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Fall 2013 Review: The Crazy Ones

23 Oct

Robin and Sarah Michelle Crazy

Robin Williams stars as Robin Williams. That’s the first and most important thing you need to know about The Crazy Ones. This is one of those shows where whether you like it or hate it will be determined by how much you like the main actor, as the show is built mostly on him simply being himself. There’s a few of these star-based sitcoms every year, that are shows essentially built around a single actor or actress. They usually star comedians, who, unlike actors who are supposed to be able to slip into a role, generally are chosen for their particular comedic style and stage personality and more or less play an exaggerated version of themselves.

Robin Williams plays Simon Roberts, a once legendarily charismatic ad-man who has lost his edge over the years, a la Robin Williams the comedian (have you seen Man of the Year or RV?). Sarah Michelle Gellar plays his more serious daughter who both loves his father and is constantly frustrated by his flights of fancy and refusal to be professional.  She’s recently been added to the name of the firm; Roberts and Roberts.  The cast is rounded out by an artist named Andrew who does just about nothing in the first episode, an assistant named Lauren who does very little, and James Wolk, Man Men’s Bob Benson, as Zachary, who seems to be a fast-talking Robin Williams protégé and gets the most to do after the two stars. While poor Gellar is frequently stuck as a nag, Wolk gets to have fun with WIlliams, and attempt to exchange what they seem to think is hilarious banter.

Speaking of Mad Men, it doesn’t help that this Wolk is there to remind me of Mad Men, the biggest and best advertising agency-based show of this era. While The Crazy Ones, a sitcom, is going for a very different tenor and vibe than Mad Men in almost every possible way, it’s hard to listen to Robin Williams pitch the clients without thinking of how inferior everything about the pitch scene is to similar scenes in Mad Men. Admittedly, that’s pretty unfair; no show is going to be Mad Men. What’s not unfair is to mention that the scenes, and the show, are not the least bit funny or really amusing.

It’s also worth noting that the episode seems kind of like a giant commercial for primary Roberts and Roberts client McDonald’s, which gets mentioned a remarkable amount of times in The Crazy Ones’ twenty two minute running time.

Honestly that’s a fairly terrible example of blatant product placement but that’s just one episode. What really bothers me is that there’s just  so much Robin Williams shtick. He does impressions, he changes voices, he’s so fucking wacky and painfully so. He’s off the wall, and it’s implied that this is part of both the success and the failure of Williams’ abilities as an ad man, and that rings true for his career as a comedian as well. Can’t he turn it off? Do people really like this? Is he talented? Well, it’s definitely a talent. That doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly annoying. I spent the entire episode feeling really bad for Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character who has to be the constant irritant to Williams, slowing down his imperfect creative mind to attempt to make him be serious. Everyone else on the show cracks up at his antics, while Gellar, like myself, was constantly frustrated, wanting him to get it together. There’s an important client there, can he act like he cares at all?

Of course, that’s what Williams is going to do. That’s what you hire him to do generally, even though his best roles in the last two decades have been the creepy dramatic persona he unveiled in One Hour Photo (I still shudder) and Insomnia. If he kept up with his dramatic acting I’d be extremely interested, but he hasn’t, and I’m not.

Will I watch it again? No. It wasn’t funny. I haven’t found Robin Williams funny since around Aladdin, and nothing changed my opinion here. More than not funny, his bits get on my nerves after a while; twenty minutes can pack a surprising amount of Robin Williams.