This post contains spoilers for last night’s series premiere of About a Boy.
For fans of the Nick Hornby novel or the Hugh Grant/Nicholas Hoult movie who always wanted man-child Will to find romance with Fiona, mother of child-man Marcus, the sitcom adaptation may be paving the way to make that happen in the new series About a Boy.
We first meet Will Freeman, who considers himself a free man indeed, riding a San Francisco cable car, in stark contrast to his harried-father friend who’s juggling a baby and two children. Will makes a hasty exit when he spies a beautiful woman unloading a cello from her car and greets her with a jaunty “Cello!” The woman, Dakota, doubts Will’s claim to appreciation of the cello until he rattles off a long list of his favorite cello pieces. She’d love to chat, but she’s late for a meeting.
Will announces he’s late, too, and follows her into the venue, unaware he’s about to attend a single parent support group. He improvises a son named Jonah, tragically stricken with leukemia, but cured by alternative medicine during a trip to Africa. This is enough to get him into Dakota’s good graces and get Dakota into his bed…at least until Dakota receives a phone call summoning her to her daughter’s school. Will races after Dakota, clad only in shirt and boxer shorts, running straight into new neighbor Fiona and her son, Marcus. Fiona is not impressed by Will’s antics, but Marcus is intrigued.
Later, Fiona asks Will to turn down his music so she can meditate, and restrict his grilling of meat to when the wind blows away from her yard. She’s a vegan and doesn’t want to consume meat by smelling it. Before Will can think of a rejoinder, Marcus bounces out of the house, ecstatic over finding his favorite (read: ugly) sweater to wear to school.
The next day, Marcus, chased by bullies, pounds on Will’s door. Fiona isn’t home and Marcus needs shelter. Marcus has already Googled Will, whom we learn was formerly in a band called Siracha, now disbanded, and wrote the novelty hit Christmas song, “Runaway Sleigh.” While Marcus is checking out Will’s living room, Dakota drops by and assumes Marcus is Jonah. Will convinces Marcus to play along, under the guise of comforting “Jonah” from a waking nightmare, and Marcus whispers “I own you” into Will’s ear as man and boy embrace. Marcus’s first demand? Dinner.
Will orders in ribs, and Marcus asks if he can smell them. Marcus can try, Will cautions, and sure enough, smelling turns to eating. Will has created a monster, and the pattern is set. Marcus returns again and again. Will confides in Marcus his frustration to losing his friends to marriage and parenthood. They team up to ambush Marcus’s bullies with garden hoses, play ping pong, and feast on junk food. Marcus invites Will to the school talent show, where Marcus will sing to cheer up Fiona, who “cries sometimes.”
Will joins Fiona and Marcus for dinner, but is unused to the vegan menu. Fiona asks Will to leave, as he clearly isn’t enjoying the meal. Her irritation quickly turns to a flood of tears. Will decides he’ll be neighborly and stay. He’s neighborly as well when he needs to borrow Marcus again, thanks to a surprise visit from Dakota and her daughters. Fiona catches Will in the act and hauls her son back over their shared fence. They are not friends. Will doesn’t correct her, despite Marcus’s pleas.
This, Will’s friend from the cable car informs him, is how Will always approaches relationships, bailing when things get too serious. Even so, when Will learns Marcus will be singing “What Makes You Beautiful” in front of his middle school peers, instinct intervenes. Will hurries to the school, pleading with Fiona and Marcus to cancel, but Marcus stands firm. He’s singing for Fiona because she’s sad and she’ll be happy when he sings. Sure enough, kids immediately begin to pelt Marcus with debris, but then the magic happens. Lights go out, and when they come back on, Will is onstage next to Marcus, accompanying him on a borrowed keyboard. Will and Marcus rock the house, delighting Fiona, and cementing the start of a beautiful friendship.
Though there’s a lot of backstory crammed into this pilot, and the focus remains on the intergenerational bromance, there are subtle sparks here between Will and Fiona that are absent from the book and movie versions. If opposites attract, Will and Fiona fit that trope to a tee. While the leads of the novel find their collective tolerably ever after, in this adaptation, this may be a family ship that sets sail to an all-American HEA.
Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing with Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.