Executive producer Jason Katims is downsizing on his new show in more ways than one.
After working on two hour-long dramas with large ensembles — Friday Night Lights boasted 10 series regulars and Parenthood currently has 15 — Katims' new show, About a Boy, is a half-hour comedy with just four stars. "I've always wanted to do a comedy. I've always wanted to do a half hour. What's exciting about the form is that you have to tell these stories in such a streamlined way and it's been really great," Katims told reporters Sunday at NBC's Television Critics Association winter previews. "This is a very small ensemble and you get to focus on telling one story. ... That's really very different from what I've been doing."
However, like FNL and Parenthood, About a Boy is an adaptation of the movie of the same name, which is in turn an adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel. In the TV version, David Walton (New Girl) steps into the Hugh Grant role as an immature 30-something hit songwriter named Will whose life is turned upside down when an adorable 11-year-old named Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and his high-strung mom Fiona (Minnie Driver) move in next door.
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Although the names are the same, the first episode of the series — spoiler! — quickly moves through the entire plot of the book, with the first episode ending with a triumphant performance by Marcus and Will at the school talent show. "I just thought we were going to do the pilot and be done with it," Katims joked about the decision. "I felt like in adapting it, what we wanted to do was take this [scene], that was so beautiful in the book and in the movie and something I felt like a story I really loved, and honor that. [It] then gives us the room to move forward with telling new stories and making it our own."
That decision also allows the show more time to establish and grow the unlikely relationship between Will, Fiona and Marcus. "I look at it as a story about a family that will never in their lives admit that they're a family," Katims said. "In a weird way, it takes a little bit of Fiona and a little bit of Will to make the best version of Marcus. But Will and Fiona will never admit that they need each other to help raise this boy."
Added Walton: "Our arguments over how to raise Marcus or make his life better are completely opposite but both right."
Winter TV 2014: About a Boy and more must-see new shows
Thankfully, About a Boy won't explore any conventional will-they-or-won't-they dynamic between "irresponsible" Will and "neurotic" Fiona — as Walton described them. "I don't see this becoming, between Will and Fiona, a romantic relationship anytime soon," Katims said.
There may not be a romance but there are whiffs of a bromance between Will and Parenthood's (former) resident immature, noncommittal musician Crosby Braverman. Walton appeared on the most recent episode of Parenthood as his About a Boy character during a poker game, and Katims said that surprise crossover was just the beginning. "I think just because both shows are set in the San Francisco and Bay Area, it sort of made sense, and because Will is in the world of music and Crosby is in world of music," Katims said. "It turns out that in About a Boy, Will also has his own poker game so Dax Shepard will be making appearances as Crosby Braverman on About a Boy."
About a Boy premieres on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 11/10c after the Olympics, before moving to its regular timeslot on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 9/8c on NBC. Check out a trailer for the new series: