[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"The Crazy Ones" (CBS)
Airs:Thursdays at 9 p.m.
The Pitch: "Bob Benson: Time-Traveling Ad Man [Small Print: Also Guest-Starring Buffy and Mork]."
Quick Response: Jimmy Wolk is pretty much the best and worst thing about "The Crazy Ones." When David E. Kelley and company cast him, they couldn't possibly have known that the "Lone Star" and "Political Animals" veteran was on the verge of becoming the breakout mystery man of this past "Mad Men" season. At that point, they were just happy to have an attractive, gung-ho young leading man with the surprising energy to go toe-to-toe with Robin Williams. They may not have even known that Wolk and advertising were about to become permanently intermingled with clingy '60s bathing trunks, a nurse named Manolo and, particularly, "NOT GREAT, BOB." Because of the presence of Time-Traveling Bob Benson, "The Crazy Ones" has a brand new distraction which goes above and beyond Robin Williams' predictably aggressive attempts to thrust himself back into primetime. No. He does not do his John Wayne voice. I assume that's being held for Ep.2. Otherwise, you would not accuse Williams of restraint. At one point the character jokes that he has 25 voices in his head -- the "crazy" in the title may be worse than we initially think -- and that gives Williams the opportunity to run through such favorites as Wise Old Native American Man and Scottish Clansman. Oh, Robin Williams. So schticky. I'd say that I'm looking forward to Williams relaxing in subsequent episodes, but Robin Williams doesn't relax. Williams is at his best here when he's with Wolk, because you can sense that they're really enjoying what they're doing and, in an outtake at the end, you can see that others enjoy working with them as well. And by "others," I mean "Kelly Clarkson," who is probably right up there with Wolk when it comes to the best parts of this uneven pilot. She's game for anything and she's actually totally amusing in her own right. Expect enough raves for her performance here that Clarkson will almost have to be brought back and probably frequently. I'm less enamored with Sarah Michelle Gellar who is too often forced to play the shrill wet blanket, which brings out the brittleness that has always been her weakness. When the dialogue asks her to be funny, Gellar's go-to move is the "little girl voice" and in a show with strong comics around her, that just can't measure up. Gellar has one good moment at the end that gives me some hope, but she still worries me. The "Crazy Ones" pilot sent to critics is really short and because it's so heavy on long Robin Williams riffs, the combination of literal brevity and improvisational filler leads to a fairly empty episode. Only Williams and Gellar get character moments and the "plot" may only be three or four scenes. I don't know if this bodes well going forward, especially with David E. Kelley not necessarily being a veteran of the half-hour comedy.
Desire To Watch Again: I don't really need to watch "The Robin Williams Funny Voices Variety Half-Hour," so I'll probably give this an episode or two to settle before deciding. I didn't hate Williams' hamminess, but it was so very much par-for-the-Williams-course that I couldn't find it funny either. This time slot is too tough for me to stick with anything I don't actively enjoy, so there had better be some quick tightening or else I'm out until Clarkson's inevitable sweeps return.
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