September 27, 2013

TV: The Crazy Ones (Thu 9, CBS)

Robin Williams returns to weekly TV after 30 years, but his shtick hasn't changed much.

In The Crazy Ones, Williams is Simon Roberts, who runs an advertising agency with his daughter, Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Every conversation with Simon is an excuse for Williams to take off a riff of funny voices, rapid-fire punch lines, and manic wordplay; Gellar's primary function is to wear frustrated pouts as she tries to keep her father in check.

The underlings at the agency include Zach (James Wolk, apparently determined to work in as many TV ad agencies as possible); the charming ladies' man who's ready to sleep with clients if it'll help; art director Andrew (Hamish Linklater, given very little to do in the pilot); and scatterbrained assistant Lauren (Amanda Setton). Of the group, Wolk comes off best in the pilot, managing to mostly hold his own against Williams in manic mode.

But the pilot gives an awful lot of screen time to guest star Kelly Clarkson, who can't act, and to Williams' shtick, which plays much differently from a 62-year-old than it did from a kid in his late 20s. What felt like spontaneous youthful exuberance now feels labored and forced, and the character comes across as so undisciplined and out of control that it's difficult to believe he's the advertising genius he's supposed to be. Another crucial difference is that Mork was an alien being, so the manic babbling didn't have to be believable by any human standard.

Gellar doesn't make much of an immpression at all, and it's increasingly looking as if Buffy was a miraculous fluke, the one role to which she was perfectly suited.

If you're a huge fan of Robin Williams, you may love The Crazy Ones; if you're not, he's going to wear out his welcome very quickly.

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