“Pilot” – The Crazy Ones

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 11.36.24 AMWe had high hopes for the premiere of The Crazy Ones. We love Robin Williams. And we’ve been hoping for something worthwhile to grab Sarah Michelle Gellar up since Buffy came to an end. This might be just the ticket. We’ve long appreciated her comedic chops (her classic comic timing always shone through on Buffy, giving an otherwise dark character moments of light) and this is the perfect exercise to allow her to stretch those funny muscles. The Crazy Ones also looked exactly like the comedy we needed – smart, witty, and not aiming for the lowest common denominator.

And we weren’t disappointed on any front. Although the humor does, sometimes, turn a little base – Zach (James Wolk, Mad Men) seems to exist purely to be the instigator and butt of jokes about sex – it never feels like it’s reaching. It never feels like the writers will do absolutely anything to make absolutely everyone laugh. They don’t mind if you don’t get it, or if it doesn’t appeal. They know they’re funny. Though it’s hard to imagine a person who wouldn’t be drawn in by Williams’ trademark impressions and off-the-cuff, scattershot humor.

Also working in the show’s favor is its heart. First and foremost, the writers seem to be working on an almost Sorkin-esque level of inspirational speeches. ‘Greater things’ already seems to be the watchword of the show (the title of which, The Crazy Ones, refers to the famous Apple commercial of the late 90s) but, obviously, at this early juncture it’s hard to tell if that will be an ongoing theme of the show or was just this episode. In addition, the central relationship between Gellar’s Sydney Roberts and her father, Simon (Robin Williams), is instantly tight and sweet. There’s no conflict there, or, at least, nothing serious. They clash a little in work styles, but the love between them feels palpable and real. Further to this, the show didn’t immediately try to ram romance down our throat. There is no obvious will-they-won’t-they (although there are, perhaps, hints to one down the line). And that makes it easier to watch. Without the constant pressure on writers to make us feel a romance, they’re given the opportunity to just focus on making us laugh.

The cast is decent. In addition to Gellar and Williams, you have Hamish Linklater (The Newsroom, The Big C), James Wolk (Mad Men, Political Animals) and Amanda Setton (Gossip Girl, The Mindy Project). Setton is the most surprising here, as Gossip Girl could never really be called a hotbed of acting talent. And yet her comic timing is impeccable and her acting skills are more than adequate. Another (welcome) surprise was the complete lack of ‘origin story’ (for want of a better term). We really jumped into the thick of things, without any lengthy preamble or unnecessarily awkward character introductions. There is a real sense of coming in in the middle of a story, with all the necessary details well established, but we never feel left out or confused. Further playing into that feeling of its being long-established was the guest starring role inhabited by Kelly Clarkson. Bringing that kind of star power in on a pilot episode demonstrates early credibility, and builds the show up to be something with a lot of sway. This is something NBC tried with The Michael J Fox Show, but Kelly will always trump Matt Lauer.

All in all, a great first episode, and one that far eclipses any comedy we’ve seen in recent years. It’s grown up and intelligent. It’s superior. We just hope it stays that way. – K

Quoteworthy: “Remember the first time I took you to Micky D’s? You were five. Buck teeth and pigtails… and that was just on me! Weird year.” – Simon

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