It’s not uncommon for pop culture to recycle its success stories. Books become movies, movies generate sequels, and if all goes well, a TV series may emerge somewhere down the line. Odds are most people wouldn’t consider About a Boy worthy of the latter, but apparently NBC had other plans.
Based on the 2002 movie starring Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult (that was based on the novel),About a Boy follows the adventures of perpetual man-child Will Freeman (David Walton) after his perfect world is turned upside down with the arrival of single-mother Fiona (Minnie Driver), and her 11-year-old son, Marcus (Benjamin Stockham), next door. Though Will tries to avoid the eccentric duo at first, he slowly finds himself becoming a father figure to Marcus, and begins taking his first steps toward maturity.
From the beginning, it’s clear the series biggest weakness is its lack of originality. The pilot episode plays out like a watered-down version of the movie, leaving viewers with nothing they haven’t seen already. The second then tries to pick up the slack by emphasizing the dynamic between Marcus and Will, and to be fair, the two actors do share great chemistry. Unfortunately, both episodes lack the hook required to get an audience invested. Without it, About a Boy is just a nice show that’s not particularly interesting.
The series does have a few things working in its favor. The setting is colorful, provides a pleasant backdrop, and the acting itself is nothing to scoff at. Minnie Driver plays Fiona like a professional, and while her character could still use more screen-time, her development adds humor to the story. Stockham is Marcus to a T, the perfect mix of innocence and awkwardness, and frankly it’s impressive to see this level of acting from someone so young. Finally, Walton holds his own as the straight man of the bunch while still getting in an occasional laugh of his own.
About a Boy might stand a chance with the average viewer, but for a Christian audience, it doesn’t provide anything of substance. Sure, it’s nice when Will steps up as a father figure to Marcus, but there’s enough drinking and skirt chasing in-between to ruin the moment. It also doesn’t help that the morals of the episode aren't always so, well, moral. For instance, a recent episode ended with Fiona admitting it might be better if she lied more often. Not exactly something you’d teach in Sunday school.
All in all, About a Boy is nothing to get excited about. The show does have its moments, but in a competitive media like television, it won’t provide much beyond an easy way to kill a half-hour. Christian viewers might resonate with Will’s decision to mentor an outcast like Marcus, but it’s unlikely given the amount of crass material they have to wade through first.
If you were a fan of the film (or the book) About a Boy is sweet nostalgia ready to be enjoyed. If not, this is one success story that’s reached its final chapter.