There is a general necessity in many comedies to use the status quo. It’s what characters live in and try to restore when mishaps occur, and usually when the episode ends the characters more or less return to this default and reset for the next episode. In its Season Two premiere “About a Vasectomy,” the Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”)-created comedy “About a Boy” explores this common exercise of the sitcom and what happens when a character wants to return to the status quo when others have moved on.

About a Boy

B
NBC
Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.


Opening a few months after where season one left off, “About a Boy” finds protagonist Will Freeman (David Walton, “New Girl”) living in New York with his girlfriend Sam (Adrianne Palicki, “Friday Night Lights”). Will still struggles to adjust to life in the city. Director Adam Davidson (“Community”) shows his troubles in an opening montage as Will spends his day trying to find the perfect asiago bagel. However, Will’s current situation of spending his days doing whatever he wants is interrupted as his only source of income (royalties from a song written 10 years ago) is taken away.

To work out this situation, Will goes on a brief visit to his San Francisco home and reunites with his neighbor, Fiona (Minnie Driver, “Good Will Hunting”) and her son Marcus (Benjamin Stockham, “1600 Penn”). Will attempts to jump right back into routine, giving Marcus a conventional (albeit older) male friend who lets him do things his mother wouldn’t let him. However, the pair seem to have accepted a reality without Will while Will tries to go back to his previous position by extending his visit. Will’s need to return to the default is projected onto the two as Will looks for problems to solve and Fiona compares him to an “arsonist firefighter.”

Will’s discomfort with moving on with his life is a universal issue that people face. Applying that problem to a sitcom — where the return to the norm is almost always embraced — is effective, but there are times when “About a Boy” sells itself short. At points Will is rectified: Marcus’s new friends, who he’s replaced Will with, are just jerks taking advantage of the well-meaning social outcast and Fiona still suffers from over attachment to her son. Marcus’s awkwardness and Fiona’s over-mothering are common plot points from “About a Boy” ’s first season. Although it’s enjoyable to see Will help out the two again it would have been far more provocative to see more evidence that the mother and son had moved on and Will was in denial.

The destruction of the status quo is effectively explored in the short subplot Will shares with his friend Andy (Al Madrigal, “Gary Unmarried”). In the first season, Will convinced Andy to not receive the episode’s title vasectomy. Andy, after taking his friend’s advice, has now accidentally impregnated his wife Laurie (Annie Mumolo, “This is 40”) with another child without her knowing he did not have the vasectomy. Andy tried to maintain his old reality but now is faced with a new one. Meanwhile, Will and Andy’s struggle to break the news to an unsuspecting Laurie plays like a comedic time bomb.

The uncertainty about Will’s income and future are intimidating for the character, and Walton does a strong job of portraying the character’s frustrations in his current situation. Will is a character stuck at a crossroads, and the way “About a Boy” steers him in its second season may lead to an exploration not often seen in the sitcom genre.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.