A to Z has a lot in common with several of the new comedies picked up by networks this fall. Like Manhattan Love Story, its basic premise revolves around a gimmick. In A to Z’s case, the series plans to follow the timeline of a relationship in moments starting with the letter A and working al the way through Z. This means the first episode is titled “A is For Acquaintances,” the second “B is for Big Glory,” and so on and so forth. Luckily for A to Z, this device works better than most of the others the networks have tried this season.

The better news is that A to Z is even better than the gimmick it is built upon. After putting out subpar comedy after subpar comedy, mimicking the likes of Modern Family with The Michael J. Fox Show and CBS’ entire comedy lineup with the likes of Whitney, NBC is trying something totally original with A to Z, creating a half-hour sitcom that is totally built around the likeability of its characters, but has an amusing premise and its own attitude, to boot.

During the opening sequence, Sons of Anarchy actress Katey Sagal pops up as the narrator, sweetly introducing us to Andrew (Ben Feldman), a guy’s guy who also happens to enjoy singing Celine Dion whilst driving in his vehicle, and Zelda (Cristin Milioti), a girl’s girl who also enjoys crushing her opponents in the courtroom. The two meet cute at Andrew’s job. He’s a dating website worker bee and she’s there because the company made a big mistake with her online profile. The introduction is both quirky and whimsical and sets up the tone for the rest of the episode.

The romantic comedy sensibilities of A to Z are pretty basic, but NBC’s latest still manages to charm your pants off during its first episode. It helps that Andrew is unassuming and hopeful and that Zelda, while a little broken from a poor childhood, is willing to admit when she is wrong and give Andrew a real chance. Milioti’s the perfect actress for this sort of gig. With her doe eyes and How I Met Your Mother experience, Milioti capably pulls off jokes in situations that feel real, keeping the audience invested in a story about young people falling in love.

It’s pretty incredible that A to Z is able to keep the audience’s attention during the pilot’s lightweight storyline. Especially since Sagal informs the audience early on that Andrew and Zelda are, in fact, doomed. We already know that their relationship will last 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days and one hour. We know that the comedy will eventually have as many painful moments as poignant ones. A-to-Z is as much about its characters as its jokes, and as the more complicated layers of the relationship begin to get peeled back, NBC should have something that is really worth investing in.

The one thing I am concerned with is where A to Z will go after getting through the alphabet. With only 8 months worth of moments and 26 alphabet letters to get through, I have trouble seeing where the series is headed. The show’s timeline has a lot of possibilities, but if it is not handled correctly, fans could lose interest quickly. Plus, I can’t begin to foresee what a second season of A to Z would be like. Those are all concerns for another day. Thanks to a clever conceit and the perfect casting, A to Z is worth a watch.

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Created by Ben Queen and executive produced by dramedy masterminds Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, A to Z also stars Henry Zebrowski, Lenora Crichlow, Christina Kirk, Hong Chau and Parvesh Cheena. NBC’s A to Z will hit the schedule on Thursday, October 2 at 9:30 p.m. EST. You can check out our full fall premiere schedule, here.
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