On Thursday, NBC presented its version of a sweet, budding relationship between Andrew (Ben Feldman) and Zelda (Cristin Milioti), as it covers the length of their relationship in a series. Yep, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the new How I Met Your Mother.
No? Didn’t think so. While HIMYM was a great series, A to Z fell short of that sort of wonderful, fulfilling series pilot. Even if you can get Kathy Sagal to do your voice-over, a la Bob Saget on that other series.
Now, I really like Cristin Milioti, even before she was on HIMYM (as part of the original cast of the broadway play Once. You know, that insanely popular Broadway play that won practically every Tony award ever?…anyone?). She plays Zelda, the serious, pragmatic pro-bono lawyer, quite well. Ben Feldman plays Andrew, the optimistic-romantic online-dating employee. Ben plays him a bit too close to a stereotype. However, the issues are minor enough that in a few episodes, Andrew could be ironed out to be more original. So I’m not too concerned about the main characters being likable. The chemistry is there, it exists. But what I’m worried about is the supporting characters.
The “supporting” best friends just step into the stereotypes of the jerk, clueless guy friend (Stu) and the emotional, gullible girl friend (Stephie). Honestly, they seem toxic for the Andrew-Zelda relationship, themselves, and the show. While watching the show, I couldn’t understand how Andrew or Zelda could remain friends with these people, no matter how long they’ve known them. Sure, the “bff”s are loyal people, but the writers need to take the jerk-factor/emotions down a million notches for me to remotely enjoy their company. This is the show’s #1 problem: that supporting cast can easily sink this ship fast, all by themselves.
The plot itself was slightly believable, with the situations coming out a tad too corny. A guy likes a girl. Guy realizes it’s the same girl from a concert a while back (it was love at first sight…for him, at least) and says them meeting again was destiny, girl hates the notion of destiny and becomes freaked out so she leaves, guy tries to get the girl back by proving she was the girl from the concert, he semi-succeeds but the proof freaks her out more with the guy seeming like a stalker (someone call CBS, they might be a plot development for Stalker here), girl finally realizes that she should give him a chance, and we begin those…how many months? Days? Hours? I’m sure Kathy Sagal will remind us every episode. But the plot plays it safe. There’s really no risk here (or at least I never really felt it), and while they try out this relationship, I’m not really jumping to see what will happen to them next week, or thrilled to see what the “gang” is up to this week.
Where HIMYM thrived with the heightened anticipation of finally meeting the mother, A to Z doesn’t even come close to that type of anticipation for…their breakup or proposal, whichever comes at the end of this. At HIMYM‘s end, we all knew who the mother was, but we cared about the journey of the other characters at the same time. In A to Z, there’s no such connection. We only care about where Andrew and Zelda go, and we’ll sadly see what their best friends are doing too. It’s not the same. HIMYM characters jived. The relationships in A to Z felt forced across the board. Authenticity. That’s what I saw in HIMYM, and haven’t seen it in A to Z.
In all, the writing was little too safe, the dialogue being pretty good despite the horribly character development of recurring and supporting characters. The show could iron out these issues, but I don’t think they have the energy or desire to do it. I think the Andrew-Zelda relationship could become a cute couple, and even become an interesting couple to watch. But those character…ug. I think you can tell I’m wuite upset about this, so I won’t beat a dead horse. But they could just swallow this whole and destroy the universe. Okay, dead horse. I get it.
So here’s to two more episodes of the writers taking every down a couple levels. That would be nice, for everyone involved.