Pilotitis 2014: A to Z

NBC's rom-com A to Z goes through the ABCs of romance.
A to Z (Photo: Trae Patton / NBC)

A to Z goes through the ABC’s of romance. Yeah, the premise is a little twee, but the leads may make this alphabet soup work.

Show

A to Z, which will air Thursdays at 9:30pm on NBC.1

Premise

Andrew (Ben Feldman, who played Ginsberg on Mad Men) works at an internet dating company and is a hopeless romantic. Zelda (Cristin Milioti, the Mother from How I Met Your Mother) is a pragmatist when it comes to relationships. This season will go through the alphabet over the course of their 8-month, 3-week, 5-day relationship.

Lineage

The show was created by Ben Queen, whose TV credits include Century City (a futuristic legal drama from 2004 – nine episodes) and Drive (a road race drama – four episodes). Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) and Will McCormack (The Office) are also executive producers.

Who is A to Z For?

Rom-Com is the trend for this season’s new sitcoms, so if that’s your bag A to Z may be worth checking out. There are similarities with HIMYM beyond the casting of Milioti.

What Works

Milioti and Feldman have great on-screen chemistry, which is vital for a show like this. The overall premise is somewhat unwieldy, with each episode titled “A is for Acquaintances” “B is for Big Glory” etc. I’m not sure if the plan is to go for 26 episodes, or if we might bypass a few letters.2 However, the concept allows for a casting change between seasons and has the potential of adapting the anthology format for comedies.

The series is narrated by Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy), which is another interesting choice. Although this means the comedy falls into the fake documentary format, there aren’t talking head segments. The pleasantness of Sagal’s voice allows the device to work.

What Doesn’t Work

The supporting cast of characters are the opposite of pleasant. There’s Stu (Henry Zebrowski) who plays the vulgar, large, bearded best friend of Andrew. I’m not sure why this archetype has suddenly gained prominence in sitcoms, but it is an unwelcome development.3 Lenora Crichlow—who played the flighty best friend on last season’s Back in the Game—plays the flighty best friend of Zelda. She’s not as irritating as Stu, but so far adds nothing of substance to the proceedings.

Does This Pass the Bechdel Test?4

Not yet and not likely, what with the show being about a heterosexual dating couple.

Verdict

While the pilot is B/B-, Milioti and Feldman’s chemistry is strong enough to pique curiosity. The best friends may be a necessary evil to help flesh out a season of up to 26 episodes, but the show’s gimmick prevents an open-ended resolution to the story. At least go from A to C.

  1. The pilot was available on Hulu before the season started.  
  2. I’m looking at you, X.  
  3. See the awfulness that was Mixology.  
  4. 1. Two named female characters 2. have a conversation 3. about something other than a man.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles

Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it “TV Camp.” After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv