Crazy Ones – CBS
Writer: David E. Kelley
Director: Jason Winer
Cast: Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk, Hamish Linklater, Amanda Setton
Format: Single-camera half-hour comedy
SYNOPSIS: A renowned, brilliant but eccentic advertising executive, Simon Roberts, runs an agency with his daughter, Sydney, on board as creative executive. Simon fears his passion for advertising is beginning to dwindle. He worries that all of his best ideas are behind him. And, though her legendary father has always loomed large in her life, Sydney suspects that he may be losing his mind.
COMMENTS: Imagine if Mad Men’s Don Draper existed in the present day. He’s still an advertising genius, using profound presentations to make last-minutes campaign saves, but now he’s maybe a little crazy. Picture that and you have Simon Roberts (Robin Williams). David E. Kelley doing half-hour + Robin Williams returning to TV after 30 years is either a recipe for disaster or completely inspired. The addition of Sarah Michelle Gellar as the grounded center pushes it towards the latter, but this is still a crapshoot whose success hinges on execution. The casting of Hamish Linklater as the “neurotic and nebbishy” Andrew and James Wolk as the “cool-as-George-Clooney-only-better-looking” Zach are spot-on. Gellar is the right choice to play the daughter, and the writing definitely plays to her strengths. But the success of this pilot rides on Williams.
What works best in the pilot is the father-daughter relationship. Theirs is a strong bond, and it holds the piece together. The pilot mostly strikes that right balance of moving and sentimental, without getting too schmaltzy, as in this late exchange between Simon and Sydney:
Sydney: Have your dreams in life come true, Dad? Suppose you ran into a long-lost friend from college, you want to impress him or her with your legacy, what would you say?
Simon: I’d say I get to wake up every morning and go to work with my daughter. How many men get that?
There was probably an impulse on Kelley’s part to go big and broad, especially with a larger-than-life actor like Williams, but the writer shows considerable restraint, saving the showier moments for Williams and making them dramatically organic. That said, he might’ve been too restrained, and the show could do with a little more humor. As written, there aren’t any laugh-out-loud moments, though Wolk’s Zach has the potential to become a breakout character and a source of comic relief. Finally, there is something dated about this pilot; the concept and dialogue feel recycled. Still, this pilot could be a perfect fit in the Thursday night 8 p.m. block alongside The Big Bang Theory.