Is it possible to find true love with someone in a cynical modern world? Can a chance meeting turn into something more long lasting? Would you be able to sustain the relationship rather than wreck it before it got off the ground? That’s part of the premise behind the new NBC show “A to Z,” which had one couple going through the ups and down of their romantic relationship. Unfortunately, the show’s set-up was full of too many cliches that made it hard to fathom the premise long before the series premiere ended.
“A to Z” followed two very different people who came from very different backgrounds and had opposing views on what it meant to have a lasting relationship. Andrew Lofland (Ben Feldman) came from a loving home where the most successful relationship he witnessed was his parents’ marriage that managed to last longer than any of his. That was the relationship that Andrew aspired to have himself, but he always placed too many expectations on his possible suitors that they got scared off by his optimism. He worked at an Online Dating Website where he helped potential singles develop strong relationships that led to a trip down the aisle. His best friend/work colleague Stu (Henry Zebrowski) used his occupation to help score dates with women as he created very elaborate identities with the sole purpose of getting dates. Most of those dates led to brief flings that often ended before anyone could get too invested. During one routine workday, Andrew met Zelda Vasco (Cristin Milioti) who was a lawyer that was skeptical of whimsical matters of the heart. Her childhood involved living in a tradition free hippie commune that left her with the need for a more structured lifestyle and relationship. She crossed paths with Andrew at his office when she came to get a refund from the dating site for setting up a bad match with someone who wasn’t her type. He believed that he met her before from a concert and was destined to be with her. She was completely frightened by his excitement and backed away immediately. Will Andrew be able to win Zelda over or lose her completely?
In terms of questions, the show’s series premiere only posed one clear as to whether the couple was going to stay together or break up. Viewers knew from the show’s narrator (Katey Sagal) that Ben and Zelda’s relationship was going to unfold and last for over eight months. No one knows yet whether the characters will break up or take the next step: marriage. Unfortunately, the show might have trouble finding an audience because the show’s first episode got off to a very rocky start by following the typical romantic comedy premise, big and small screen, of a relationship that seemed to be written in the stars. The show’s approach of having one character being extremely romantic and the other being cynical was a nice change of pace. It would’ve been better if the show didn’t embrace any of its plot cliches at all by allowing the characters to both be relationship cynics who fight their feelings for a while before falling in love. Getting the characters together by the end of the first episode was really rushed and made viewers feel less invested about what happens next for the characters, since their relationship seemed rather unrealistic. The show should’ve even postponed having the characters cross paths until at least the second or third episode to allow viewers get to know the characters separately rather than as a pair right off the bat. Hopefully, the show can fix this mistake by allowing Ben and Zelda to still have their own storylines going as well as their joint one to keep viewers somewhat interested in what comes next.
As for breakout performances, Feldman and Milioti led the pack as their characters were the driving force behind most of what went on during the series premiere. They managed to somehow elevate what could’ve been sub-par romantic comedy cliches by adding a little extra heart into each plot. Feldman embodied Andrew as the ultimate romantic optimistic who believed that love could conquer all if he found Ms. Right in the process. He made Andrew someone who believed that everyone deserved a happy ending and that his destiny was with Zelda. When he found proof otherwise, Feldman turned Andrew into a dejected individual with puppy dog eyes that showcased his sadness. His strongest scene came when Feldman’s Andrew was given a computer printout that proved that Zelda wasn’t the girl of his dream, or so he thought. His face went from joyful exuberance into complete failure as his smile rapidly faded. Milioti, on the other hand, had the challenging task of making Zelda the most straight laced neurotic imaginable without turning the character into someone that would irritate viewers too much. She embodied Zelda as a realistic who wanted to trust Andrew, but she was afraid of getting burned. Her strongest scene came towards the end of the episode when Zelda came to the realization that Andrew’s leap of faith might be her best course of action. She also allowed Zelda to embrace her silly side a little bit as she made the first move with Andrew this time. Luckily, the two leads did have a nice rapport that made viewers want to root for them, even though they might have wished they were on a better show.
“A to Z” premieres on October 2nd and airs Thursdays at 9:30 PM on NBC.
Verdict: The show’s premiere episode got off to a rocky start and rushed things a little too much. Hopefully, future episodes will slow things down for viewers at a more realistic pace.
TV Score: 2 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)