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'A to Z' react: K is for kind of disappointing

Season 1 | Episode 11 | “K Is for Keep Out” | Aired Jan 8, 2015

Assuming executive producer Rashida Jones’ pleas aren’t miraculously and suddenly answered by the powers that be at NBC, A to Z has just two episodes left. Tonight’s episode, “K Is for Keep Out,” finds Andrew and Zelda in dire need of alone time. But not alone alone time, together alone time (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

As of Christmas, you’ll remember, Andrew and Zelda are officially, saying-it-out-loud-and-everything in love. As people in love often do, they would like some private time for the two of them. Of course, this is easier said than done considering they both live with their respective BFFs, and those BFFs are historically zany and needy. Stephie has a new random beau basically living with her and Zelda and Stu is … well, Stu. The combination results in zero alone time for Andrew and Zelda.

Eventually, Andrew hits his breaking point and finds the world’s larger bachelor studio apartment to rent. He invites Zelda over with a mysterious text, and she mistakenly assumes that he wants them to live in the penthouse of studios together. For once, Andrew gets to wear the terrified, the-person-I’m-dating-is-moving-way-too-fast face.

Because this is A to Z, the truth is that neither one of them wants to live together. It’s all a big misunderstanding. It’s just like that time when Andrew and Zelda both thought the other one wanted to spend Christmas together, but really neither of them did. The one nice thing about A to Z‘s tendency to already feel stale, so early in its run, is that it cushions the blow of its premature end.

I don’t want to be harsh. I actually really enjoy the show and I still love both of the leads, but it strikes me as a show that is so married to the quirky hook of its central premise (the intense, but purportedly short-lived relationship of its protagonists) that it’s turning a blind eye to some amazing storylines.

In fact, the best thing about this week’s episode isn’t the A plot, with Andrew and Zelda. It’s the B plot, with Lora and Big Bird, who is easily my favorite character on the show and who is perfectly summed up by this April Ludgate GIF, which I use every chance I can when writing about her:

The Big Bird-Lora plot feels stale itself, at first glance, but it really isn’t. It’s a perfect example of how a sitcom can take a well-worn plot (girl-power bonding between unlikely BFFs) and put a fresh spin on it. Big Bird is obsessed with a new guy at Wallflower and she wants help snagging him. Lora is weird and in need (in Big Bird’s opinion at least) of a makeover. It’s a setup straight out of a ’90s rom-com. But even though, on the surface, it’s about girl talk and boy chasing and unnecessary makeovers, the B plot ends up humanizing two of the series’ most promisingly hilarious and yet until now two-dimensional characters.

We learn that Big Bird really does want female friends and to be liked, in spite of her harsh exterior. We learn that Lora is hiding behind her quirks because she isn’t as confident as she seems. And the friendship isn’t just for convenience. After Big Bird throws Lora under the bus in the process of flirting with her man, she calls Lora and apologizes, sincerely. And Lora, for her part, exposes some of her own vulnerability, if not to Big Bird than at least to the audience: She’s in bed next to Dinesh when Big Bird calls.

In its final two episodes, I’d like to see A to Z do for its main cast what it’s been doing for its secondary and even tertiary characters. I know that Zelda is straight-laced and learning to embrace love with Andrew. I know that Andrew is an almost-delusional hopeless romantic who’s learning to be grounded and realistic with Zelda. I know who Andrew and Zelda are in relation to each other. I want to know more about who they are in relation to the other characters. The interactions between Stu and Zelda and between Andrew and Stephie have been delightful and unexpected.

Maybe it’s a necessary evil of the premise, which tells us where the story is going from the start, but I rarely feel surprised or enchanted by Andrew and Zelda’s relationship. I know that it’s going to end and that makes it difficult to invest, on some level. At the same time, since Zelda and Andrew are already together and moving so quickly, stages and emotional moments that could be nuanced and teased out are being glossed over and rushed or skipped entirely. I feel like I go back and forth week by week about this show and how disappointed I will be to see it go. This week, at least, the answer is “not terribly.”

A to Z airs Thursdays 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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