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How does NBC's 'About a Boy' compare to the 2002 movie?

For those of you who have become addicted to NBC’s heartwarming and refreshing comedy About a Boy, you might not realize that it’s actually a remake of a 2002 movie (as well as the 1998 novel by Nick Hornby). Or if you, too, were infatuated with Hugh Grant back in the day, you’re not only familiar with the movie, but can probably recite entire pieces of its dialogue.

As a fan of both the movie and the current series, I thought it would be fun to compare the two, so in the interest of journalism I rewatched the movie for the first time in about 10 years—and endured Grant’s charm and sexy accent for a couple of hours last night. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.

I could easily make this a short comparison by saying that pretty much everything in the NBC series follows the movie, but it was fun to discover the many ways in which Jason Katims and crew have honored both the novel and the movie in the modern-day version.

Will: In both the movie and the series, Will is a preteen man in an adult-size body. Both live in fabulous, gadget-filled homes; both are lazily living off royalties from one-hit-wonder Christmas songs (in the movie, “Santa’s Super Sleigh” was written by Will’s father; in the series, Will wrote “Runaway Sleigh”); both are reluctant to accept any responsibility for anyone but themselves; and both have luscious, fabulous heads of hair.

Hugh Grant/David Walton

However, the movie version of Will is a bit tougher to like—at least at first. I’ll be honest: He’s kind of a jerk. While Walton’s Will (try saying that 10 times fast) is definitely immature from the get-go, he doesn’t come off quite as deplorable and pathetic as his movie counterpart. Don’t make me choose my favorite Will, though. Because while I really want to admit that Walton is the hotter more likable of the two, my mid-’90s emphatic obsession with Grant—not to mention my age—makes that choice a bit disturbing.

Marcus: The character of Marcus in both the movie (played brilliantly by a young Nicholas Hoult) and the series is a loner, an awkward boy who doesn’t fit in and desperately wants to.

Marcus (About a Boy) GIF image

Movie Marcus is as quirky, funny, optimistic, endearing, and lovable in the movie as he is in the series—as well as having a penchant for wearing similarly adorable hats.

marcus collage

Fiona: Here’s where the movie and the series deviate from each other. While Minnie Driver’s Fiona is a mixture of enthusiasm, devotion, and strength (with just enough uncertainty and awkwardness thrown in to make her charming), Toni Collette’s Fiona is a bit of a mess. She is depressed, suicidal, and, to be honest, a humorless drag. Poor Marcus spends much of the movie worrying that his mum is going to off herself. In the series, Marcus’ biggest worry is that his mother is going to be “intercoursed” by a date.

Marcus yells at his mom

However, both versions of Fiona do share a few qualities: They’re hippies, vegetarians (I’m not sure being vegan was even a thing back in 2002), and strong individuals with a fierce love for their son … and an interesting taste in fashion.

Plot points: Now halfway through season two, NBC’s About a Boy has successfully covered just about all of the movie’s major plot points. Will’s best friends ask him to be godfather to their newborn? Check.

Will tries to meet single mothers by joining a single parents’ group? Yep. Marcus falls for the school’s resident bad girl? Done. Will abhors the popularity of the Christmas song that has made him wealthy and rolls his eyes every time he hears it played? Hilariously, yes. Marcus signs up for the school talent show and Will saves the day at the last minute by joining him on stage? My favorite scenes in both versions.

Not everything from the series matches the movie, however, which makes you wonder what might be coming in future episodes of the television series. In the movie, Will has Marcus pose as his son not to meet single mothers, but as more of an unintentional fib he tells Rachel (Rachel Weisz), the woman he falls surprisingly hard for. Rachel has a son Marcus’ age (“SHE’S NOT KEEN ON HIM! SHE’S ONLY KEEN ON ME!”), and by the end [SPOILER ALERT], it’s apparent that Rachel and her son will be sticking around.

The relationship between Will and Fiona plays out a bit differently in the movie versus the series as well. For much of the movie, Will and Fiona don’t even interact, as Fiona is clueless about Will and Marcus’ relationship (she’s way too busy crying). When they finally do share the screen, however, the banter and mudslinging are very similar to what we’ve grown to love between the Will and Fiona of the series.

Hugh Grant in About a Boy

Even put-downs sound sexy in a British accent.

After all the comparisons (and all the rewinding to watch Grant’s scenes over and over again), one thing is clear: Both versions of About a Boy are delightful. Both are charming and hilarious. And most important, both illustrate beautifully that you don’t have to be a family to be family.

Check out the movie if you can, and don’t miss About a Boy when it returns on Jan. 6 at 9:30/8:30C on NBC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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