October 4, 2013

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “The Crazy Ones”


THE CRAZY ONES:  Thursday 9PM on CBS

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on THE CRAZY ONES:  Simon Roberts (Robin Williams), a genuine mad man and an advertising legend, and his more practical daughter Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar), run a Chicago ad agency.  The dynamics of the place are very clear:  Simon and copywriter Zach (James Wolk) are the cool kids who can riff endlessly on just about any imaginable topic, while Sydney and art director Andrew (Hamish Linklater) are the nerds who do their valuable jobs well but aren’t touched by genius.  Also at the firm:  assistant Lauren (Amanda Setton).

Episode 2:  The Crazy Ones didn’t use the title “The Robin Williams Show,” but it might as well have.  Both the show and the storylines are completely Williams-centric; either they’re about Simon, or they’re about the other characters’ longings for his approval and attention.  Tonight’s first regular episode, written by Co-Executive Producers Joe Port and Joe Wiseman, and directed by Jason Winer, was heavy on the latter.  In one, Simon pushed Sydney into having to come up with a “Spectacular,” a big-event campaign idea for Windy City coffee (her 3-story high coffee pot pouring into a cup turned disastrous when she forgot to allow for wind in the Windy City, but she saved it by turning the footage into a horror-movie parody).  Meanwhile, Andrew was jealous that Simon favored Zach more than him, and Zach magnanimously gave him what seemed like the booby prize of caring for ducks Simon had acquired for a pro bono environmental event–only to discover that the cause really was close to Simon’s heart, giving Zach some quality time with Simon and (even better) making Andrew a little jealous.

Neither of these plots had anything new to say about the human condition or life in an era of increasing technological complexity, but they were more original than the ones on The Michael J. Fox Show (Mike’s teen daughter is taking nude photo portraits and showing them in an art gallery!) or Sean Saves the World (Sean may have to work late and miss dinner with his teen daughter!).  Winer gave the single-camera visuals some scope (there was a clever Apocalypse Now flavor to the flashback of the pond disaster that Simon caused 20 years ago), and the pace was snappy without being frantic.  The result was a decent enough half-hour.

The Crazy Ones is better than it could have been, but in the end one’s feelings about it will depend on tolerance for watching Robin Williams (and Wolk) doing 2-3 minutes of improv on very little, a device that could easily wear thin.  Gellar is no more than Williams’s straight woman, whose job it is to doubt her father every week and then stare in wonderment at his brilliance (although the script is at pains to give her “you’re pretty, too” moments).  America showed a willingness to spend time with Williams via a big 3.9 start in last week’s ratings–but that was after a giant Big Bang Theory lead-in, instead of whatever it’s going to get from The Millers, so tonight’s numbers will tell us more.  The show is mildly amusing and competent, and that’s more than most of the other newcomers this fall can say.


PILOT + 1:  Compared to The Fall’s Other New Sit-Coms… Not So Bad

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."