Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014 Pilot Preview: A to Z: "Pilot"

“You know how people have like a type? Well this girl was my type. And I remember looking at her and thinking I wish I was here with that girl. And not just that night. In that moment I pictured our entire lives together.”
- Andrew

So I’m not a big comedy fan. Most of my viewing habits encompass hour-long dramas of one flavor or another. But I have to say I was intrigued by the sizzle reel for “A to Z” when NBC released it back in May and so I jumped on the opportunity to take an early look at it. The show follows Andrew and Zelda, two people who are very much alone.

We witness their first meeting in the pilot as Zelda goes to do an interview about her experience with the dating website that Andrew works for while taking a break from being in court (she’s a lawyer). I did find the intro to Zelda kind of funny. She’s at a costume party dressed as blind Justice. It was kind of fitting and sort of nerdy in a lawyer way that I’m sure a lot of other law nerds can appreciate. Anyway, Andrew is something of a hopeless romantic at heart and he seems pretty taken with Zelda at first meeting. But their exchange is kind of awkward (made more so by Andrew’s buddy Stu). As it turns out Zelda and Andrew have been working in the same office building for two months but due to random happenstance haven’t run into each other before. Finally, Andrew convinces Zelda to go out for a drink with him and things take a weird turn. He swears he’s seen her before and when music comes on at the bar, they both remember being a show for a really terrible band two years earlier. Andrew recounts his experience of seeing this girl in a silver dress that he determined was his destiny. He thinks Zelda is that girl. She shuts him down and then ends up venting to her best friend, Stephie (played by the UK Being Human’s Leonora Critchlow). I have to say I had to do an IMDB look up to make sure it was her. I’m actually pretty good with voices but without the super frizzy curly hair I wasn’t 100%. I have to say it’s nice to see her getting some work now that Being Human is over. While Zelda tries to stop panicking (because she’s still trying to convince herself that there isn’t such a thing as destiny), Andrew gets some of his company tech whizzes to find proof that Zelda was at the concert in the silver dress.

Zelda realizes her mistake and is about to apologize to Andrew in line for coffee when the programmers show up with photo evidence that she was in a red dress, not silver. She takes it as a huge invasion of her privacy (probably rightfully so even if Andrew’s heart was in the right place) and storms off. But as Stephie is reeling from the realization that the cool jazz trumpeter she thought she was seeing turned out to be Stu, Zelda realizes she’s never had a guy try so hard to impress her and she finally admits that she was in the silver dress. She finally calls Andrew to apologize and while she doesn’t believe in destiny, she’s willing to give them a go and they end up making out in front of a fountain.

The first thing I noticed about the pilot is that it states very clearly at the beginning (and at the end which seemed a little repetitive I mean the episode wasn’t that long) that the show covers the entire 8 month, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour of Andrew and Zelda’s relationship. Either that means maybe they get married and are no longer in a “dating” relationship or they break up. Either way, I worry that it will hinder the show’s longevity. There’s only so long you can draw out time (yes I know How I Met Your Mother did a weekend over most of its final season….and to be fair a lot of people disliked that season) over the course of several seasons. Now I could be wrong and the writers intend to have their show be a one and done season but from what I’ve gleaned about the industry, you always go in with a several-year plan in your back pocket when you are pitching a project. I guess we will see how it goes with the season.

Another thing I hope they move back from as the show goes forward is the reliance on voiceover. It can work as a narrative tool just fine (see Veronica Mars) but a comedy may not be the right type of show to have it more than just the first episode. I also thought (as mentioned before) explaining the duration of the relationship and that the show is covering the whole thing was repetitive to have at the start and end of the episode. I was also taken out of the show a little bit as the narrator specifically mentioned the show, as if speaking directly to the audience. It just sort of took me out of enjoying the story. I clearly know it’s a TV show. I don’t need them reminding me.

All that said, I did enjoy the pilot and found both the leads to be likeable. I was especially drawn to the actor playing Andrew (Ben Feldman). He has kind of a calming quality to him. Plus he’s kind of cute to look at so that doesn’t hurt. And since I never was a HIMYM fan, I didn’t get to see Cristin in anything but Once on Broadway (which she was very good in). The situations made me and laugh in a good way and I’m pretty sure that’s a sign of a good comedy. I will definitely plan to keep “A to Z” on my fall schedule DVR when it premieres on Thursday October 2nd at 9:30pm on NBC.

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