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

    Sunday, October 2

    The Simpsons - "Pixelated and Afraid" (Fox, 7:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    When Homer and Marge are lost in an icy wilderness, they must push themselves to their limits to survive.

    Bob's Burgers - "Frigate Me Knot" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Linda encourages Teddy to attend a farewell ceremony for the ship on which he served in the Navy, but it means confronting his Navy pals and his past.

    The Simpsons - "One Angry Lisa" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Lisa gets called for jury duty; Marge becomes obsessed with her exercise bike.

    The Great North - "Cillian Me Softly Adventure" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    During Lone Moose's Disaster Day event, Wolf and Honeybee have their very first fight.

    Bob's Burgers - "The Reeky Lake Show" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    The family's Labor Day lake trip takes a turn when the Belchers find themselves trapped in their cabin, hiding from what lurks outside.

    Family Guy - "Bend or Blockbuster" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    Resolved to enjoy a family movie night, the Griffins take a road trip to Bend, Ore., to rent a VHS from the last Blockbuster in existence.

    The Villains of Valley View - "Havoc-Ween" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Amy brings her mischievous body-snatching Grandma to a party. Vic and Eva scam kids out of their candy untill they come across a villain even bigger than themselves.

    Raven's Home - "The Girl Who Cried Tasha" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    Alice uses a spell to bring her doll, Tasha, to life; when Tasha refuses to return to being a doll, Alice must enlist the help of Booker, Ivy and Neil.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of September 26)

    Friday, September 30

    • Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/George and Leo/Chicago Sons/Simon/The Hogan Family/It's Your Move/Silver Spoons) - Watch Jason on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Lea Michele (The Mayor) - Lea is a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • Phil Rosenthal (Creator of Everybody Loves Raymond) - Phil appears on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Quinta Brunson (Abbott Elementary) - Quinta is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Kevin Hart (The Big House/Undeclared) - Kevin appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Alison Brie (GLOW/Community) - Alison will be on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Mario Cantone (And Just Like That.../Sex and the City) - Mario chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
    • David Alan Grier (Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!/The Cool Kids/The Carmichael Show/Bad Teacher/Life with Bonnie/DAG) - David appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Topher Grace (Home Economics/That '70s Show) - Topher is a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
    • Billy Eichner (Friends from College/Difficult People/Parks and Recreation) - Billy stops by to chat and play a rousing game of Never Have I Ever with a twist on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
    • Jim Rash (Community/Help Me Help You/Thanks/Katie Joplin) - Jim appears on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
    • Jason Alexander (Seinfeld/Bob Patterson/Listen Up!/Hit the Road) - Jason shares stories from his hit sitcom on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
    • Alfonso Ribeiro (In the House/The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/Silver Spoons) - Alfonso dishes about the new season of Dancing with the Stars on Disney+ on Sherri, so check your local listings. He will also be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
    • Nick Kroll (Big Mouth/The League/Cavemen) - Nick talks about Don't Worry Darling and Little Big Boys on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
    • Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show/The Good Life) - Drew is a guest on Sherri, so check your local listings.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (May-September)

    Becker - The Complete Series (2022 Release) The Neighborhood - Season Four Young Sheldon - The Complete Fifth Season The Adventues of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Five The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Six

    05/03 - No Activity - Season Three
    05/13 - The Donna Reed Show - The Complete Seasons 1-5 (Time Life)
    05/31 - Becker - The Complete Series (2022 Release)
    06/14 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Eleventh Season
    06/14 - Hacks - Season One (Blu-ray) (DVD)
    06/14 - Rutherford Falls - Season One (Blu-ray) (DVD)
    06/21 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season One / The Complete Season Two
    07/19 - The Neighborhood - Season Four
    07/19 - Reno 911! - The Hunt for QAnon (Blu-ray) (DVD)
    07/26 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Three / The Complete Season Four
    08/16 - And Just Like That... - The Complete First Season (Warner Bros. - Canada)
    08/16 - South Park - The Complete Twenty-Fourth Season (Blu-ray) (DVD)
    09/06 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray) (DVD)
    09/20 - Kim's Convenience - The Complete Series
    09/27 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Five / The Complete Season Six
    More Recent and Upcoming TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

    10/01 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Community to Finally Get a Movie; Marla Gibbs to Appear on Grey's Anatomy
    09/30 - NBC Orders Mike O'Malley Sitcom with Jon Cryer; Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin Premieres Nov. 23; Remembering Mork & Mindy and Perfect Strangers Creator Dale McRaven
    09/29 - Epix Rebrands to MGM+ in January 2023; Jack's Back with More Kindness on Apple TV+
    09/28 - Mike Epps Gets HGTV Series; black-ish's Marsai Martin Headlines Paramount+ Comedy Film
    09/27 - COZI TV Fall 2022 Schedule; FX Announces New Drama Premiere Date for Hulu
    09/26 - Tudum: A Netflix Global Fan Event Recap; The White Lotus Season 2 Premieres Oct. 30
    09/25 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 26, 2022)
    09/24 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Netflix Sets Premiere Date for Addams Family Based Series Wednesday; Peacock Cancels Queer as Folk
    09/23 - FX Renews Reservation Dogs for Season 3; Stars of Young Sheldon Head to The Price Is Right at Night
    09/22 - Bounce Dramedy Finding Happy Premieres Saturday (Sept. 24); Roku's Kevin Hart Comedy Adds More Stars for Season 2
    09/21 - ABC Extends Jimmy Kimmel Live Through Season 23; Peacock Orders Animated Comedy
    09/20 - CBS Announces New Holiday Special; The CW Halloween Specials
    09/19 - Rewind TV's Sabrina, The Teenage Witch-O-Ween Halloween Marathon; Iliza Shlesinger Returns to Netflix
    09/18 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 19, 2022)
    09/17 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Saturday Night Live Adds New Cast Members for New Season; Streaming Media Mergers in the Works?
    09/16 - The CW's A Waltons Thanksgiving Airs Nov. 20; Rewind TV's A Week of Very Special Episodes Includes Diff'rent Strokes, Facts of Life and More; Remembering Mark Miller of Please Don't Eat the Daisies
    09/15 - Antenna TV Celebrates The Bewitched Witch-O-Ween Marathon; Avenue 5 Returns October 10 on HBO
    09/14 - Rick and Morty Season 6 Premiere Is a Hit; FX Brings Comedy Specials to Hulu
    09/13 - 74th Primetime Emmy Awards Winners; HBO Max Renews Rap Sh!t for Season 2
    09/12 - MeTV Celebrates M*A*S*H 50th Anniversary with The Best by Farr; The Simpsons Season 33 Coming to Disney+
    09/11 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 12, 2022)
    09/10 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Laverne Cox Comedy from Norman Lear Lands Freevee Series Order; Fox Looking Into Adult Animated Drama
    09/09 - Dancing with the Stars Season 31 Cast; Great Scott! Back to the Future Reunion at New York Comic Con This Fall
    09/08 - COZI TV Acquires Monk, Bones and Las Vegas; HBO Max Renews Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin
    09/07 - Rewind TV Fall 2022 Schedule; Back to School Abbott Elementary Marathon
    09/06 - Antenna TV Fall 2022 Schedule; BUZZR Celebrates 50 Years of The Price Is Right
    09/05 - TV Marathons on Labor Day 2022
    09/04 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 5, 2022)
    09/03 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Jeff Garlin's Character to Exit The Goldbergs; Peacock Cancels Rutherford Falls
    09/02 - Freeform's 31 Nights of Halloween 2022 Schedule; Sherman's Showcase Returns for Season 2 on IFC and AMC+
    09/01 - Netflix Sitcom with Michelle Buteau Rounds Out Cast; HBO Max Renews Harley Quinn for Season 4
    08/31 - Antenna TV's Welcome Back to School Marathon; Apple TV+ Is Trying for More Comedy