Before watching Thursday night’s premiere of The Crazy Ones, I hoped to find answers to these two questions:
1. Will Robin Williams make me genuinely laugh without thinking about Patch Adams or The Birdcage or Mrs. Doubtfire?
2. Will Sarah Michelle Gellar make me laugh in general?
The short answers, judging from the first episode? No and unfortunately, no.
Now I know that’s a lot to ask of a pilot of any show, let alone a show about an apparently crazy dad who works with his uptight daughter. But thirty minutes (even less, factoring commercials) is a long time in television land. It’s enough of a pocket to establish scene, major characters, hints of major character motivations and the central drama. But The Crazy Ones barely touched on any of that. I was wondering who half the characters were, what exactly did Simon Roberts (Robin Williams) and his daughter Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar) do for a living (yes I know they’re in advertising, but what else), why everyone was speaking so fast, why Roberts has a life size robot in his office, why McDonald’s got so many references (seriously why couldn’t they make up a fake fast food name), why Kelly Clarkson agreed to guest star, why was there SO much singing? Phew. The premiere’s pace was breathless and rushed and … when it was all over I felt as if I had just watched an extended Kelly Clarkson music video for Herbal Essences mashed up with a stream of consciousness McDonald’s campaign.
For a narrative with a backdrop of the advertising industry, it makes sense that occasionally there will be bits of dialogue devoted to brands, but I saw The Crazy Ones as one giant brand made up of smaller sub-brands that hijacked the show:
Robin Williams: As the head of Roberts & Roberts, apparently Simon used to deliver wildly charismatic pitches but has since lost his mojo and is on the verge of losing the McDonald’s account. Sydney at one point scolds him, “Dad there’s a room full of McDonald’s executives waiting for you and you’re playing with toys!” But is he actually crazy or is he just played by Robin Williams? You see, I just kept thinking I was watching some throwback performances of the legendary comedian. Which reminds me I should really re-watch Dead Poets’ Society. Oh gosh and that Mrs. Doubtfire ending. But anyways, his goofiness, like whipping out random Scottish accents (“Looks like somebody had an unhappy meal”) during a pitch meeting, though amusing, weren’t laugh-out-loud funny. I expected more!
Sarah Michelle Gellar: See above question #2. I’ve loved SMG since her Buffy days (in my mind Ringer never happened). And she’s proven she’s great at being super serious and kicking ass - but can she pull off comedy? Yes, her character Sydney is supposed to keep her crazy dad in line, but she was cast in what is clearly supposed to be a sitcom. One scene in which a sassy Kelly Clarkson forces Sydney to sing the song she pitched to Kelly out loud in a crowded restaurant is cringe-worthy at best. Even if SMG is designated to play the straight-laced one, I really hope they give her some droll spitfire lines to work with.
McDonald’s: If I had a nickel for every time the fast food chain was mentioned in this episode, I’d have a … quarter-pounder? It was practically its own character. Worried that her dad isn’t going to find a singer for their new ad in time, Sydney tells her father that McDonald’s is 50% of their business.
Kelly Clarkson: She plays herself in the premiere and only agrees to do the McDonald’s ad if she can sing about sex (she wants a new image). During their meeting, Zachary (James Wolk) says “We need to come up with a meat-related sex song,” And Simon adds, “for a family restaurant.” At which point the two start to sing falsetto, rap, do some spoken word, in front of Kelly Clarkson for a few uncomfortably long minutes. I will say one of my favorite lines of the night came during the recording session of Clarkson’s meat-related sex song, with this chorus: “It ain’t the meat, It’s the motion.” I think Clarkson was the best part part of the episode because they gave her some personality and also let her sing, which was enjoyable until I remembered I was supposed to be watching a CBS sitcom and not MTV.
Am I the crazy one for not enjoying this?
What say you, PopWatchers? Will you tune in next week or dig up your favorite
Mork & Mindy Buffy The Vampire Slayer episodes instead?