Pilot’s are tough. Half-hour comedy pilots are tougher. Even more difficult, are half-hour comedy pilots based on a dramatic film. If anyone is up to the challenge though, its creator/showrunner Jason Katims who has become the go-to movie-to-series producer with both “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” oh his resume. He set’s solid groundwork for “About a Boy,” despite changing genres.
The biggest challenge for the pilot is cramming the plot of the film into 25 minutes and hits most of the broad beats of the film. Will (David Walton lies his way into a single-parents support group and hooks-up with attendee Dakota (Leslie Bibb), meets his new neighbor Fiona (Minnie Driver) and her sheltered son Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and has Marcus pose as his son to validate his story for Dakota.
I apologize for spoiling the majority of the episode but all these beats are taken from the film and book which I don’t anticipate the rest of the show resembling – especially if it get’s a second season. Like “Parenthood,” it looks as though “About a Boy” will focus on what happens to the characters after the plot of the movie which makes it hard to give a definitive judgement on the series but there’s a lot more going on than one would expect.
The key relationship in this story is that of Will and Marcus. We have to believe not only that Marcus would find Will incredibly cool but that Will would want to become a father figure for Marcus. The former is rather easy. Will is rich – albeit for writing a hit Christmas single – is successful with women and can eat barbecue ribs whenever he wants. Marcus is a tougher case. He’s a “good kid” and is willing to pose as Will’s cancer-surviving son to score points with Dakota but that’s about it. Maybe sympathy is enough for now but we need to see him give Will life perspective.
It looks like we’ll get plenty of time for that though. According to the show’s IMDb page, Bibb only appears in the pilot episode of the nine-episode season. Maybe she was only supposed to be a one-time surrogate for female viewers but based on her having Rachel’s (Rachel Weisz in the film) position in the talent show audience – not to mention Katims’ reputation for bringing back characters – I have a feeling we’ll see her back in a hypothetical second season. As far as Will’s personal growth goes, I am concerned the addition of Al Madrigal as Will’s married with two kids best friend Andy who is the source of wisdom in this week’s episode.
All these questions mean that the pilot episode of “About a Boy” is..well…a pilot. It’s far from perfect but what is there has promise and I wouldn’t trust anyone more than Katims to fulfill those promises and then some.