Based on the 2002 Hugh Grant movie of the same name, NBC's "About a Boy" offers cute kid moments and produces a few smiles but no belly laughs.
Premiering after Olympics coverage at 11:07 p.m. Saturday on WPXI -- the show moves to its regular 9 p.m. Tuesday time period next week -- "About a Boy" was adapted for television by Jason Katims, the executive producer behind "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood." So it shares a sense of empathy and humanity with those series while also conforming to the sitcom-style predictable comic incidents, repetitive plots and stock characterizations.
Saturday's premiere essentially boils the plot of the movie down to a half-hour. Will Freeman (David Walton, "Bent") wrote a hit song and now lives a blissful upper-middle class carefree existence in San Francisco. His casual days come to an end when vegan single mom Fiona (Minnie Driver) moves in next door with her precocious 11-year-old son, Marcus (Benjamin Stockman, "1600 Penn").
Fiona complains when the smoke from the meat on Will's grill wafts into her yard, disrupting her plans to do yoga: "Please refrain from grilling unless there's a southwesterly wind," she asks.
Yes, Fiona is a pill, at least in the first two episodes, which feature too-similar plots involving Will getting caught in a lie or obfuscation with regards to the adventures he and Marcus have. But Fiona gains more dimensions by the third episode while Will continues to be a Peter Pan-like boy who never grows up, calling into question who the "Boy" in the title actually refers to.
In the premiere, Will pretends Marcus is his son (and says Marcus had a disease) to get a cellist (Leslie Bibb, "GCB") into bed. In next week's episode, Will takes Marcus to a hot-ticket party and encourages him to abide by "the bro code of silence" but, naturally, Marcus cannot lie to his mom.
Mr. Walton is appealing as he walks a tightrope between being too jerky and too soft for his selfishness to be believable. Ms. Driver is a bit one-note brittle in the first two episodes through no fault of her own; it's the script that doesn't serve Fiona well. Benjamin strikes the right balance between innocent and slightly worldly, thanks to Fiona's influence.
Cute and occasionally touching, "About a Boy" gets no points in its early episodes for originality or expanding the single-camera comedy form but it's a decent little show about flawed but essentially decent characters.