Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The show was written by Ben Queen (Drive), who executive produces with Rashida Jones (Parks and Rec), Will McCormack (Celeste and Jesse Forever), Bill Callahan (Psych), and Michael Patrick Jann (The Goldbergs), who directed the pilot.
The Cast & How You Know Them: Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother) and Ben Feldman (Mad Men, Drop Dead Diva) star as the central couple, and the supporting cast includes Henry Zebrowski (The Wolf of Wall Street), Christina Kirk (Girls), Hong Chau (Treme), Lenora Crichlow (Being Human), and Parvesh Cheena (Sean Saves the World). Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) narrates.
The Premise: A to Z is the story of Andrew and Zelda from the moment they meet until they stop dating almost nine months later. He’s a romantic who works for a dating site; she’s a no-nonsense lawyer; he believes in destiny; she thinks it’s all just chance.
What Works: This pilot is very cute and very romcom-y. It has likeable characters, clever, sometimes funny writing, leads with good chemistry, and good momentum and pacing. I know that all sounds kind of bland, and I won’t say this pilot blew me away, but it was thoroughly enjoyable, if not a show I think I’ll spend a ton of time thinking or talking about, and I’m looking forward to seeing more. If you’re looking for a new relationship comedy this season, this is probably your best bet. Oh, and given how stuck in gender stereotypes most of the new comedies are this year/always, I appreciated that the guy was the romantic in this one.
What Doesn’t: I’m wary of part of the premise: that we know exactly how long Andrew and Zelda will date before breaking up or getting married or engaged. I’m not sure what that countdown adds to the show other than a high-concept hook, and shows like How I Met Your Mother have made me afraid of the kind of set-ups that a) limit the show’s options going forward and b) raise expectations for a certain kind of ending. Or to put it another way: If Andrew and Zelda date for eight months, three weeks, five days, and one hour, the best case scenario for Season 2 is that they just ditch the whole premise. And that’s a tricky situation to be in.
Our Favorite Line: “I believe in reality, and he believes in destiny and … probably unicorns.”
You Might Like This if you like romantic comedies in general and How I Met Your Mother in particular, and weren’t too traumatized by the ending of that one.
(Photo courtesy of NBC.)