Things haven't gotten any better for network television, as advertising agencies are telling companies to switch to online video ("Omnicom Tells Advertisers to Shift TV Spend to Online Video), cable continues to see success and even Youtube is having random people draw astonishing audiences (Vanossgaming, a channel where a group creates often hysterical comedy in online gaming worlds, has over 9M subscribers.) Even if a network gets something right, there's no guarantee they'll be able or have the desire to really be patient for success ("Happy Endings".)
Still, networks - for all of the negatives - still produce a good show now and again. "About a Boy" admittedly isn't something I had high hopes for, given that it could have been too syrupy or sitcom-y and it felt a little too easy: I'd guess maybe the network had rights or had an easy time with rights, given that Universal made the 2002 movie starring Hugh Grant.
Creator Jason Katims ("Parenthood", "Friday Night Lights") gives Nick Hornby's popular book respectful treatment with this sitcom that walks an enjoyable line between snappy comedy and warm (but not sappy) emotional moments. The show focuses on Will Freeman (David Walton, who was good in the under-appreciated "Perfect Couples"), a guy who found success writing an annoying song that nevertheless became immensely popular.
Will spends his time largely doing whatever he pleases, largely because - given the song's success - he most certainly can. While Grant played the character as more of a dry introvert, Walton's looser, more easygoing version is amusing in its own way. In the middle of trying to score with another woman (Leslie Bibb), Will gets new next-door neighbors in the form of Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and his hippie mother, Fiona (Minnie Driver).
The idea of taking care of children at first is deeply unpleasant to Will, but in the midst of using Marcus as a way to pick up women, he finds that he actually doesn't hate being a friend and something of a father figure to the kid. Meanwhile, Will's best friend Andy, (Al Madrigal) is around less and less, due to raising a family of his own.
Whereas Walton played sharp and sarcastic to great effect in "Couples" and elsewhere, he's surprisingly convincing here portraying a self-centered guy who learns to appreciate being a mentor and the responsibility of looking after someone other than himself. Saying that it's one of those shows where everyone learns something about themselves is certainly not that appealing, but the show is sharply written and thankfully, never heavy-handed. The cast also has first-rate chemistry with one another, as Driver and Walton are wonderful in their scenes together and Walton and Stockham are perfectly cast as Will and Marcus.
Some of the highlights in this short first season include: "About a Godfather" (Will's friendship with Andy is tested when he asks him to be Godfather to their children), "About a Poker Night" (Marcus has his first sleepover, leading Fiona to look for something to do, ending up crashing Will's poker night) and the finale, "About a Rib Chute", where Will has to make a decision whether or not to leave San Francisco.
1 1-01 22/Feb/14 Pilot
2 1-02 04/Mar/14 About Total Exuberance
3 1-03 11/Mar/14 About a Godfather
4 1-04 18/Mar/14 About a Girl
5 1-05 25/Mar/14 About a Plumber
6 1-06 01/Apr/14 About a Buble
7 1-07 08/Apr/14 About a Poker Night
8 1-08 15/Apr/14 About a Slopmaster
9 1-09 22/Apr/14 About a Kiss
10 1-10 29/Apr/14 About a Boy's Dad
11 1-11 06/May/14 About a Birthday Party
12 1-12 13/May/14 About a Hammer
13 1-13 13/May/14 About a Rib Chute
Video: "About a Boy" is presented by Universal in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation remains first-rate, with very pleasing clarity and detail throughout the much of the episodes. A little bit of artifacting was seen at times, but otherwise,thepicture was clear of edge enhancement and other flaws. Colors looked bright and poppy, with nice saturation and no smearing.
Audio: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio doesn't deliver much, but certainly does the job just fine, given the material. The rear speakers are put to use for some light ambience and backing of music, but otherwise, this is a dialogue-driven series. Audio quality is fine, with clear, well-recorded dialogue.
Final Thoughts: I was admittedly skeptical of the idea of moving "About a Boy" into the sitcom realm, but the series remains a pleasant surprise with terrific leads that have strong chemistry. The DVD unfortunately doesn't offer any extras, but does deliver pleasing audio/video quality.