NBC flattens ‘About a Boy’

If NBC’s new sitcom, “About a Boy,” looks or sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve seen it more than a decade ago.

The story’s based on British writer Nick Hornby’s 1998 novel of the same name and was made into an award-winning British film in 2002, starring Hugh Grant as bachelor Will Freeman and young Nicholas Hoult as the boy Marcus.

Jason Katims’ (“Parenthood”) American TV adaption of the story stars David Walton (“New Girl,” “Bent”) as Will and Benjamin Stockham (“1600 Penn”) as Marcus. Will’s a grade-A bullshiter who loves women. His best bud Andy’s (Al Madrigal, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”) tied down with kids, but Will prefers his bachelor lifestyle.

When he runs into a beautiful blond (Leslie Bibb) on her way to a single parent support group, he tags along with her and invents a son with leukemia named Jonah. Will enlists his homely 11-year-old neighbor Marcus to pretend to be his sickly son.

The pilot, which was written by Katims and directed by “Iron Man’s” Jon Favreau, condenses the poignant 101-minute film into a superficial half-hour sitcom. Dalton’s Will resembles a slightly grown-up version of Haley Dunphy’s slacker ex-boyfriend Dylan (Reid Ewing) from “Modern Family.” Stockham’s Marcus and his mom, Fiona (Minnie Driver), seem like the aliens next door (and is perhaps NBC’s version of ABC’s “The Neighbors”). Marcus is the weirdo kid who wears weird rainbow sweaters and gets bullied in school. Fiona’s a vegan who meditates and cries all the time (plus her British accent makes her seem even more foreign). They all aren’t as sympathetic as their counterparts in the film.

Still, Dalton and Stockham have some chemistry together. Will seems good with kids, perhaps because he acts like one. Will and Marcus can be seen playing ping pong ball, squirting down bullies with a hose and singing 1D together. Dalton’s in his mid-30s. Stockham’s in middle school.

The relationship between an adult and a child isn’t a new feature in television sitcoms. For years, we’ve watch “Two and a Half Men’s” misogynistic womanizing bachelor Charlie (Charlie Sheen) and his nephew Jake Harper (Angus T. Jones). Compared to Charlie, Will almost seems like a genuine good guy. Too bad he resides in dull and one-dimensional Sitcomland, where he’s not real.

“About a Boy’s” pilot premiered after the Olympics at 11 p.m. EST on Saturday, January 22. The second episode, “About a Pool Party,” will air at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, January 25 on NBC.

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