October 2, 2014

A to Z: "A Is for Acquaintances"

Almost accidentally, I watched the new NBC show A to Z tonight. I stumbled upon a few reviews of the show yesterday, and happened to be home tonight, so I watched it. And I'm glad I did. Starring Cristin Milioti (Yes, the mother) and Ben Feldman (who played one of the most fascinating characters on Mad Men), A to Z is quirky, original, and charming.

Source: nbc.com
The pilot episode could almost be a self-contained romantic comedy. In it, Andrew and Zelda meet, and after a series of missteps they are guided by destiny to a point where - SPOILER - they seem to be a couple. But the audience is also informed that the two will date for "eight months, three weeks, five days, and one hour." We're promised a "comprehensive" look at their relationship.

This setup, while intriguing, worries me a little, because we all know what happens when writers try to plan the end of a show from the beginning... The toss of the coin here is what will happen when those eight months, three weeks, etc. are over. Will they split? Marry? Some other unknown option? And will knowing that we only have eight months together make me love the show more? Or make me willing to part with it sooner?

There is so much room for this show to go horribly, awfully, wrong. But I, like Andrew in his search for love, am optimistic. These two title characters are so delightfully cute together. Never have two pairs of doe-eyes been so captivating. The episode also featured what I assume was a one-time guest performance by Lea Thompson, playing herself, in a quirky subplot homage to Back to the Future, which somehow worked. All of this might even make up for the fact that the secondary characters are such a yawn. While the premise may be original, television tropes abound in Stu and Stephie, the best friends of our A and Z.

The pilot of A to Z felt new and exciting, and made me smile. (Not unlike the sort of new relationship Andrew and Zelda are beginning.) But here's what I think: For the show to work, it needs to take the viewer through all the emotions a relationship brings, not just the enjoyable ones. I want it to be real. This is a show I would be willing to become emotionally invested in because I think it has an interesting story to tell - the story of what happens next. What happens after the credits roll at the end of your favorite romantic comedy? I think A to Z might have the answer.

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