At first glance, the upcoming NBC series A to Z (premiering Thursday, October 2, but already available online and on demand) might appear to be a romantic comedy just for the ladies. Upon watching, though, the pilot is something that the male audience can also love – finding situations that guys can latch on to and identify with just as much as the situation that women can relate to.
A lot of that outreach, beyond likable male characters including Ben Feldman’s Andrew and Henry Zabrowksi’s Stu, comes from geek humor – accurate references that many can relate to. For example, do you remember the Back to the Future “Making Of” TV special, where Bob Zemeckis claimed hoverboards were real? So does A to Z creator Ben Queen, and that special pushes forth a whole story thread in the pilot.
“Literally, I thought they were real,” Queen admitted to us at a press event in July. “I remember telling people that for years. I still kind of believe that they are [real].”
In the pilot, Andrew is determined to get proof of two things – that hoverboards are real, and that he did indeed meet Zelda (Cristin Milioti) in the past. We won’t tell you what Andrew is able to find out, but we will tell you that his journey leads him to crossing paths with Lea Thompson. “That’s part of the fun of the show, actually,” Queen said. “[We’re] putting money into the series budget so that we can do this sort of thing on a regular basis. Part of the theme of the show is that pop culture brings us closer together, and so for every week, I want to be able to do something like that, where we can show footage from a real thing… the thing about L.A. where the show is set, is you could run into Lea Thompson on the street. That’s what’s kind of cool about it,” he explained. “Lea has a line in the pilot where she’s talking to some fans outside of the theater, and she says ‘I really believe these movies are about how one moment can change your whole life.’ She actually said that in an interview years before, and I remember loving that, and that’s really what the show is about,” Queen told us, showing how the Back to the Future plotline calls back to the show’s main focus.
Comic book fans might also have some fun with the pilot, as there is a direct reference to the New Teen Titans era by creators Marv Wolfman & George Perez. “Again, that’s me,” he admitted. “I want tons of that stuff. That’s the other cool thing, is we’re a Warner Bros. show, so we can use DC stuff if we want to.” One aspect he’d like to have on the show at some time would be to have a comic book style “see issue #” reference at some point when Dinesh the programmer is speaking. And could we see any of the actors who play superheroes on current TV, such as Matt Ryan or Stephen Amell, making cameos? “I would love that,” Queen said. “I’m a huge fan. Like I said, I want to be able to feel like these characters can interact with celebrities as real people in a fun way.”
Queen also wants to be sure that people know it’s a relationship comedy rather than a romantic comedy. “When I sold the show, I said ‘this is not a romantic comedy; it’s a relationship comedy.’ I think when you call something a romantic comedy it says it’s only for women. But that’s not just the case for this. I really want men and women to equally enjoy this show. I actually think, like in that clip where they’re talking about Back to the Future, if I saw that, I would tune in to watch it, and there’s going to be more of that stuff moving forward. I will say that the guys have watched the show have had an equally great response to the show,” he said. As for the geek stuff? Keep watching. “As a fan of geek culture stuff too, I also know that there’s a genuine quality to being a fan of anything, and there’s an earnest, genuine quality to this show that I think appeals to that sensibility. I think you can fall in love with this show, hopefully, through a lot of different ways,” he said.
A to Z premieres Thursday, October 2 on NBC, though as we said, the show is already available On Demand. Here’s a trailer if you haven’t seen it already: