Romcoms seem to be the ordre du jour on network TV this fall season with Manhattan Love Story, Marry Me, and A to Z, and it makes sense when you consider the popularity of sitcom couples like workplace sweethearts Jim and Pam from The Office or the ultimate on-again/off-again pairing of Ross and Rachel from Friends. But these new crop of shows – all of which feature straight white people (as per usual) – aren’t particularly great.
NBC’s A to Z is a “whimsical” romantic comedy starring Ben Feldman (Mad Men) as Andrew — an employee at an online dating service — and Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother) as Zelda — a high-powered lawyer. Narrated by Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy), we find out in the opening scene that Andrew and Zelda will date for exactly 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, and 1 hour, meaning they either break up (and get back together) or get engaged by the end of this very specific time frame. The quirky set-up is similar to How I Met Your Mother or (500) Days of Summer but, by comparison, A to Z is wholly forgettable.
We’re told Ben is a “guy’s guy” and Zelda is a “girl’s girl,” but Ben also has a soft side to him that believes in things like true love and destiny, while Zelda is more of a cynical realist thanks to a weird upbringing by a hippie mother. Dead-set on the idea that Zelda is his dream girl he saw at a concert once (once!), Ben goes to crazy lengths to prove that he and Zelda are meant to be. Some people might consider it romantic, but we were more inclined to think Ben’s character would be more appropriate for a show like Stalker on CBS.
Silver lining is that we didn’t think A to Z was downright horrible like some of these other new sitcoms.
Between A to Z and Manhattan Love Story, A to Z is definitely the superior romcom to debut this fall. Both shows employ many of the same tropes, such as the womanizing and undesirable male best friend (it turns out Ben’s best friend Stu was dating Zelda’s bestie Stephie, played by Being Human‘s Lenora Crichlow), but A to Z is less offensive. It helps that Feldman and Milioti have a very earnest and likable quality about them. Though their chemistry doesn’t reach the explosive heights you’d expect based on Andrew’s “This is destiny!” spiel, they play off each other well and can come across as quite charming. (If A to Z survives long enough for a second season, it’ll be thanks to these two.)
Unfortunately, A to Z is bogged down by the fact that it’s too quirky and too adorable, leaving very little room for actual comedy. There were moments that made us smile, but the pilot needed to be funnier. All in all, A to Z wasn’t memorable enough for us to say that we’ll keep tuning in week after week.