A few weeks ago I wrote the following piece for an assignment. In our criticism class we had the chance to comment on the new pack of fall shows. I picked Robin Williams’ latest vehicle–The Crazy Ones.
As you’ll see, initially, I had my concerns. Will the daughter always save her father…? But the show’s surpassed my cynicism.
And as for the title? Well…I was trying to be… Punny.
The Lazy Ones?
“Robin Williams is back! YES!!”
That’s what I said to myself when I first heard about CBS’s latest offering, The Crazy Ones. Over 30 years ago, I first fell for Mr. Williams as Mork in Mork and Mindy, and he hasn’t been on television since. Back then, in Mork, Williams inhabited the body of an alien. The role was perfect for him. Mork’s eccentricities gave Williams the freedom to showcase his comedic talent.
This fall The Crazy Ones’ creators seem to be relying on the same formula, only in human form. In The Crazy Ones, Williams plays Simon Roberts, an advertising executive whose grip on reality isn’t quite as strong as it ought to be. I can tell that Williams’ abilities won’t be wasted. Although capable of portraying straight characters, it’s clear to me that he’s at his best when playing men who are a bit left-of centre.
The cast features other actors who are bound to be audience favorites.
James Wolk plays Zach Cropper, the office playboy. Meanwhile, Sarah Michelle Gellar, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame costars as Simon’s daughter. Hamish Linklater from The New Adventures of Old Christine, is another series regular. With all these familiar faces, a few weeks ago when I first watched the show, I felt like I was in the midst of a nostalgia sandwich.
Yet it was more than the cast that gave me serious déjà-vu. The producers caught my attention. For some reason I was drawn to Bill D’Elia’s name in the credits. At first I couldn’t figure out why. But a quick search on imdb.com opened my eyes. Mr. D’Elia has a history of producing single-camera comedies featuring quirky ensembles. However, his name is also tied to one of the biggest fish in the TV pond: David. E. Kelley. Kelley and D’Elia have been tied together as producers since the days of Ally McBeal.
But enough background, let’s talk about story. In The Crazy Ones’ pilot, Simon accepts a challenge from his clients—McDonald’s—to find a signature voice to sing their latest jingle within 24 hours. The agency is thrown into chaos after he decides to rely on the old adage, “Leap, and the net will appear.” He courts Kelly Clarkson and with the help of his daughter, is successful. However his business coup doesn’t come without risks.
Throughout the first episode, I found the father-daughter dynamic between Williams and Gellar believable. I also had no trouble buying them as stressed executives. However, in the first and second episodes of The Crazy Ones, I was concerned about the plot. During both shows, Simon manages to push Sydney (and by default, the agency) into high-stress situations where she must deliver a superior end product to prestigious clients. If the show’s shtick relies on Williams throwing his colleagues into a state of jeopardy each week, I predict that problems will arise. Anyone who has seen The Crazy Ones can tell that the show’s cast and audience are too intelligent for that type of dreck. With Williams and Gellar at the helm, The Crazy Ones is a comedy that deserves smart stories that serve its characters.