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Scott D. Pierce: About a Boy,' 'Fisher' will warm your heart

Published February 21, 2014 2:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

NBC's new sitcoms "About a Boy" and "Growing Up Fisher" are somewhat unusual for 21st-century network TV. They will both warm your heart.

They're both about nontraditional families. They're both pretty funny. Sometimes hilarious.

They're both full of characters you will like. Characters you'll enjoy spending time with every week.

"About a Boy" is based on Nick Hornsby's novel that inspired the 2002 movie. David Walton stars as Will, a ladies' man/slacker who's living off royalties from a song he wrote years ago. He doesn't like kids and he's totally self-involved — until 11-year-old Marcus (Benjamin Stockman) moves in next door with his uptight vegan mother, Fiona (Minnie Driver).

Will and Fiona take an instant disliking to each other, but they both love Marcus.

"I look at it as a story about a family that will never in their lives admit that they're a family," said executive producer Jason Katims, who has already adapted two movies ("Friday Night Lights," "Parenthood") into very good TV series. "It sort of takes a little bit of Fiona and a little bit of Will to make the best version of Marcus, but Will and Fiona will never admit that they need each other to help raise this boy."

It's warm, winning and very funny.

The premise of "Growing Up Fisher" is weirder — and weirder still because it's based on the real life of executive producer D.J. Nash.

His 11-year-old alter-ego, Henry (Eli Baker), has to adjust when his father, Mel (J.K. Simmons) — who has successfully hidden his blindness from almost everyone but his family — and his mother, Joyce (Jenna Elfman), get divorced. Dad gets a guide dog; Mom starts living the adolescence she missed; and Henry and his older sister, Kate (Ava Deluca-Verley), still have all the love and support they want.

Oh, and the adult version of Henry (Jason Bateman) narrates it all.

It's an offbeat family, but it's still a family.

"Even though there's a very specific hook to the show, it's a universal story," Nash said. "It's a story about a family who in times of great need are selfless for the sake of family."

It doesn't gloss over the fact that this is a family in the middle of a divorce, but it doesn't sink under the weight of that.

"What is true of my parents — and what is true of these parents — is that they never let the fact that they're getting divorced keep them from being amazing parents," Nash said.

"About a Boy" premieres commercial-free on Saturday at 10:07 p.m. on NBC/Ch. 5; "Growing Up Fisher" debuts, also commercial-free, on Sunday at 9:38 p.m. (after the Olympics). The shows then move to their regular time slots — Tuesday at 8 and 8:30 p.m., respectively.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.