The emotional climax to this week’s About a Boy involves a child taking a crap on a toilet. (I’m trying to adjust my language accordingly for this family-friendly program.) Granted, there may be ways that such a scene could have been successful, but I’m at a loss for ideas, honestly.
Yes, “About a Godfather” unfortunately falls victim to the more saccharine tendencies that plagued last week’s “About Total Exuberance.” Once again, it’s not bad but, also once again, it’s not the type of episode I hope to be seeing too often.
The plot begins with Will prepping for a rare boy’s night outing with his friend/former band companion Andy. Played by comedian Al Madrigal, Andy has popped up sporadically throughout the first few episodes, representing a path that Will never took—that of marriage, raising children and having no time for anything as trivial as a social life. The passive-aggressive tension between the two only intensifies when Andy and his wife, Laurie (Bridesmaid co-writer Annie Mumolo), asks Will to be godfather to their son, Jonah. It’s a proposition Will turns down almost instantly. Pressure from Marcus and his own sense of guilt, however, leads Will to eventually come back and accept Andy and Laurie’s offer. Laurie, having never been a big fan of Will, says that the time for accepting the offer has passed. Thus, to prove his worth, Will offers to babysit their children for a few hours, allowing Andy and Laurie to have a few hours to themselves. And by “few hours to themselves” I mean finally catching up on Homeland.
The plot of “About a Godfather” stems from a brief gag in the film where Will’s married friends ask him to be their child’s godfather. Will’s response and subsequent explanation stand as infinitely more blunt than the TV version. (“I’ll probably forget all her birthdays until she’s eighteen when I take her out, get her drunk and—let’s be honest here—try to shag her.”) What serves as a funny throwaway joke to help illustrate Will’s immaturity in the film, however, becomes a tired, predictable “men takes care of babies” storyline when expanded to 22 minutes. It’s the same shtick we’ve seen in Mr. Mom, Daddy Day Care, Three Men and a Baby and a bunch of other films that I’ve long forgotten.
That’s not to say the episode is without merit. Chief among the positives is the fact that the episode actually gives Minnie Driver’s Fiona some good material. In particular, her hangout with Andy in the first act, wherein the two drink wine together, talk about their children and paint each other’s toenails, marks a major highlight. Also, as cheap as such a joke can be, David Walton acting befuddled around children (upon seeing one of Andy’s kids cry, he yells, “get a grip, tiny person!”) and woefully misunderstanding childcare (“I’m pretty sure swaddling isn’t even a word”) has yet to not be amusing. And yet, it’s not quite enough to completely balance out some of the episode’s more egregious issues.
Like “About Total Exuberance,” “About a Godfather” feels more like a disappointment than a bomb. It’s the kind of episode that I sincerely pray the series does not build upon in future installments. Then again, like many great modern sitcoms, including 30 Rock, Happy Endings and parts of The Office, these first three episodes most likely represent Katims and Co. experimenting with different tones to find out what best suits the voice of the show. The highly subjective nature of comedy frequently makes it difficult for some network comedies to find their footing on the first go. Of course, there are always the abysmal ideas that are dead in the water (ABC’s Mixology), but, as a common courtesy, I try to give comedies at least a couple episodes to impress me. And, indeed, there are elements in About a Boy (i.e. the phenomenal cast and great writing team) that I feel could make for an eventual great show.
But yeah, for now, can we hold off on the emotional epiphanies via defecating? It’s kind of strange.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.