Jason Katims is my TV hero. Not only was he executive producer of "Roswell", "Boston Public" and "Pepper Dennis" (yes, I actually watched every episode of "Pepper Dennis") but he also brought two of my favourite shows ever -- "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood" -- to TV. Since Katims has proved how adept he is at bringing movies to the small screen, why wouldn't he see what he could do with "About a Boy"?
The 2002 movie was actually adapted from Nick Hornby's novel from four years prior, and tells the tale of a thirtysomething slacker who uses the kid next door to impress a pretty single mom, and winds up bonding with him. The movie featured Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult as Will and Marcus while NBC's version stars David Walton and Benjamin Stockham as the lead boys. Minnie Driver takes on the role of Fiona, Marcus' vegan mom (played by Toni Collette in the movie), while Leslie Bibb will recur as the single mom Will is interested in.
There aren't too many changes from the novel or film, though there are some minor updates (it moves from London to San Francisco; the newest Will has money from his father, not from the royalties of a Christmas song; Fiona no longer suffers from mental health issues) -- not that it's a big deal. What matters most here is how heartwarming the story remains and how Katims never lets viewers down.
Walton is the perfect actor to play this charming, bumbling bachelor, though his Will isn't nearly as lazy as Grant's spoiled man-child. I love everything Walton has been in as of late -- be it "Perfect Couples," "Bent" or "New Girl" -- and while he is considered to be a bit of a show-killer, I'm hoping "About a Boy" is the break he finally deserves.
Instead of playing the overgrown frat boy that he tends to get cast as, Walton is playing one with heart and compassion. While it's arguable Marcus needs a man in his life and Will, despite his shortcomings, could be that father figure, what Will and Marcus aren't aware of is just how much Will needs him.
Fiona rounds out their unconventional little "family," despite their completely opposite lifestyles and constant butting of heads (she's a hippie vegan, Will's a ribs-loving layabout) and add Marcus' best friend, Andy (Al Madrigal), to the mix, and it makes for a comedy everybody can love.
And how can I forget Stockham? He is ideal as Marcus and is the perfect combination of dorky and sweet. Is he a tad uncool? For sure. But I love how Marcus simply doesn't care. Will will try to bring out some semblance of the cool kid he believes is buried underneath that awful sweater but I hope that's not happening anytime soon because I think Marcus is perfect just the way he is. Of course, that might be the mom in me talking.
Back to Walton, though. I really don't think his brand of humour is subjective -- one can't help but love him. He's handsome in an attainable way, he's got that sarcastic, snark factor perfected, and his timing and delivery is fantastically droll and spot-on. Combined with clever, witty writing and what you've got is basically a sweet, funny half-hour that shows adulthood as honestly as possible.
Whether you're single and still mingling like Will, a single parent wanting nothing but the best for your kid like Fiona and Marcus, or parents who would rather catch up on TV shows than have sex like Andy and his wife, Laurie (Annie Mumolo), we can identify with any or all of them.
My only quibble (like I stated at the beginning, it's almost perfect) is my fear of Driver being underutilized. A little Minnie Driver goes a long way (remember her as Lorraine Finster on "Will & Grace," or even her guest-judging stint on "So You Think You Can Dance"?) so just imagine what a lot of Minnie can do. Many can play the manic single mom, but Driver adds another dimension to Fiona. I just hope it's not wasted. Yes, the plotlines will likely centre on the boys but it's Fiona -- despite her neuroses -- that will bring it back to reality.
If you love "Parenthood", then "About a Boy" is the ideal comedy for you. And if you think it's all laughs, well, think again. It's Katims, whose specialty is finding that perfect balance of humour and heart in his stories without them ever feeling trite -- so keep the tissues nearby. If you've read the book or seen the movie, the One Direction moment will warm the cockles of your heart. If not, you're dead inside.
"About a Boy" premieres on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 11 p.m. ET on NBC as a "special preview" following Olympics coverage and on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 10 p.m. ET on Global. It premieres in its regular timeslots -- Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC; Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Global -- on Feb. 25 and Feb. 27, respectively.