Take Me To The Pilots ’14: NBC’s ‘A to Z’

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show: “A to Zed” (NBC)
The Pitch: “When Ginsberg Met The Mother”
Quick Response: In my TMTTP entry for “Manhattan Love Story,” I wrote “I'll watch a love story in which I kinda like the idea that the two main characters might find happiness together.” Proving that it's not like I'm asking the moon, I give you “A to Z,” a new comedy that I don't find especially funny, but because I like Ben Feldman's Andrew and I like Cristin Milioti's Zelda, I'm prepared to make at least a moderate commitment here. Basically just “500 Days of Summer” filtered with a little “How I Met Your Mother” “A to Z” is a more-than-slightly twee story about a romantic pairing drawn together by fate, but seemingly doomed to be separated in “8 months, three weeks, five days and one hour,” or at least that's the assumption we make based on Katey Sagal's opening voiceover, which can surely be interpreted a variety of ways. They're unified by deeply ingrained contrasting ironies — His motherless childhood led him to be a clingy romantic, while she rebelled against her hippie upbringing to become a Type-A distruster of destiny. So if you figure that Feldman is playing Ted and Milioti is dodging expectations to play Robin, you know roughly what to expect. There's a lot of whimsical fast-talking and some bouncing between being clever and simply reference-driven, whether it's multiple Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon nods or a “Back to the Future 2” gag that starts slow, but builds impressively. The supporting cast needs work. Henry Zebrowski is one of this season's Husky Bearded Best Friends, neither the most nor least memorable. No matter what shows she pops up in, Lenora Crichlow always seems amusing, but also always seems slightly miscast. And Christina Kirk's chilly blonde boss is a variation on a character I feel like we've seen many times. And I don't know that any of the three supporting characters, or the office environment, really constitute a “world” for the show. But Feldman and Milioti are just so darned charming that you don't especially worry about what's happening around them. They're so chirpy and fresh-faced and cute and even if you don't buy the love story, you're OK with watching the interactions. If “500 Days of Summer” taught me anything, it's that I should distrust this pairing entirely — As Chloe Grace Mortez's “Summer” character puts it, “Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do doesn't mean she's your soul mate” — and we'll see if “A to Z” is smart enough to handle the disintegration of romantic idealism implied by that opening voiceover. I don't think the “A to Z” pilot is anywhere near as funny or smart (or veined with rich bitterness) as “500 Days of Summer,” incidentally. But that's a movie I like. I know lots of people hate it. If you hate it, you aren't gonna like “A to Z” either. It's good to be well-warned on those sorts of things.
Desire To Watch Again: I'm happily looking forward to a second episode, but comedy pilots that I found “likable,” but not necessarily “funny” last season — “Trophy Wife,” “Enlisted,” “Surviving Jack” — generally stayed high quality and became funnier as they went along, but they also all died swift deaths. [FOX's “Us and Them,” a likeable-not-funny comedy I'd say was more than somewhat similar to “A to Z,” didn't even air.] That worries me. I think NBC made a mistake putting “A to Z” online SEVEN weeks before its premiere. This is a decent pilot and I expect it to have buzz, but I don't think it's a substantive or hooky pilot, the kind of thing that'll effectively linger in the mind for nearly two months.

Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Manhattan Love Story'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: 'Gracepoint'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'The Mysteries of Laura'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'The McCarthys'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'How To Get Away With Murder'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Mulaney'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: 'Marry Me'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Madam Secretary'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Forever'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Red Band Society'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'State of Affairs'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Stalker'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Selfie'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'Jane the Virgin'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Gotham'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Constantine'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Scorpion'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Black-ish'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'The Flash'
All of my 2013 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries