Saturday, 28 September 2013


Saturday, 28 September 2013

What's it about? The Crazy Ones is a new CBS single-camera sitcom about a father and daughter who run a Chicago advertising agency.

Who made it? It's created by David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) and Jason Winer (Modern Family) directed the pilot.

Who stars in it? Robin Williams (Mrs Doubtfire) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are the two big-name leads as Simon and Sydney Roberts; joined by James Wolk (Mad Men), Amanda Setton (Gossip Girl) and Hamish Linklater (The New Adventures of Old Christine). This pilot's guest-star is American Idol winner (sorry, Grammy Award-winner) Kelly Clarkson as herself.

What's good about it? Kelly Clarkson was a fun presence, although it was probably more effective if you have better than cursory knowledge about her career. She's had chart success outside of the US, but I get the impression she's a much bigger deal in her homeland. Beyond her appealing minor role, ummm... well, there isn't a braying live audience and it's not a multi-camera show. Yeah, let's move on...

What's bad about it? Almost everything. The basic idea has some potential, but I have little patience for Robin Williams nowadays. This is his first TV role since Mork & Mindy 32 years ago, but I swear some the material his character gets pre-dates that. Williams is playing his overplayed "comedic persona" throughout, and the whole point of the show hangs on the supposed amusement of characters having to work with a loose cannon like Robin Williams™. Can you imagine if Mad Men's Don Draper couldn't stop telling jokes and clinched business deals by making clients laugh? The Crazy Ones shows you what that nightmare would look like; and they even cast Mad Men's James Wolk to make it easier for you. I doubt Wolk ever thought he'd get typecast as an "ad man" before he's thirty.

Williams is insufferable as eccentric Simon Roberts, but his screen daughter Sarah Michelle's arguably worse because she's been landed with the dull "straight role". Sydney is the killjoy of their familial and professional partnership, who rather wishes her dad wasn't such a joker. Advertising's a serious business, dammit!

SMG struggles throughout because her character isn't warm, or funny because of her coldness. She was a damned sight funnier on BtVS than she's allowed to be in The Crazy Ones pilot—where her showcase moment is being made to sing to a restaurant of strangers, which was hilarious as finding a toenail in your soup.

Is it worth sticking with? If you don't mind watching Robin Williams doing his outdated Good Morning Vietnam shtick with accompanying Aladdin voices, perhaps. There's certainly a Bingo card for someone to create where you can play along, crossing off the accents he's certain to do. (We've already had "wise Eskimo elder".) I hesitate to write-off anything after a mere pilot, because plenty of successful comedies had terrible starts (The Big Bang Theory), but there wasn't anything here to lure me back.

Anything else worth mentioning? The show features real-life brands (such as McDonald's in this premiere), but businesses aren't consulted or paid for the privilege. That's reasonable, as it's always dumb when fake brands are invented that are clearly based on real ones. However, it still means CBS are advertising things outside of commercial breaks. Are viewers happy about this? I guess they are. You'd have a tougher time getting that idea onto British TV, where basic product placement is still a new and controversial thing. Maybe that's partly why The Crazy Ones hasn't been picked up here? Also, having been in the company of early-20s Sarah Michelle Gellar for the past year via DVD box-set, it surprised me how aged she looks at 36.

This pilot also ends with a 'blooper' playing over the credits, which I always take as a sign of a comedy admitting what came before wasn't up to scratch. A last-ditch effort to leave you with a smile on your face.

Where and when is it airing? Thursdays on CBS. A UK broadcaster hasn't been foolish enough to buy this yet, as I mentioned.