A to Z, Season 1, Episode 1, “A is for Acquaintances”
October 2, 2014 9:30 p.m. (EST), NBC
Men like sports. Women like pedicures. I feel like I wrote this review. Because I pretty much did. The premise of A to Z is basically a higher concept version of Manhattan Love Story—two people meet and fall in love, and we laugh at all the zany things that entails. In A to Z, we learn early on (through pervasive and fairly annoying voice over by Katey Segal) that Andrew (Ben Feldman, aka Ginsburg from Mad Men) and Zelda (Cristin Milioti, aka The Mother from How I Met Your Mother) are destined to break up in a little over eight months. As far as I’m concerned, this mostly means Milioti is now on her second show in a row that will eventually break the promise of its pilot if it becomes successful.
In addition to How I Met Your Mother, which the show apes in its high concept but also in its quick, cut-away gags and heavy use of callbacks, A to Z owes a debt to the doomed romanticism and high quirk-quotient of 500 Days of Summer. Unfortunately, it suffers by comparison to both, feeling largely like a less insightful, less clever, less funny and less romantic version of all it aspires to be.
But A to Z has an advantage over Manhattan Love Story, at least, in the immediate chemistry between Feldman and Milioti, both charming performers who click instantly. “A is for Acquaintances” isn’t a particularly funny or distinctive pilot, but the prospect of watching these two fall in love is enough that I will give the show another shot to win me over. This is a pilot that is trying to be quirky like its life depends on it, pushing the wackiness into overdrive. It also struggles to make the “destiny” of Andrew and Zelda resonate; it feels forced, like the premise is shoehorned in around a fairly amiable central duo to give the series a hook.
None of the supporting characters register virtually at all here, outside of the one gag that actually made me laugh (quoted below, its fairly clever and delivered capably by Henry Zebrowski). This show doesn’t feel like it exists in any type of world, nor that Andrew and Zelda actually live lives outside of their romance. If the job of the pilot is to sell you on the idea of hanging out with its characters or wanting to return to its world, this one doesn’t close the deal. Basically, all that A to Z has is Feldman and Milioti. Which makes it fortunate that both are in fine form here.
If you are a sucker for romantic comedies (and I am), if you like Feldman or Milioti (and I do), or if you’re willing to coast along with an amiable sitcom until it figures out how to be funny (I did this last year with Trophy Wife, which got great, and then got cancelled), A to Z is not the worst way to spend a half-hour. But if you are hoping for something immediately distinctive or funny, look elsewhere. This is a half-formed pilot that may or may not ever finish forming, and may or may not look like something worth watching once it foes. But damn it, I just like watching charming people fall in love. I’m a hopeless romantic for hopeless romantics. Which means I’m probably going to let A to Z break my heart.
- “Spielberg was joking!” “It was Robert Zemeckis!” “Oh, so they’re both in on it?”
- “It was a Baader-Meinhof situation.” “Hey, I just learned about that. Whoa!”
“A is for Acquaintances” isn’t a particularly funny or distinctive pilot, but the prospect of watching these two fall in love is enough that I will give the show another shot to win me over.