July 8, 2013



THE CRAZY ONES:  Thursday 9PM on CBS starting Sept. 26 – Worth A Look

Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation aren’t necessarily in their final form. It’s not unusual for pilots to be reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot, before hitting the air. Consider these reports to be guides to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.

Well, we know David E. Kelley has been watching Mad Men.  A key scene in the pilot for his new comedy THE CRAZY ONES, which is set at an ad agency, has the show’s protagonist Simon Roberts (Robin Williams) giving a pitch right out of the Don Draper playbook.  Faced with a client (McDonald’s) on the verge of firing the firm, Simon comes up with a spontaneous, seemingly heartfelt, idealized memory of taking his daughter Sydney (now a grown-up partner in the firm, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) for burgers when she was a child, thus inspiring a nostalgia-laced campaign about families staying in touch.  The pitch works for Simon as it usually works for Don, winning back the account almost instantly.  (It may or may not be a coincidence that the cast of The Crazy Ones also includes James Wolk as firm associate Zachary Cropper, fresh off his own piece of pop culture history as Bob Benson, Don’s Mad Men Season 6 doppelganger.)

Of course, having a high-class DVR playlist isn’t the same thing as creating a good new show, and The Crazy Ones won’t be giving Matthew Weiner any nightmares.  The series is more than anything else a star vehicle for Robin Williams, returning to TV after more than 30 years  now that his days of movie superstardom have passed.  Although on paper he makes a weird pairing with Kelley, actually they’re not a bad match, since Kelley has always loved his eccentric, unstable heroes–Williams is no stranger a presence here than William Shatner was on Boston Legal.  With Williams, though, Kelley has to make room for his star’s funny voices and improv bits.  In the pilot, Williams and Wolk do an impromptu ditty as they try to impress Kelly Clarkson (as herself) into singing the old “You deserve a break today” jingle, and clearly the show will have plenty of those Robin-being-Robin moments, the hilarity of which is likely to vary except for die-hard fans.

The Crazy Ones is slickly put together by Kelley and director Jason Winer (there’s a quick nod to another of Kelley’s favorite directors, Bill D’Elia, on the slate-board for an audition scene within the show), briskly paced and providing a fair balance of broad comedy with one-liners.  A lot of it, though, feels hollowed out to make space for Williams.  Gellar, who we know from Buffy days can be awfully funny herself, is mostly wasted as straight woman to Williams here, playing the businesslike daughter who has to roll her eyes and get all tense because of the risky nature of her dad’s genius (there’s much talk of leaping and nets).  The episode’s climax has Gellar’s character making a fool of herself for the good of the agency, and it would have been better if she had a bit of her father’s spirit while doing it.  Wolk’s character is a smooth womanizer, but it’s not clear from the pilot who Hamish Linklater and Amanda Setton, as the two other agency employees, are meant to be playing. Perhaps some of that will improve once the show has a few episodes under its belt.

It also seems like a bad idea–except perhaps for the CBS Sales department–that the agency’s clients are going to be real companies.  Mad Men gets away with it because it’s set in the fairly distant past and because Weiner has no interest in coddling the “clients” (one wonders what Jaguar and GM think about the way they’re portrayed in the show). but sometimes the Crazy Ones pilot feels like a 30-minute infomercial for McDonald’s.  Adding to the stunt-y feel is the use of Clarkson.  She’s improved as an actress since her From Justin To Kelly days, but it’s still a distraction to have her playing “herself.”  (Apart from not being Mad Men, this also isn’t Episodes or one of the other shows that feature celebrities performing as heightened, distorted versions of their own personas.)

But all of that, really, is secondary to Williams, on whose shoulders the show rests.  In the pilot, he does a reasonable job of mixing some heart with his stand-up, and we know that when he wants to act, he’s quite good at it.  Whether Kelley will be the man to bring that out in him is unclear.  Nevertheless, based on the pilots, Crazy Ones is both the class and the likely winner of the Thursday 9PM sitcom face-off with Sean Hayes and his Sean Saves the World on NBC, and while–in usual CBS fashion–Crazy Ones is hardly a groundbreaking piece of comedy, it looks like it could have appeal for the network’s viewers.  Don Draper would be–well, if not proud, at least appreciative.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."