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‘About a Boy’ gets new life on NBC

Minnie Driver (from left) David WaltBenjamStockham star new NBC series “About Boy.” | Phoby JordAlthaus/NBC

Minnie Driver (from left), David Walton and Benjamin Stockham star in the new NBC series “About a Boy.” | Photo by Jordin Althaus/NBC

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Updated: February 21, 2014 11:20AM

LOS ANGELES — NBC’s “About a Boy” raises an interesting question. Which character is the boy?

The new comedy (previewing at 10 p.m. Feb. 22 after the Olympics on WMAQ-Channel 5) features a thirtysomething man-child, self-indulgent Will (David Walton), whose world is complicated when an 11-year-old child-man, old soul Marcus (Benjamin Stockham), moves in next door with his controlling mother, Fiona (Minnie Driver).

Each “boy” needs the other, Walton says of the neighbors.

“Marcus really needs a dad and a man in his life and, through this sort of twist of fate, it’s this ill-equipped ‘child,’” Walton says.

“All Will really wants to do is watch TV, play video games, eat meat, go through his hedonistic routine. But there’s an emptiness in that kind of life that is based in a lack of meaning,” he explains.” When this little boy comes along, it’s annoying — but ultimately it’s like carbonating these feelings of what’s really important in life. And loving someone and family are way up there. In a way, this weird family is forming and Will doesn’t even know it.”

“Boy,” which later moves to its regular time slot at 8 p.m. Tuesday, is based on Nick Hornby’s 1998 novel, which spawned the 2002 Hugh Grant movie.

Although the series shares the basic DNA of the Will-Marcus relationship, it differs in geography, trading London for San Francisco; in Will’s source of income, royalties from his own hit Christmas song, instead of his father’s; and in the mental state of Fiona, who isn’t suicidal and has a more substantial role than mere antagonist.

Their opposing personalities and approaches merge into an “incredibly awkward symbiosis” that ultimately helps Marcus chart a good course forward in life, Driver says. (“Veep’s” Tony Hale will play Marcus’ father in an episode.)

“We’re sort of at odds and the kid is in the middle,” Driver says. “You have a topic, and one person thinks about that topic one way and the other person thinks the absolute opposite, and [the show explores] how the child synthesizes between the two of them.”

Will joins Fiona as a parental figure for Marcus, but romance is not in the cards — at least for now — for the two adults. Will’s a rib-savoring “indolent creature who just receives checks,” and Fiona’s a vegan caught up in her “hippie-dippie-dom,” who can “get self-righteous about quinoa,” she says.

“He has lots of girlfriends and she dates a few people. It shouldn’t be at the forefront of anybody’s mind,” Driver says. “They do care about each other, but it’s not overt. And they will help each other, because he’s actually a great guy, although wildly selfish, and she’s actually a great girl, although wildly neurotic.”

Marcus, whose naivete can lead to middle-school missteps, needs both adults, says 13-year-old Stockham.

“I guess he could be considered uncool, but I think he’s cool in his own little way. He really cares for his mother, and Will thinks of him as a good influence,” he says. Although Marcus may pick up some bad habits from his neighbor, and some decidedly unhip behavior from his mother, “what’s best is what he gets from both of them together. He gets his curiosity and his boldness. In each episode,” he says, “Marcus gets more and more mature.”

Gannett News Service

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