Nobody makes a man-child like Nick Hornby.
By SARA SMITH
The Kansas City Star
Every movie made from a Hornby novel needs a witty, selfish lad who looks good in stubble and henleys. John Cusacks turn as Rob, the sulky slacker/stalker from High Fidelity, still serves as an antidote to his bought, sold and processed romances. About a Boys Will Freeman, who appears in sitcom form Saturday after the Olympics, has already been adorably played by Hugh Grant in the 2002 film version.
Do we really need a half-hour NBC comedy when weve already had a Hugh Grant movie? Actually, yes, like a kid with a vegan mom needs an order of short ends from Gates.
In About a Boy, the unfortunate, uncool kid in question is Marcus (Benjamin Stockham), sharp-tongued but in need of after-school rescue as he moves in next door to alpha hipster Will (David Walton). Their unlikely friendship thaws Wills heart, but not before cramping his style.
When Marcus mother, Fiona (Minnie Driver), begs her new neighbor to baby-sit, Will reluctantly agrees. His day is shot when he realizes he cant take a schlubby pale 12-year-old to a pool party at a rappers house. Or can he? What could happen, really?
When Fiona delivers her inevitable, emotional lecture on Wills immaturity, he cocks his head and replies, You know what? Halfway through that, I closed my eyes and I thought you were Adele.
Walton (most recently seen as Sam on New Girl) and Stockham are a seamless comedy team straight out of the gate. Their banter is more salty and cynical than sappy, but thats how it gets to you.
Jason Katims, head writer for Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, developed the show, so its got serious laughter-through-tears potential.
About a Boy also stars Daily Show correspondent Al Madrigal and Bridesmaids writer Annie Mumolo as a couple desperate for a night alone without the kids so they can catch up on Homeland.
Growing Up Fisher
Growing Up Fisher immediately establishes itself as a zany, troublesome dad kind of show. As patriarch Mel Fisher, J.K. Simmons is yelling Danger zone! before taking a chain saw to a tree in the backyard. Then hes teaching parallel parking, browbeating other lawyers and divorcing Jenna Elfman.
Because hes blind, these behaviors might raise some red flags. Of course, almost no one knows he cant see. After some voice-over narration via Jason Bateman (when did every sitcom start doing this?) we find that Mel has been hiding his blindness for 20 years, lately with the help of his son, Henry (Eli Baker). But Mel decides he cant lie anymore, and Henry finds himself replaced by a guide dog named Elvis.
As Henrys mom, Joyce, Elfman is once again a flaky, insecure Whole Foods shopper with too much leisure time. Simmons, who was Junos dad and Brenda Leigh Johnsons boss, is consistently funny and compelling, but the younger cast members havent settled into their roles yet, and the show doesnt know what to do with them, anyway.
NBC isnt shy about axing shows that get off to a shaky start, and Growing Up Fisher might suffer that fate if it doesnt quickly find something to do with this family. A few episodes in, Mels secret is out, the Fishers are amicably divorced and Joyce is filling her closet with jeggings. So far, Elvis has done most of the work.
To reach Sara Smith, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @SarawatchesKC.