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TV Review: ‘Mr. Robinson’

With:
Craig Robinson, Peri Gilpin, Ben Koldyke, Brandon T. Jackson, Spencer Grammer, Amandla Stenberg, Tim Bagley, Meagan Good

NBC sent out all six episodes of “Mr. Robinson,” which is puzzling, because it’s one of those shows that can be assessed after roughly 10 minutes. Craig Robinson (“The Office”) plays Craig Robinson, the lead singer-keyboardist for a funk band called Nasty Delicious, who croons suggestive tunes to excessively appreciative extras in a small-club setting, and — in a demographically desirable plot twist — teaches music to high school kids. The resulting sitcom doesn’t live up (or down) to either half of the band’s name, and seems destined to test how fast people can operate the remote after “America’s Got Talent.”

Although performing is his first love, Craig can use extra cash, and settles on the idea of substitute-teaching mostly because he has run into an old crush (Meagan Good, already signed on for this fall’s “Minority Report”) with whom he’d like to reconnect. She teaches at their old high school, so faster than you can say “School of Rock,” Craig is back in class, where he meets the expected roster of eccentric teachers and an assortment of wiseass yet attractive kids.

And that’s pretty much that. Created by Mark Cullen and Robb Cullen, and directed by Andy Ackerman, “Mr. Robinson” has a gentle throwback feel, but that merely means we’ve met versions of all these characters many, many times before. They range from the odd principal (“Frasier’s” Peri Gilpin) to her even odder boss (Tim Bagley), and from the shorts-wearing Jimmy (Ben Koldyke), who desperately wants to be Craig’s buddy, to Ashleigh (Spencer Grammer, another “Frasier” connection, thanks to dad Kelsey), who moonlights as a stripper.

Robinson obviously has some fun riffing at the keyboards (Brandon T. Jackson plays his brother and bandmate), but everything about the show has an exhausted, late-’80s vibe. Gilpin’s character, for example, tells her new music teacher that if he thinks he can get away with flouting the rules, “You are subbin’ in the wrong school, Shaft.”

NBC has opted to air back-to-back episodes of the show — doing the same with what was supposed to be its companion, “The Carmichael Show.” The network said the goal was to take full advantage of the “Got Talent” lead-in, although one suspects the practical effect is that “Mr. Robinson,” at least, could be gone in half the time.

Because while this might qualify as original summer programming, it’s generally pretty easy to tell the difference between shows in which the network appears invested and the TV equivalent of chum for the sharks. Alas, if NBC thinks a last-minute scheduling stunt is going to create an impression of the former, you’re PR spinnin’ in the wrong school, Shaft.

TV Review: 'Mr. Robinson'

(Series; NBC, Wed. Aug. 5, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Cullen Bros. Television and 3 Arts Entertainment in association with Universal Television.

Crew: Executive producers, Mark Cullen, Robb Cullen, Howard Klein, Mark Schulman, Andy Ackerman; supervising producer, Craig Robinson; producer, Marc Solakian; director, Ackerman; writers, Cullen, Cullen; camera, Patti Lee; production designer, Greg Grande; editor, Stuart Bass; music, Ryan Beveridge; casting, Lisa Miller Katz. 30 MIN.

Cast: Craig Robinson, Peri Gilpin, Ben Koldyke, Brandon T. Jackson, Spencer Grammer, Amandla Stenberg, Tim Bagley, Meagan Good

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