‘Don’t forget to grab a scone while you’re fleeing’

Dave Bartlett
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‘The Crazy Ones’ is amusing, but not really my cup of tea

Admission No 1: while I enjoyed the first season of “Mad Men,” I never became a fan of the show for a myriad of little reasons.
Admission No. 2: I sometimes like to watch the ads between shows, despite technology that allows me to skip them.

Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar play father/daughter ad executives in the sitcom “The Crazy Ones.” — Submitted photo

Advertising is probably the most consumed, yet underappreciated art form. Like most art of any genre, a lot of it is somewhere between really bad and OK. But a great commercial or PSA can entertain or teach and stay with you for days.

When I was in university, the campus film society used to bring in the best commercials from the Cannes festival, which showcased the best visual ads from all over the world each year. I still remember some of them almost 20 years later.

Of course, there are all sorts of insidious jingles that also get stuck in our heads, subliminally planted as we listen to the radio or even just watch the nightly news. While catchy, these earworms are as evil as the ones from “Wrath of Kahn.”

“Mad Men” aversion aside, I intentionally put off watching another show that uses the advertising agency as its backdrop. But that’s not the reason why.

Like “The Michael J. Fox show,” which I hope to review next week, “The Crazy Ones” welcomes two former TV stars back to the small screen. Robin Williams was in all the headlines earlier this fall as it had been more than 30 years since “Mork & Mindy.”

But the show also stars Sarah Michelle Gellar in her first full-fledged comedy role on the small screen. The “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” star struck out a few years back with the short-lived drama “Ringer.”

I was worried that, like that show, both “The Crazy Ones” and Michael J. Fox wouldn’t live up to the hype — see also “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Also against the show was that, while I enjoy a Robin Williams movie now and then, too much of the manic actor can wear on my nerves.

Then, as I watched the pilot episode this weekend, I realized another reason why some of the commercials for the show have made me cringe — it’s a David E. Kelly project (“Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal,” “Boston Public” among others) and I’ve never been a fan.

But you know what? “The Crazy Ones” wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. In fact, it’s not a bad show at all, though not the type of show that I really enjoy watching.

Williams is what you expect — goofy, over-the-top, lots of mimicry and gestures and physical comedy. But Gellar has a calming effect and when the show focuses on her, “The Crazy Ones” really shines. And I’m so happy to say that.

While Gellar was amazing as Buffy, the character wasn’t the most likeable a lot of the time. It was the cast that surrounded her that made that show. Here, it’s kind of the same for Williams.

The show is about fictional legendary ad man Simon Roberts (Williams) who, in the pilot,  is showing his age and about to lose the contract that accounts for 60 per cent of his business — McDonald’s.

But he manages to charm a second chance out of his client. Gellar is his equally talented daughter Sydney, who is far more grounded and, as we find out in Episode 2, has some confidence problems.

What the senior Roberts tries to teach his daughter is that in advertising it’s always go big or go home; try everything and if you are going to fail, fail spectacularly and learn from the experience. But also, with great risk comes great reward.

The quote in the headline comes from Sydney after she fails spectacularly, making it rain hot coffee on patrons from a giant urn, after the wind picks up. What are the possibilities when you’re in Chicago and are making an ad for Windy City Coffee. How the agency turns the blunder around, however, is quite entertaining.

The rest of the cast are only starting to become fleshed out after the three episodes I‘ve watched, but I’ve always liked Hamish Linklater on “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and I like him here as Andrew. Conversely, I’m really not a fan of the handsome, can-do-it-all Zach (James Wolk), though I think you’re supposed to find his character annoying.

“The Crazy Ones” overdoes it at times, and though I like an endless stream of puns, most find them tiring. The show is also heavy on the sexual innuendo and the single entendre.

But it is funny, Gellar is great and a half-hour of Williams each week is not too much, after all.

And the fans love it. The ratings have been good and there’s a good chance the show will be renewed.

While I may watch a few more episodes, I doubt I’ll stick with it, but if you like Kelly’s work, Williams’ boundless energy or Gellar, the show may be just the sitcom for you. And yay, no laugh track.

 

What advertisements stick with you? Which ones do you hate? Send correspondence to Dave Bartlett at talkingtelevision@gmail.com.

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