Now I don’t exactly want to take back my rant on why A to Z deserves another season, buuuut… since I discovered FX(X)’s You’re the Worst I’ve lost my appetite for romcomsitcom works-in-progress. Unlike all of its network contemporaries, You’re the Worst arrived fully formed and brilliant. (And so much closer to my real life than any of the network shows’ shiny, happy worlds.*) Created by the extremely talented Stephan Falk, You’re the Worst — unlike A to Z — doesn’t need time to grow as a series, it’s already a full blown adult — a drunk, whiney, acting like it’s still on the right side of 30 adult, mind, but an adult none the less.
*Don’t get me wrong: I love shiny, happy things. But sometimes, at least these days, I prefer to see fuck-ups like myself onscreen, as opposed to perfectly coiffed lawyers — and their similarly gainfully employed ilk — all of whom never seem to actually work at their jobs.
Sometimes I forget that TV can do new things. There’s drama and there’s comedy and there’s HBO half hour “comedy.” In my brain, that is how I perceive television series: divided into those three categories. Maybe it’s because I watch a lot of network television. Network television doesn’t try many new things. (Sure, there are dozens of examples to the contrary but, in a sea of thousands, the innovative usually drown.) Half hour cable, too, often follows standard sitcom structures: Broad City, VEEP, It’s Always Sunny, Benched… But You’re the Worst doesn’t worry as much about half-hour comedy structure. (Maybe this is the FX’s M.O.? After all, it is the home of Louie.) If feels more like Californication or, perhaps, even more appropriately, like an indie (coming of age / romance / comedy) film allowed to breathe over 10 episodes. It’s looser and darker than a sitcom and it rarely wraps things up all neat and tidy by episode’s end. I love You’re the Worst because it’s about people who don’t want to grow up… but sometimes do… then don’t… and are just generally confused about the whole thing. The writers pass no judgment on their actions — they just let them screw up royally and organically. And it’s really fucking funny. If I could use one picture to describe the show it would be this: That smile is the smile of grownup accomplishment. Feeling shitty about her life, after a huge fight with her best friend, and coming down off a coke high, Gretchen purchases a food processor (the ultimate sign of adulthood) and rummages through her kitchen for ingredients to make something — in continuance on her journey to pulled-together grownup-ity — and finds… vodka and ice cubes. The characters on You’re the Worst are vodka ice smoothies made in expensive food processors: from afar all you hear is the expensive whirl of a responsible kitchen appliance and as you squint to make out its contents: grey fondant to spread over a winter themed birthday cake? caviar paté? it all looks kosher, but up close the truth is evident: they’re merely all thrown-together cocktails full of empty, if occasionally well-intentioned, drunken promises — the first gulp might make your eyes water, but as you near the bottom of the glass you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with fancy liquors and liqueurs in first place when quick, low-calorie friendship was at your fingertips all along. They share my uncertainties about life, writing, marriage, relationships, friendships… This show feels like coming home. I love it. I love it. I love it. And I think you will too.
If you’re in the same corner of the Pacific Northwest as me, just concede to the rainy weekend right now: buy a bottle of whiskey, several bags of chips and settle in and enjoy. Elsewhere? Schedule a time to binge watch all 10 episodes as soon as possible. It’s going to be your new favourite, I promise. And if you need me, I’ll be over here, humbly writing my You’re the Worst season two spec…
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.
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…
Selfiewas… 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 Meis… 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).