Vital Signs…DVR or DNR
A to Z
Thursdays @9:30, NBC
Premieres October 2nd
Andrew likes sports and Liam Neesan movies and is a hopeless romantic. It has something to do with losing his mother at a young age. Zelda is more of a pragmatist. That has something to do with her mother not knowing which of the many men in her life might have been her father. On their first date, things seem to be going well until Andrew remembers having seen Zelda before. It’s fate! She thinks he’s crazy, which leads to her walking out and him resorting to some stalkerish cyber behavior to prove that they are meant to be. Eventually, after realizing that though Andrew is crazy, no man has put so much effort into being with her, Zelda gives Andrew another chance.
This relationship already has a shelf life: 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, 1 hour. After the time has elapsed, will they break up? Will they get married? Will Zelda die offscreen after the show runners spend 9 seasons selling us on the idea of her as the perfect woman and mother, leaving Andrew to spend all of his evenings telling his teenage kids highly inappropriate stories about his twenties before he settles for his best friend’s ex-wife and leaves viewers heartbroken (#stillbitter)?
Familiar Faces: Ben Feldman (Mad Men) and Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother) star. Voiceover by Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy). Executive producer Rashida Jones (actress on The Office, Parks and Recreation). Lenora Crichlow (Being Human, Back in the Game) gets another chance at playing the over-sexed best friend to our female protagonist, and Henry Zebrowski (The Wolf of Wall Street) plays the male equivalent.
This Reminds Me: Of a television adaptation of 500 Days of Summer, which is a movie I adore. Here’s hoping the soundtrack will be as awesome and the direction as artsy.
Other Aspects to Consider: Andrew and Zelda meet and start dating. Eventually their relationship ends. This is the story of that relationship from beginning to end. A to Z. Get it? The show title is all encompassing, as the theme extends to each episode receiving a title card with an appropriate letter and word. For example, the pilot is framed with “A is for acquaintances.” I’m not sure if that framing device is cute or if it will get as old as the chemical symbols in the opening credits of Breaking Bad mid marathon sessions. Nonetheless, I applaud how completely it fits the show (unlike other shows debuting next week).
Also of note: Andrew works at a company that runs a dating website. In fact, he meets Zelda when she comes in because she had used the site and had erroneously been matched with a woman. It is a bit unexpected that the eternal romantic works for a company that encourages failed romantic matches so that their costumers have reason to stay customers. There is no rule that A to Z has to remain solely about Andrew and Zilda’s romantic exploits. Surely the website could provide some interesting fodder for some filler episodes, yes? And that’s only when the train wrecks that are best friends Stu and Stephie have been thoroughly taken advantage of. Maybe the bait and switch will be that Stu and Stephie are meant to be instead of Andrew and Zelda? After all, she will become anything she thinks her date likes, and he will pretend to be anything that will impress a woman. Match made in heaven, yes? The point being, even though Andrew and Zelda are the focus, there is plenty of mayhem that can occur around our central characters rather than just directly to them, which should sustain the show for some time.
Remaining Questions: When you set a timeline, how quickly must you go through it? Eight months in real time means that this relationship would be over by May Sweeps. Actually, that could work pretty well. But where would the show go if Andrew and Zelda broke up? Surely it could continue for some time with them apart, but their lives would need to remain intertwined for the show to make any sense. This worry is a long way off, and I’m pretty sure the writers have a game plan given that they are letting the viewers know ahead of time that the relationship does not last. But still, this is a question that will haunt me while watching this show.
The Verdict: DVR. Of the four pilots I watched for this column, this is the one with the most promise, having a pilot that is pretty much flawless. Of course, pilots are often not truly indicative of how a show will proceed, but given the chemistry between the leads, I expect any format should work well. This is a relief, given that Cristin Milioti is a star and deserves good material; she was the shining bright light of a dismal final season on HIMYM. Ben Feldman is not a lightweight in any way, shape, or form either. The two together are pure romantic gold, and I expect that this will be the new romance that everyone will be routing for by the time hiatuses role around.