NBC announced at the beginning of this month that it would not be ordering any more episodes of A to Z. The trades quickly reported that it, along with its timeslot partner and fellow NBC non-orderee, Bad Judge, had been cancelled. Reports that were immediately followed by pangs of regret slicing through the hearts of millions of viewers, “Great,” we thought, “another failed relationship. I can’t believe I talked myself into believing this one would last.” Then, like a friendly text in the middle of the day, (Not late at night! He/she must still love me!) executive producer Rashida Jones took to Twitter to say this,
So, wait. Could this beautiful thing we have going could actually last?!? As an EW article wonderfully put it: “It’s like in The Princess Bride: There’s dead, and there’s mostly dead. A to Z is mostly dead.” Maybe we do have a future after all! True love is real! (This is coming from a girl with a “Westley Never Dies” t-shirt, so please keep you salt shaker full of grains nearby.) BUT, this tweet does send hope that NBC could change their minds and give A to Z a second season — that their cold, calculating executive hearts might just give us, the viewers of A to Z, a shot.
I’m choosing to believe in that hope — (But I also believe in the power of social media, so click here to like A to Z on Facebook and here to follow them on Twitter.) — but what I don’t believe in is asking for things you don’t deserve, SO, today is the day I tell you why A to Z deserves to stay on the air…
This season of fall television brought us an uncommon amount of RomComSitcoms. With Marry Me, Selfie, Manhattan Love Story, and A to Z on the docket, us romantic comedy aficionados were buzzing with anticipation. But then they began to premiere…
Selfie was… okay. John Cho is brilliant, always, but the plot of the pilot played out like a marginal feature film squished into 21 and a half minutes. I loved Suburgatory and wish only the best for Emily Kapnek (and do think the show is rather cute/fun), but keeping Selfie on the air is not the battle I’m fighting today.
Then came Manhattan Love Story. Oh, MLS, what’s there to say? Your creator used to write for Just Shoot Me! and Spin City, both great shows. But — what’s that!? — said creator just came off 21 episodes of Two and a Half Men? Yeah, it *ahem* shows. Offensive. Unimaginative. And, just plain old boring. (Also, WHO CARES IF A DUDE SAW YOU “PICKING YOUR TEETH”??? Seriously. This show. I can’t ev — I digress…)
Marry Me is… Well, I can tell you what’s it’s not. It’s not Happy Endings. And while I realize that’s not fair… not fair at all, I’m still in the anger/denial stages of my mourning*, so I can’t be held accountable for my passive disappointment toward it. (Will it stick around to see a full season? I’m 50/50 on this one.)
Last, but obviously the very opposite of least or else what would the point of this article be?, is A to Z, sweet, lovely, A to Z: the reduced-sugar apple pie of television shows — you know, like the kind your friend who spent all her tax return money on a Vitamix would make: delicious, but not entirely bad for you. Can you taste the coconut oil?
*Time does not heal all wounds.
The romantic comedy sitcom is a hard thing to nail. While the “will they or won’t they” couple trope is practically written in blood onto every comedy showrunner’s contract, a show revolving around two paramours is dangerous. If the show is entirely about their relationship, every argument can suddenly seem contrived. We know they can’t break up — it’s a rom com sitcom after all — so why are they trying so hard to keep them apart/fighting?!
Now A to Z doesn’t completely sidestep this pitfall and it isn’t perfect — not by any means — but it’s a damn good start. (And, come on, how many sitcoms are perfect right away? New Girl took half a season; Parks & Rec didn’t kick off until it’s second year.)
The point being, while A to Z does need a little more time to find its true footing, it’s still fun, playful, and holds so much potential. IT DESERVES TO STICK AROUND, NBC. It doesn’t play into outdated gender stereotypes (Manhattan Love Story, Marry Me) or fabricate absurd fights to keep their leads apart (ditto), but it also isn’t blatantly subverting tropes just for the sake of it. The creator, Ben Queen, and the writers and producers have created full, dynamic characters. The show is fresh, thoughtful, and smart. It gives us human beings: flawed, weird, predictable and surprising.
The world of television is rapidly changing. Selling to Netflix is the new syndication. Trending on Twitter is the new sign of success. So why are networks still so concentrated on numbers? Yes, NBC is arguably one of the most linear networks. Their biggest numbers come from The Voice and sporting events (some of the last things people are still tuning in live to — except for Shonda shows, but that’s a different blog altogether). So it’s not surprising NBC has decided not to put trust in a show with potential. But, still, you would think that the network that brought you some of the greatest sitcoms of all time would strive to build and nurture promising comedies… at least a little bit? What NBC needs to realize is in the new wild west television landscape, quality is winning. The model of pouring millions of dollars into a series only to turn around and cancel it isn’t working anymore. Netflix and cable have it right: find a project you love, nurture it, then trust… Of course, that’s never going to work 100% of the time, but besides the last season of Parks & Rec, NBC is sitting with About a Boy, Undateable, Welcome to Sweden, and Marry Me. Not a lineup that inspires confidence; (Amy Poehler and her relations aside.) Time to start pouring some love and care into a series that fans have jumped onto and critics have enjoyed, hmm?
I do think A to Z needs to work on/do a few things differently. It needs to decide more clearly on its tone and subsequently magnify it. It needs to use its magnificent supporting cast far more. It needs to pump up the jokes. And it needs to have even more fun — bigger set pieces, more absurd situations — while keeping the characters down to earth and in touch with the oddball charm it has already instilled in them. Needing finessing is not a bad thing. With the solid foundation already built, this show can only get better and better.
I hope the outcrying on Twitter and Facebook has already made the NBC execs take notice. I won’t even be mad if they keep this season order at 13 — as long as season two is given a go ahead. With 26 letters in the alphabet, a second season of A to Z could end perfectly on that 8 month, 5 week, 3 day, 1 hour cliffhanger of “will they or won’t they.” (As the perfectly cast Katey Segal explains via voiceover in the pilot, that’s how long our couple will date for. But does that clock tick down to a break up or an engagement/marriage?) And Hollywood needs to start mimicking the British model of series length, anyways. Quality > quantity, people — I can’t say it enough.
If you’re not already watching and in America, catch up on Hulu or NBC.com. If you’re in Canada, well, I’m not saying illegally download it, but… (in perhaps some weird conspiracy???**) A to Z is not available on Shaw on Demand, on Global TV’s website, and only the first two episodes are available on iTunes (when six have aired). So find a way to watch it now — then find a way to support it monetarily later.
**Bad Judge — the other show NBC hasn’t ordered more episodes from — is available on all of these platforms. What gives? Is this some wide, Canada-based conspiracy to keep A to Z from finding more fans?
If you haven’t seen A to Z and love comedies, rom or otherwise, this is the one to watch. If you already love A to Z, make your voice heard. We are the viewers. We deserve good television. Good stories deserve to keep being told — even if it takes a little time and faith. And if NBC gives us an initial 13 episodes of a television series and we love it — and there’s enough of us — WE DESERVE MORE (as long as the writers and cast/crew want to keep giving it to us, which it appears they definitely do).
NBC, take a chance. Let it breathe. Don’t throw all your money into another development season; give a charming, wonderful show a second chance. The times are changing; quality is starting to win. Let A to Z live on; commit to this relationship and, who knows, it might be “the one” (to bring must see TV back to NBC).