Tuesday, April 29, 2014

REVIEW: 'About a Boy' - Marcus' Dad Visits and All He Wants to Do is Talk About Penguins in 'About a Boy's Dad'

NBC's About a Boy - Episode 1.10 About a Boy's Dad

Marcus' father (Tony Hale) takes a break from his research in Antarctica to make a surprise visit, but he's more interested in his work than anything Marcus is interested in. At Fiona's urging, Will steps in and does his best to encourage some father-son bonding. Meanwhile, Sam's demanding work schedule throws a wrench into their plans for romance.

Back when I first reviewed About a Boy at the start of the season, I noted how charming it was but was unsure about its direction in the future. Since those initial three episodes that NBC sent out to critics both the series premiered, I've let the show pile up. I had a desire to watch more of the show but didn't make an effort to get caught up on it. The ratings for it have been pretty great - compared to NBC's other comedies. When NBC sent out this episode early, it felt like the perfect time to check back in.

I've come to respect what it is About a Boy is trying to do. It still heavily plays as a Jason Katims dramedy condensed down to a half-hour running time. But that's also not an entirely bad thing either. I've enjoyed what the show has done this season in expanding its universe. It's built these interesting recurring characters and bits that can now just come in and we have a good understanding of who they are and what purpose they serve on the show. David Walton, Minnie Driver and Benjamin Stockham are the center of the show but it's nice to have Annie Mumolo, Leslie Bibb, Adrianne Palicki, Andrea Anders, Zach Cregger and Keith Powell come in from time to time to have fun. The dumbwaiter and printer recurring jokes have been nice too.

"About a Boy's Dad" also adds a very important figure to the mix - Marcus' dad Hugh Womple (played by Emmy winner Tony Hale). His presence - or lack thereof - has really informed us about who Marcus and Fiona are as people and as characters so far. Now, we actually meet the man and everything is suppose to click in a way that feels very rewarding. And with that, it is successful. The episode climaxes with one of the most dramatic moments of the series yet. Hugh has spent the day with Marcus helping him learn baseball. And then, he just turns ahead and heads back to Antarctica suddenly without saying goodbye. To him, penguins are the most important thing in the world. He gets penguins. He doesn't get people - especially Fiona and Marcus. He sees Fiona as a woman he can still call FiFi and will easily sleep with him again. Because of that desire by her, he doesn't see the pain he often inflicts on his family.

And then, there's Will who has slowly become the more encouraging father figure to Marcus. Early in the season, Marcus was sure that Will and his mom would end up together and get married. The two don't see it that way and I love how platonic their friendship has evolved. They are both solely about Marcus with their many interactions. With a show called About a Boy, the boy should be a huge part of everyone's interactions. Will has a life that he wants to be living. And yet having Marcus in his life has changed him. He enjoys spending time with this kid and wants him to be okay in life. And he's also got this relationship going that he really wants something serious from. He will still choose sex over the kid but he's also a much more constant presence in Marcus' life. And that has done wonders. It sucks that Hugh leaves so abruptly. And Marcus shouldn't be shielded from the truth of it all. It pains Fiona that she will cause her son pain. It's the right thing to do. Even a positive spin on it, doesn't completely lessen how disappointing it is. That's emotionally complex and just works so well here.

Some more thoughts:
  • "About a Boy's Dad" was written by Sarah Watson and directed by Wendey Stanzler.
  • I was just waiting for that concluding moment where Hugh surprisingly shows up at Marcus' baseball game. I'm glad that didn't happen though. It would have felt like a standard trope in this genre and not true to the character we just spent so much time getting to know.
  • It is odd that both Will and Sam are thinking about Marcus when they are in bed together. 
  • There was also a lot more shirtless Tony Hale than I was expecting - which never made a whole lot of sense to me.