×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘The Crazy Ones’

Can Robin Williams power this ad-agency comedy? The account remains up for review

With:

Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk, Hamish Linklater, Amanda Setton

Robin Williams completes a rather lengthy journey back to his TV comedy roots with “The Crazy Ones,” which casts him as a wacky advertising genius — the sort of creativity-can’t-be-shackled type that provides ample license for those famous improvisational skills and dizzying flights of hyperactive fancy. What emerges, though, in this pilot written by David E. Kelley, is a somewhat more nuanced rumination on fathers and daughters, punctuated by Williams’ trademark riffs. The comic has certainly done just fine playing a mad man without an agency portfolio, but based strictly on the pilot, this account remains up for review.

While Williams certainly qualifies as a likely CBS star — and yes, that is a genuine commodity, connoting actors of a particular age and profile — the single-camera format has relatively little purchase on a network so heavily steeped in Chuck Lorre’s multicamera fare. Moreover, the show’s attempts to balance zaniness with sweetness probably won’t do much to prevent general tolerance for Williams from determining whether “Crazy Ones” gets DVR’ed or quickly zapped.

Williams plays Simon Roberts (he’s modeled after a real advertising legend, John Montgomery, who serves as a producer and consultant), whose flightiness is dismissed as the price of harnessing his creative genius. With so many admirers surrounding him to laugh at whatever Simon says, the task of wrangling him falls to his buttoned-up daughter, Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who gets to be the sourpuss while Simon plays off sidekick Zach (James Wolk, fresh off a “Mad Men” stint) and assistant Lauren (Amanda Setton). “Lauren, do not encourage him,” Sydney tells her sternly.

The premiere hinges on a mini-crisis at the agency, which fears it is on the verge of losing McDonald’s, a major client. So execs enlist Kelly Clarkson (playing herself) to sing a new version of the McDonald’s jingle — only to run into a problem when America’s sweetheart decides a sexy song about hamburgers is just the way to spice up her goody-two-shoes image.

Despite the seemingly obvious product-placement opportunities, the producers have stressed no money has exchanged hands with these sponsors. Yet it’s hard to see whether that’s laudable or, in the crassest terms, a missed revenue stream, inasmuch as one suspects the show won’t do a lot of “artery-clogging slop”jokes.

Kelley is no stranger to writing comedy, even if it’s traditionally been in service of hourlong shows, and between his gifts as a wordsmith and Williams’ frenetic energy (best displayed in a closing-credits outtake sequence), “The Crazy Ones” has potential beyond what the pilot demonstrates. Nevertheless, it’s a slightly incongruous fit for CBS, which — seeing NBC’s vulnerability — is gambling on an expanded Thursday comedy block, using “The Big Bang Theory” as its anchor.

While Williams’ presence will likely generate initial sampling, in ad-campaign terms, that’s no guarantee of return on investment. And for all the McDonald’s slogans that inevitably bounce around your head watching the “The Crazy Ones” pilot, the one that never came to mind was, “I’m lovin’ it.”

TV Review: 'The Crazy Ones'

(Series; CBS, Thurs. Sept. 26, 9 p.m.)

Production:

Filmed in Los Angeles by David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox Television.

Crew:

Executive producers, David E. Kelley, Bill D’Elia, Jason Winer, Tracy Poust, Jon Kinnally, Dean Lorey, John Montgomery, Mark Teitelbaum; director, Winer; writer, Kelley; camera, Byron Shah; production designer, Michael Wylie; editor, Steven Sprung; casting, Ken Miller, Nikki Valko. 30 MIN.

Cast:

Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk, Hamish Linklater, Amanda Setton

More TV

  • RENT: Top L-R to Bottom L-R:

    How Fox's Live Version of 'Rent' Honors and 'Enhances' Jonathan Larson's Vision

    In the more than 20 years since Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” first debuted on Broadway, the conversation of adaptation has often come up: Film director Chris Columbus infamously brought the story to the big screen in 2005, Michael John Warren similarly shot one of the final performances of the original theater run in 2008, and talk [...]

  • Conversations With a Killer: The Ted

    TV Review: 'Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes'

    The title “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” Netflix’s new four-part documentary series launching Jan. 24, is slightly misleading. Not about its subject, Bundy, the infamous serial killer who finally confessed to some 30 murders before his 1989 death in the electric chair. The misnomer is “Conversations.” While we hear Bundy’s voice on [...]

  • Marvel's The Punisher

    'Punisher' Star Jon Bernthal on Season 2, Broken Bones and Frank's 'Self-Loathing'

    “The Punisher” returns for its second season today, opening on a Frank Castle in search of a more peaceful life. “He’s dipping his toes in the potential waters of peace,” series star Jon Bernthal told Variety. “He’s flirting with human interaction and human connection. I think it goes awry pretty quickly. There’s a kernel of truth that [...]

  • Emmys statue

    TV Academy to Eliminate Emmy DVD Screeners in 2020

    The Television Academy will eliminate distribution of DVD screeners for eligible shows beginning with the 2020 Emmy cycle. Designed to eliminate both monetary and physical waste, the move will have a substantive impact on the strategy of Emmy marketers. It also makes the academy the first major entertainment-industry organization to bar physical screeners. More Reviews [...]

  • Black-ish Actor Deon Cole Lands New

    'Black-ish' Star Deon Cole Talks Diversity in Television and Landing New Dream Role

    2019 is shaping up to be Deon Cole’s year, and to hear the actor and comedian tell it, “the stars have lined up and everything is coming together.” Fresh off the Season 2 premiere of Freeform’s “Grown-ish,” with Cole reprising his “Black-ish” role of Professor Charlie Telphy, the actor takes on a slightly different role [...]

  • Super Bowl LII - Tom Brady,

    Verizon Plans Multiple Ad Plays Leading to Super Bowl Commercial

    If Verizon gets its way, its Super Bowl advertising plans will include a 60-second commercial during the game – and a half-hour documentary that gives viewers even more of what will be discussed in the ad. The telecommunications giant is often scrutinized for the communications resources it provides its customers, but its Super Bowl campaign [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content