NBC's About a Boy is No Full House

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The Nick Hornby novel About a Boy has been through a couple adaptations: first a movie starring Hugh Grant, and now a weekly NBC TV show set in San Francisco, created by Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights). The NBC version premiered Saturday night, with a repeat airing last night for its regular Tuesday evening slot.

In moving this story of a dude infected with Peter Pan syndrome from London to San Francisco, the producers have so far used our fair city as nothing more than a scenic backdrop for their sitcom shenanigans and outdated stereotypes (you get a lot of liberal, bleeding heart types in the first episode).

The opening shot has the main character, Will (David Walton), on a cable car with his friend Andy (Al Madrigal), and Andy’s three kids, one of whom is perched on a narrow bench in a car seat. As a San Francisco parent myself, I have to call bullshit from the beginning. Who takes a baby on a cable car? Those things are far too crowded.

Will hops off to accost Dakota (Leslie Bibb), who is on her way to a single parent support group, which Will lies his way into, inventing a sickly son. Dakota must really be in need of a lay, because she falls for Will’s schtick and leaps into bed with him. But just as soon as they are down to their skivs, her kid’s school calls, and she’s out the door again. Having to leave a hook-up because you get a call about your child: totally realistic. Kids are genius at being cock-blockers.

Enter Will’s new neighbors, eleven-year-old Marcus (Benjamin Stockham), and his mom Fiona (m’fn MINNIE DRIVER). They all live in NOPA, not far from the Painted Ladies, site of the original show about parenting in San Francisco (Do I even need to say the name?). The real question is, how is a single mom, one who’s actively looking for a job, able to afford a home in that neighborhood? 

The main source of the comedy on this show is pitting Will’s man-boy character against Fiona’s uptight hippie sensibilities. But even the intense, Nag Champa-burning parents I know would never ask their neighbors to turn down the music so they could meditate. Kids are loud, and once you open the door to complaining about noise, you can’t close it.

The bro vs. hippie tension also plays out here over food. Fiona is raising Marcus vegan, but Will thinks this is deprivation, and lets the kid indulge in ribs. No self-respecting San Franciscan would ever get involved in the vipers nest that is family food politics. We can barely feed other people’s children gluten, never mind take-out ribs.

Will gets Marcus to pretend to be his son so Dakota will bang him. They get caught by Fiona, the jig is up, and everyone parts ways, injecting crisis into the Will/Marcus bromance.

After a pep talk from Andy on Baker Beach (taking your kids to the beach in foggy weather: totally legit, but they’d have to be wearing scarves), Will steps in to save Marcus from embarrassment at his school talent show, and everyone is all smiles again.

So, is this show funny? I didn’t laugh once. But the closing scene, involving a One Direction-sing-along, might’ve brought a tear to my eye.

Jason Katims’ track record is pretty stellar, so I’d watch About a Boy again, if only to see if there’s any depth to Minnie Driver’s crying-into-her-seitan-ribs San Francisco mother.

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Published on February 26, 2014

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