Who: “The Crazy Ones.” aired on network TV this past season, specifically on CBS, Thursdays at 9:00 PM.
What: “The Crazy Ones,” a situation comedy created by David E. Kelley (The Practice, Boston Legal) centered on a woman and her father who work for the same advertising agency and attempt to stay fresh and afloat in today’s corporate environment.
Robin Williams plays Simon Roberts, the owner and president of an advertising agency, who is facing the unique challenges of being further along in his career and wondering if he’s still got the creative spark and no-holds-barred ambition of his younger days. Working alongside him as the agency’s creative director is his daughter Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who must reign in her crazy dad while attempting to prove to him that she’s got what it takes to work in the business.
When: The series finale aired on CBS, Thursday, April 17, 2014, at 9:30 PM.
Where: The show is set in Chicago, Illinois, at the main characters’ fictional advertising agency, Roberts & Roberts.
Why: Robin Williams has returned to TV for the first time since his days as Mork from Ork! I still find that man beyond funny; he’s a comedic genius, with a mind quicker than most and a comedic courage that surpasses many of his peers. I would love to meet this man; that’s how much of a fan of his that I am. What’s more – who’s playing his daughter? None other than BUFFY HERSELF – Sarah Michelle Gellar, trying her hand at a sitcom after her previous series, The CW’s Ringer, was canceled due to poor ratings. We know she can be funny because she delivered Joss Whedon’s and the other Buffy writers’ witty dialogue with panache. The real question is how these two consummate professionals mix together.
How – as in How’s It Going? (Thoughts)
As the primary TV viewing season rounds to a close and as new season schedules are announced by the networks, they have been making sweeping and swift final decisions regarding what stays and what goes, i.e. what is renewed for another season and what is canceled. Because the purpose of this blog is to be more editorial about particular shows this viewer watches rather than a major entertainment news outlet to report scoops, spoilers, and other television-related sound bytes (for now), this blogger will report the cancellations and reviews as I have time to write about them.
CBS, approximately three weeks ago, canceled The Crazy Ones, among others. This viewer awarded this program’s pilot the only 5 star rating of the new pilots watched this season, meaning I loved the show from the start. The review of the pilot can be read here.
To be honest, I’m not sure what happened. Most entertainment watchdog rags are suggesting that The Crazy Ones suffered from softer ratings and mixed critic reception, which is really too bad. While this viewer would argue that the show failed to take any of the sorts of risks that the main character Simon, played by Williams, frequently advocated for his daughter, friends, and staff, the show was, at least, solidly amusing on a weekly basis, with a tight ensemble of players that enjoyed an easy and increasingly effortless chemistry. Why this show did not catch on with viewers or critics, this blogger would never be able to say. I enjoyed the program and felt that it provided an intelligent commentary on many subjects: staying creative in today’s watered down corporate turnip squeeze for every dollar, balancing personal life and career, defining and redefining family, the potential joy and pitfalls of office romances (and/or sexual flings), and so on. The Crazy Ones struck this viewer as a hip, satiric look at American capitalistic and corporate culture while ultimately rooting the comedy in family and friendships. The addition of Brad Garrett as recurring character Gordon, the chief financial officer and resident (gay) stiff, was equally surprising and hilarious; his rapid fire banter with Robin Williams frequently stole the show, as did the off-putting one-liners habitually offered by Amanda Setton’s Lauren, the office administrative assistant.
As to those not-taken risks, the largest critique this viewer will offer is that, by the end of the show’s only season, the characters had not really evolved or changed their situations much. Simon was still a wildly creative, trailblazer with the softest spot for his daughter; Sydney was still a late-life wallflower, courting a neighbor she did not realize was gay and pining after Andrew (Hamish Linklater); Zach (James Wolk) was still a womanizer, beloved by Simon for his resemblance to the latter, with only the hint of appreciating women at a more mature level; Lauren was still making off-putting observations; and Andrew was still willing to be the voice of reason and, sometimes, doomsayer of the equation, though he was enjoying a romantic relationship with Sydney’s new assistant. Sydney also took a big risk and kissed Andrew but finished the finale by running away, begging her mom to take her to Morocco.
Speak of, we met Sydney’s mom, Paige, played by Marilu Henner, in the series finale. She is a fun-loving, heavy-spending free-wheeler like Sydney’s dad, qualities which rendered them such a charismatic and, eventually, explosive couple. We learned that Sydney’s issues stemmed from being raised by a set of a parents who loved her but who, ultimately, did not place her first for most of her life. We further learned that Simon’s creative spark justified the existing operation of their ad business, even though Gordon advocated strongly for a buyout that would have made them both millionaires (Paige, a voting member of the board, sided with her ex-husband after some reunion “hate sex”).
At the last, the show was tied up in a (mostly) neat little bow, but what was inside the gift was safe, like a set of ties or a tool set, rather than something exciting, like a big screen TV. The only “crazy” of The Crazy Ones was Robin Williams – and as this viewer noted when reviewing the pilot, if one doesn’t like him, one probably wouldn’t like this show, as the whole premise was set up to display Williams’ big TV comeback and particular brand of comedy, governed by nothing more than a loose leash allowing him to riff his manic, improvisational jokes, voices, and impressions. The show additionally enjoyed a series of high profile guest stars, including a recurring appearance by Josh Groban as a jingle writer a bit obsessed with Sydney, and a one-off guest stint by none other than Mork’s Mindy herself, Pam Dawber, in a reunion thirty years in the making, as a short-lived paramour of Simon’s.
In the end, I guess the Eye Network did not want to take a chance on something that was solidly funny but only modestly rated, despite the plethora of easy product placements, what with the central setting being an advertising agency. That’s too bad, from where this viewer sits. The chemistry of this cast, their crazy ad campaigns, and their chaotic personal lives consistently made me laugh, a tall order for sitcoms in this day and age as a general rule but also in terms of this viewer’s willingness to watch them. I wish more people watched and/or enjoyed The Crazy Ones as much as me. Sadly, the show’s only season will, no doubt, be relegated to a limited, streaming afterlife.
The Crazy Ones provided solid, if ultimately safe and routine, comedy and resultant laughter, only insofar as this viewer highly enjoys Robin Williams (and, to that end, Sarah Michelle Gellar), on a weekly basis. Perhaps, the nation’s viewers, on the whole, didn’t feel the same way. RIP The Crazy Ones. I hope your talented team of ensemble actors find other projects, even though I will miss you being all together in this program.
THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:
Canceled! The entire series, produced to the tune of 22 episodes, aired fully and ended in April 2014. Because this sitcom did not follow a larger serial format and explored its situations (and character relationships) on an episodic basis, this show can be watched and enjoyed on the strength of its one and only season, should it crop up on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. If you love Robin Williams or good satire, it’s worth the watch.