Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pilot Review: A to Z

A to Z (NBC)
Premieres October 2 at 9:30pm

This show doesn’t start for almost a month, but it’s been available online for a few weeks. I watched the pilot almost right away when NBC put it online for viewers to sample, and now that there’s not much on TV, it’s the perfect time to review it. Finding a fresh sitcom is a tough business, and there are those shows that try hard to be formulaic and those that don’t. This is the former, the ultimate example of a concept sitcom, one whose every event and occurrence is rooted in its format. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Cristin Milioti, who broke out as the title character in “How I Met Your Mother,” should return for yet another series where she isn’t able to control her own destiny. There’s no denying her appeal, and it’s nearly impossible not to like her. That doesn’t necessarily make for great television, of course, since she doesn’t have to get viewers to come around to the idea of being sympathetic to her. Similarly, Ben Feldman, who earned an Emmy nomination for his work as sarcastic copywriter Michael Ginsberg on “Mad Men,” has a lot going for him from the start, and it’s not much of an effort to find his romantic desires and idealizations positive. It’s not that there isn’t any conflict that needs to be resolved, but I think that these two might be perfectly fabulous leads in a less confined setting, and it’s a shame that the show that’s constructed around them is excruciatingly ordinary and uninventive.

How will it work as a series? The title suggests that it goes from A to Z, which seems to predict 26 episodes. If it’s really a good show, it will get away from that format after just a few installments, but if it does stick to it, it’s going to have to work hard to be charming – and funny – enough to sustain itself.
How long will it last? The pilot will have been available for a month and a half by the time it actually airs, and the question is whether viewers will be very ready for the next episode or hopeless about its chances. I think this could be a winner, but we’ll have to see how other shows do and how this pilot performs on air.

Pilot grade: C+

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