About a Boy (Photo by: Jordin Althaus/NBC)
NBC is unveiling two new parent-focused comedies, About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher. They got sneak peeks over the weekend before they settle into their regular timeslots on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Are they worth watching?
They’re not exactly Modern Family. But they have real moments of charm and, at times, offer solid messages about parenting and childhood.
First, let’s tackle About A Boy.
The story, adapted from the Nick Hornby book that was already adapted into a 2002 movie, focuses on Will Freeman, (played by actor David Walton), a carefree single guy in San Francisco who befriends new kid Marcus, 11, (Benjamin Stockham) when he moves in next door. Marcus’ single mom, Fiona (Minnie Driver) is a wacky, vegan, gluten-free, yoga-loving mom who is very close to her son.
Leave it to Will to almost instantly introduce young Marcus to spare ribs and adult pool parties in the first two episodes, much to his mother’s unhappiness. But leave it to Marcus to help man-boy Will learn to grow up a little. They bond over BBQ, bullies and babes, and they learn a lot about life in the process.
The show is sweet and amusing and offers the right messages about lying, respect and friendship.
Note: Parents should know that in the first episode, the word “orgasm” is tossed off lightly. Also, it may seem cliché bordering on insulting to make the vegan mom the wacko, but by the second episode, she’s schooling Will in the ways of life, too. She plays nicely off of Will, who helps her to see other points of view, too. The characters prove they’re nicely not one-dimensional, even if the writing veers off the rails just a bit at times.
Next, Growing Up Fisher.
This show looked awful in the promos. The ad featuring longtime actor J.K. Simmons as a blind dad cutting down a tree with a chainsaw, seemed particularly bad. Was that supposed to be funny?
What wasn’t coming through was the charm of his son, Henry, (played by Eli Baker, 12), who is also the narrator. Henry has grown up feeling useful to his lawyer father named Mel Fisher, but as his parents split he worries he’s being replaced by a guide dog. “My job has been outsourced to a dog,” he says glumly.
Henry’s view of life gives the series, which creator D.J. Nash based on his own life, its heart. Henry and Mel laugh and bond in scenes that seem preposterous but somehow manage to work out ok.
One downside: Jenna Elfman’s mom character is trying to find herself and that’s partly why they are splitting. She wants to get out of the “shade” being cast by Mel in their marriage. She asks Henry about buying a water bra, she smokes e-cigarettes before moving on to a pipe, and she buys the same jeans as her exasperated teen daughter Katie (played by Ava Deluca-Verley). Looking in a mirror as they’re shopping, Elfman proudly says, “That is not the tush of a mom. Pow!”
We might add to that: “Ugh!”
The best parts of both shows revolve round the young boys. They have feelings and they are struggling as much with their parents and they are with their peers. They want to be loved and accepted as they stumble along the path to teenager land.
The biggest problem with both shows happens to be with the female characters. They are mostly nutty, troubled, whiny or angry. Hopefully, they’ll wind up being more well-rounded, smarter and savvier as the weeks go on, because otherwise, the comedies have potential.