For avid readers of this blog, you know that if I hate one thing other than Kristen Wiig movies, it's when things are spelled out for you. For example, songs in romantic comedies. I hate when they tell you how to feel ("I'll Never Fall in Love Again" playing after a break-up).
And that's kind of how I felt about NBC's new show "A to Z" starring Cristin Milioti (now deceased Mother of "How I Met Your Mother") and Ben Feldman (he gave his nipple to Peggy on last season's "Mad Men"). Because Milioti is from HIMYM, this show has been compared to its CBS predecessor, but the comparisons should be directed at the 2009 film 500 Days of Summer, because that's more of how it feels with the typewriter narration by Katey Sagal and cutesy winks at destiny and fate.
In fact, Andrew (Feldman) is a lot like Tom Hansen from Summer, since both work at jobs aimed to bring people together (Hansen = greeting cards, Andrew = dating website). And Zelda is a lot like Summer in that she doesn't believe in fate mumbo jumbo and is more practical in her profession as a lawyer.
Andrew and Zelda couldn't be more adorable (get it---A to Z! Their names!), and that may be where the trouble lies. The premise is too precise and calculating. The show even tells you everything you need to know about the characters instead of letting the audience figure it out for themselves. We learn within the first few moments that this couple will only be together eight months (so is this a mini-series?). You can tell the writer is trying to come up with a plot similar to HIMYM, but lightning doesn't strike twice, and I suspect the fans of that show are still a little bitter---and smarter---from March's lackluster finale.
So these two meet (they work across the street from each other) and hit it off, but Andrew scares Zelda away when he realizes where he knows her from: he saw her at a concert years before where she was wearing a silver dress. Zelda denies it, but Andrew knows deep down she's lying. Getting scared off, similar to the way Ted scared Robyn in episode one of HIMYM, Zelda goes running out of the bar, but not before the bartender gets in his "Martini Luther King Jr." zinger.
Zelda retreats to her friend Stephie (Lenora Crichlow), whose presence on the show is another conundrum. See, Stephie is a high-powered lawyer who becomes every man she dates and hooks up with. For example, in the Pilot, she has apparently met a man who's a jazz trumpeter and IMMEDIATELY goes out and buys a trumpet, becoming obsessed with jazz.
This troubled me, more than any Sofia Vergara Emmy turntable could. Stephie is a lawyer. She's obviously smart. It's 2014 and we still have female TV characters who overturn their entire lives for men? This subplot felt so dated and unnecessary.
Meanwhile, the trumpet player Stephie has hooked up with is Stu (Henry Zebrowski), Andrew's best friend---who's not really a trumpet player. When Stephie finds this out, she freaks out--even though she is way more hotter than Stu and could probably get any man she wanted.
Long story short (I'm only going to give you the A to F version of this Pilot), Zelda was wearing the silver dress the night Andrew thought she had (big surprise). She was just scared and didn't want to admit it. There's also a subplot about Back to the Future II and hoverboards that I could go into (plus, an appearance by the always lovely Lea Thompson), but I'm still not entirely sure how that fits into everything.
Milioti definitely carries the show and is the only thing worth watching. I only hope she and Feldman can find something better in the future. Do I think "A to Z" has potential? Sure. But only an alphabet's worth of episodes. After that, they're going to run out of ideas. And a gimmick.