fox Announces Living Room Concert for America
    03/25 - Antenna TV Schedule Change on March 30, Doubling Up Comedies; Millionaire 20th Anniversary Premiere Celebs
    03/24 - ABC Giving A Modern Farewell to Series; Samantha Bee Returns from Home on Wednesday
    03/23 - Bounce Sitcom Returns April 1, No Foolin'; Never Have I Ever Gets Netflix Premiere Date
    03/22 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 23, 2020)
    03/21 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Netflix and Hulu to Share Rights to Community; Preview of New Netflix Series Never Have I Ever
    03/20 - Fri-Yay: Best Sitcom Episodes for Coronavirus Isolation; Antenna TV Weekend Binge Marathons for Tough Times
    03/19 - Conan Returns March 30 via iPhone Video; Showtime Alters Schedule for Black Monday
    03/18 - Billboard Music Awards Postponed on NBC; Acorn TV Extends Free 30-Day Trial
    03/17 - Network Upfronts Canceled But Will Go on Digitally
    03/16 - Hallmark Slots More Golden Girls, Frasier; Primetime Schedule Changes Due to Coronavirus
    03/15 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 16, 2020)
    03/14 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Shout! Factory Acquires Broadcasting and Streaming Rights to Stephen J. Cannell Library; Schitt's Creek Plans for Series Finale
    03/13 - Fri-Yay: One Day at a Time Moves to Pop TV and Takes Jab at Former Home; Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt's Creek Farewell
    03/12 - Quibi Announces Fire Island Sitcom; ABC Picks Up 4th Season of Red Hot Drama
    03/11 - Apple TV+ Animated Comedy Premieres May 29; Brooke Burns Returns to GSN to Host Game Show
    03/10 - Netflix's Lost in Space Gets Final Season; Remembering Sitcom Writer Earl Pomerantz
    03/09 - Hulu Gears Up for Comedy Premieres in May; Quibi Programming Slate for April 6 Launch
    03/08 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 9, 2020)
    03/07 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Kids in the Hall Returning for New Episodes; Pop TV Cancels Florida Girls and Other Originals
    03/06 - DuckTales Returns with New Season and Cross-Overs with Disney Shows; Isla Fisher Joins CBS All Access Comedy
    03/05 - The CW Spring and Summer 2020 Schedule; Kim Fields Joins Netflix Sitcom
    03/04 - Hulu's Future Man Returns for Final Season; NBC Escapes with Celebrities
    03/03 - Just Roll With It Brings Out the Guest Stars; Quibi Announces Comedy Talk Series
    03/02 - Courteney Cox Nabs Starz Horror Comedy; Superstore Losing Series Star