'About a Boy' review: Grow up

Benjamin Stockham as Marcus, left, and David Walton

Benjamin Stockham as Marcus, left, and David Walton as Will in the "About a Boy" pilot. (Credit: NBC / Jordin Althaus)

COMEDY PREMIERE "About a Boy"

WHEN | WHERE Preview on NBC/4 Saturday night 11-ish after Olympics coverage. Time-slot premiere Tuesday at 9 p.m.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT So who's the title character in this single-camera comedy? Seems it should be 11-year-old Marcus (Benjamin Stockham, "1600 Penn," who's awesome here), your basic bully-magnet misfit, just moved to San Francisco with his hippie-dippy meat-free mom, Fiona (Minnie Driver). But then there's their new neighbor, Will (David Walton, "Bent"), an ex-rocker-turned-mad-meat-griller whose current occupation appears to be Lying to Women to Have Sex With Them.


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Thus, the boy bonding begins. Will feeds Marcus ribs (Saturday night). He teaches Fiona how to lie (Tuesday's episode). He drags Marcus along to a pool party (Tuesday) with hot models and megabooze. He mocks married bud Andy (Al Madrigal) for playing "potty motivator" to his toddler (the following week).

MY SAY Like old-time Bible movie-maker Cecil B. DeMille, "About a Boy" wants to have it both ways. DeMille would depict heathen debauchery for two hours, then, in the final reel, have God punish all.

"About a Boy" adapter Jason Katims celebrates prolonged male adolescence for 20 minutes, then has Will either called out by pals or hit by sudden insight. (Katims adapted Nick Hornby's novel, also made into Hugh Grant's 2002 movie.)

"About a Boy" yearns to be good. Yet it relishes being bad. And Katims -- guiding hand to "Parenthood" and "Friday Night Lights" -- doesn't fess up to that dichotomy. Not when the show has women to use (Andy's wife is also a drag), "weird" beliefs to lampoon, or cool guyness to to indulge.

BOTTOM LINE The things that Will finds off-putting are depicted as ick. Funny, my feeling about the show exactly.

GRADE C+

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