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'A to Z' recap: L is for a truly likable episode

Season 1 | Episode 12 | “L Is for Likability” | Aired Jan 15, 2015

I wish that A to Z had gotten to where it is right now by the third or fourth episode. After a low last week, the show bounced to a high point this week with “L Is for Likability.” The episode sees Andrew’s father, Pete (played by guest star and Wonder Years alum Dan Lauria), come to town for a visit. One of the first things he asks when he ambushes Andrew at work is when he can meet Zelda, but Andrew lies and says she’s out of town.

It’s a weird lie. He loves Zelda. He seems pretty intent at this point on spending a significant amount of time with her (far more than the dwindling months they have left together according to Katey Sagal’s narration). But, as we soon learn, it’s not about Zelda. It’s about his father, who Andrew believes has scared away several of his previous girlfriends.

Fret not, Andrew and Zelda fans (Zandrew fans?): Zelda is not that easy to scare off. In fact, it seems, at first, that Pete and Zelda love each other. Unfortunately, it’s one-sided; Pete is just pretending to love Zelda. Really, he can’t stand her and flat-out tells Andrew that he can do better. This gets back to Zelda because Andrew is not as good with secret-keeping and white-lying as he is with having puppy-dog eyes and stammering adorably.

This sets Zelda off on a mission to make Andrew’s dad love her. She’s likable, damn it. She won Cutest Couple in her high school yearbook even though her boyfriend was a “clown.” And she gets very serious about winning him over. Like, Leslie Knope serious.

And this is what A to Z needs more of. The great thing about “L Is for Likability” is that even though it’s about Andrew and Zelda and it progresses the story of their relationship, it’s also just about Zelda—as a human being outside of her relationship with Andrew. The window into her personality is a situation with her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s dad, but what we’re really getting at is who Zelda is, what makes her tick, and what drives her choices. Here are four things we learned about Zelda the Person, not just Zelda the Girlfriend, in this week’s episode:

1. She’s more than a little obsessive. We knew that Zelda is Type A. That was established in the pilot and touched on briefly in some of the early episodes, but “L Is for Likability” really drives this home. We even get a montage of all the times Zelda made her own life worse by not being able to let something go when she should have.

2. She cares, deeply, about being liked. Of course, this is implicit in that Zelda is a human being. Everyone cares, on some level, about what others think of them. But Zelda doesn’t just care what people think of her; she knows she cares what people think of her. She’s willing to discuss just how much she cares what people think of her. Zelda has mostly projected an air of not caring. She’s typically come across as the kind of person who wants to appear unaffected. Little details like this can change your entire perception of a character and what motivates their behavior. This is why we needed an episode like this way earlier in the season. I can’t help but wonder if more of this kind of fun, real character development early on might have saved the show, or at least bought it a few more episodes.

3. She’s fiercely loyal to and protective of Andrew. When Andrew’s dad skips out on a father-son bonding sesh at the batting cages she planned for them, Zelda calls him to let him have it. She proclaims that being liked by him is no longer on her radar, because Andrew is hurt and nothing else matters. She demands that he come to the batting cages to make it up to Andrew … or else. Fortunately, he was way ahead of her and is already there, even as she leaves her hateful message. Even though we know that Zelda loves Andrew and we’ve seen her push herself out of her comfort zone to make him happy (or, at least, to do what she thinks will make him happy), this is the first time we really get a taste of just how much he means to her.

4. She gives zero … well, you know. The most bizarrely wonderful Zelda moment of the episode? When a man (who has popped up throughout the episode to talk about his impending imprisonment) asks her to hit him in the face with a metal baseball bat because he’s too pretty for prison, she immediately obliges, with a rather indifferent “okay” and a quick swing. It’s such a weird moment, it might just stick with me longer than anything else about A to Z.

I’m worried. A to Z has been yo-yoing for weeks now, and this week was good. That means that next week, the unintended series finale, is due to be a bad one. Please, break this trend and finish strong, A to Z.

The A to Z series finale airs Thursday, Jan. 22, 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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