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A To Z: “B Is For Big Glory”

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“B Is For Big Glory” is an even better pilot than the A To Z pilot. It’s funnier, more romantic, and sometimes both, as in the running gag about Dinesh getting a tattoo of Lora’s social security number in binary. As usual for second episodes, this one hits all the same beats as the pilot: app-stalking, the second-act separation, a romance ritual. In this case, it’s that Andrew had agreed to a date before he met Zelda, which brings up a lot of questions. Does he go on the date? Why or why not? Is it fair or unfair to Zelda? Is it fair to his date, Brooke in marketing? It’s too early to go exclusive with Zelda, right? But then again, why? What’s most impressive is A To Z genuinely considers all of this. It lets Andrew off the hook easy—Brooke was just using him to make her ex jealous anyway—but it never feels as compartmentalized as Barney Stinson’s Bro Code vs. Ted Mosby’s beau ode.

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The scene where Andrew tells Zelda that he’s going on a date is just one thing after another. Ben Feldman and Christin Milioti (and Lenora Crichlow) just find all these little recognizable moments of humanity. Zelda answers, “Hi, Andy,” and immediately hates herself for it. Stephie cringes too. Then when she gets the hint—Andrew says he has something to tell her, and she’s totally game so far, and then he tells her he was talking to this girl, Brooke, and she can finish the rest of the sentence already—she puts on this perfect forced smile, not too happy, not too angry, just Goldilocks. Then she gets robotic, she cuts him off, she pokes the window hard enough to make a point. Don’t worry, she has a date, too. She just has to figure out with whom.

While we are all justified in reacting to Andrew smothering us with a giant heart pillow in whatever ways we choose, Zelda’s the one really playing games in “B Is For Big Glory.” And where the writers work through his trespasses pretty well, Zelda’s let off the hook because Vanity Rep Mike (who does exercises before meetings so his muscles will bulge) is dumb. Okay, maybe she really has a thing for him. At the very least, she notarized some documents for him, the sign of a successful date if you ask me. But it’s worth noting that the episode explicitly brings up the fact that going out with someone you’re not actually into is selfish.

Maybe it was the chair he’s confined to for most of the episode, but Stu is getting tolerable. But about that chair. If this were How I Met Your Mother, I could see Marshall hopping in his office chair to amuse Ted. If this were Happy Endings, I could see Max doing it just to annoy everyone. But Stu doesn’t have that motivation. His motivation is “obnoxious sitcom sidekick.” He doesn’t quite fit into the same universe of recognizable humanity and lifelike expressions that Andrew and Zelda are throwing out every other scene. At least not yet.

But I meant it when I said Stu is much more tolerable this week. It helps that he has some good dating advice, implying the existence of an actual brain inside all the tropes. He tells Andrew the fable of the double tap. When Nancy tapped him once on the new Wallflower hookup app, he was considering a date, but when she did it again, he was completely turned off. The moral of the story is something Andrew needs to hear: Neediness can be unappealing, especially that early in a relationship.

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It sounds like a rule, like a tenet of A To Z’s romantic philosophy, but it’s not. Charmingly enough, A To Z is more complicated than that. The advice certainly passes the common sense test, but then Stu goes home and taps Nancy 25 times. So much for her double tap turning him off. If you were wondering how you calibrate romantic craziness on a show where telling someone you just met that they triggered your life-altering mental music is cool, it’s tapping yes on a hookup app 25 times. Now Nancy’s the one who’s keeping her distance. So in that respect, Stu’s advice is both solid and admittedly hard to follow. How generous of A To Z.

But “B Is For Big Glory” takes it even further. After all the other dates are over and talked about, Andrew tells Zelda that he hears special music in his head when something “life-altering” happens. “I’ve been walking around with music in my head since the moment we met.” Yikes. She grins and bears it, but then she realizes that she really likes Andrew, and not in spite of those gestures.

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“What you said earlier, please keep saying things like that.” There are a few ways to take that. First of all, it’s the second episode in a row where Zelda realizes she’s behaving badly for being the rational one in their relationship. Then again, she apparently doesn’t have a problem with Andrew’s destiny talk, so maybe she’s just afraid to admit it. That has to do with the second part: Andrew and Zelda are an exception to the rule. They like each other that much. They’re always thinking about each other. Isn’t it better not to play games and be honest about your feelings? Which brings me to the third way to take Zelda’s request for more sweet nothings. Is this just a sign of infatuation?

From the looks of things, A To Z really is just that romantic, from the so-cute-I-want-to-vomit office set from Her to the couples (and triads) chatting each other up all over the place. But if “B Is For Big Glory” has shown us anything, it’s that A To Z is complicated.

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Stray observations:

  • Seriously, the design of this show is so delicate it’s almost too cute. The carefully dispensed drops of color on the soft neutral palette, the crafty title sequence with a beautiful fireworks title card (and glory be for another show with on-screen episode titles). And then it has moments where it puts all that sophisticated art direction in service of the most harrowing kidnapping in network TV history, young Zelda putting her hands up on the car windows as her parents ferry her to the next town all of a sudden.
  • O RLY: After spending all night making out on the fountain (this show is full of things that are so sweet they’re excruciating), Zelda tells Stephie, “Everything is different with Andrew… There’s no games.” O RLY?
  • Zeldrew: “It’s our celebrity supercouple name,” says Andrew. Surely we can do him one better. My nominee: Alda.
  • Stu: “Her legs are gonna close up tighter than that locked drawer you have in your dresser, and what do you even have in there?” Andrew with a delivery smack-dab between sitcom and reality: “My passport, and stay out of my room.”
  • Stephie digs up info on Brooke online: “She was a finalist in The New Yorker caption contest. Basically she’s a whore.”
  • HR guy Howard is sweet on Lydia, but he’s also concerned about making the employees beta test the app. Lydia has a deal for him: “$20 says this test will be a success.” “Okay, that’s a five.” “I’m good for the rest.” Lydia is well on her way to being my favorite. “I’m a powerful, attractive woman whose ass cashes the checks her mouth writes.”
  • App Of The Week: Waze! Andrew is such a gentleman he keeps Waze open on his leg during his date so he can track Zelda’s car. The app stalking (and bathroom stalking) plot is pretty funny. Stu gets to riff on Vanity Rep’s Mike giant penis: “He should have a nickname for it, like Tutankhamun The Boy King.” And Milioti has a great delivery when Stephie calls her with more info on Andrew and Brooke: “I don’t need to app-stalk him….But, you know, keep me updated.”
  • Way to be inclusive with the background couples!
  • The way all the employees take to the dating app so quickly put me in mind of Better Off Ted. Lydia’s just as aloof as Veronica, but more in touch with her emotions. Long story short, watch Better Off Ted.
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