The least helpful thing you can do with an adaptation of a book (or film) made by intelligent, capable people is to sniff, “Not as good as the original.” After all, when a property is as adored as About A Boy, it can take a while for anything else to feel quite as good, and presumptive skepticism is a regrettably simple opening gambit. But what’s problematic in this adaptation is not that the TV show has not brought along the quality of the book and film, but that it has not brought along the qualities of the book and film.
There’s very little in popular culture that would have told Leslie, or that tells any woman, that she’ll find a partner who isn’t just happy to be supportive when it’s a fit, but who, when his interests and hers are in conflict, will prioritize hers, and choose and work to support them again and again. And there’s something remarkable about Ben’s declaration that “In my time working for the state government, my job sent me to 46 cities in 11 years. I lived in villages with eight people, rural communities, farming towns, I was sent to every corner of Indiana. And then I came here, and I realized this whole time I was wandering around everywhere looking for you.” Ben didn’t just find Leslie. In looking for the recovery of his own reputation, Ben found Leslie’s career instead, and made it his cause—the man’s come so far that he’s even capable of being touched by what appears to be the mysterious resurrection of Lil’ Sebastian.
Whether they’re weary or just incompetent, it’s long past time for a switch. How about Shannon Miller? Thus far she has done a wonderful job narrating the live feed from the O2 Arena—thoroughly enjoyable and informative, and critical without being mean or vicious. When competitors make mistakes, she doesn’t merely say, “That’s bad,” but explains precisely what went wrong. She never resorts to dramatic hyperbole, saying things like “This is desperation time,” as Al Trautwig said last night after Danell Leyva’s mistakes in the all-around.