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CBS (ended 2014)

The Crazy Ones S01E01: "Pilot"

Selling! Selling! Selling! It's everywhere! Logos! Brands! Slogans! On the TV! On Billboards! On your clothes! America is a cesspool of advertising and marketing, where guys in sweaters concoct brand-management strategies for corporate behemoths to paste ideas of "family values," "eco-friendliness," "blue-collar ethics," and other lies over their money-grubbing mouths and bottom line. Ahhh yes, the perfect venue for a light-hearted comedy. 

Selling is also all over CBS's new comedy The Crazy Ones, which is set in the mad, mad ad world and follows the advertising firm Lewis, Roberts, and Roberts as it grovels before McDonald's and other billion-dollar businesses to help convince Johnny America to pick up a Happy Meal on his way home. The show was created by David E. Kelley (Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, The Practice), who is to television shows as the 19 Kids and Counting's Duggar family is to children, and Kelley couldn't be a more perfect fit for the idea. 

See, The Crazy Ones did as much selling in its pilot episode as the characters on screen, turning a half-hour single-camera comedy into one long and rather-empty branding session about the importance of family.  the importance of family to the millions of consumers out there who could be swayed by a Big Mac (if it helped strengthen familial bonds) and the importance of family to the show and its central characters, father and daughter Simon Roberts (Robin Williams) and Sydney Roberts (Sarah Michelle Gellar). 

Kelley is accomplished at toying with his audiences' emotions, and The Crazy Ones is classic Kelley; the series premiere opened with Lewis, Roberts, and Roberts on the verge of losing its big McDonald's account and Simon on the verge of losing his mind. The stone-hearted golems at McDonald's were thinking about taking their advertising budget to another firm, and Simon and Sydney were forced to scramble to keep the dough funneling into their own wallets (money was never actually mentioned—a wise choice—but it was obviously the goal). And that's when Simon spouted off a monologue about eating McDonald's in the olden days with his toddler Sydney and everyone sitting around the conference table was giving each other eyes like, "What is this wacko doing?" and some lovely music was switched on to tell us something magical was happening. Simon's "I'm just a family man who longs for the days when family mattered" speech took seed in the empty soul of the head McDonald's lady and she granted the firm an extra day to rejuvenate the old 1972 McDonald's "You deserve a break" ad campaign, as long as they could get a voice to sing the jingle.

Since Simon's in the know, he pitched Kelly Clarkson (yes THE Kelly Clarkson!!!) on singing "You Deserve a Break" but she was working on a re-brand of her own and wanted to croon about sex. She don't do jingles! Sure, whatever, Simon said. As long as they got her in the booth, he was sure they could convince her to record the jingle they wanted her to sing and McDonald's would be happy. After a Clarkson-approved sultry song called "It Ain't the Meat, It's the Motion" (and that motion made me nauseous, btw), Simon said, "Hey, what about family?" and Clarkson was like, "nope," and bolted. Simon gave Sydney a sad speech about something, and Sydney was inspired to chase Clarkson down in a restaurant and convince her that "You Deserve a Break" isn't just a jingle, it's a song about family. Clarkson wouldn't be selling hamburgers, she'd be selling the idea of family (oh, and lots of hamburgers). Clarkson told Sydney that Sydney sang the song in the restaurant right there, once more with feeling, Clarkson might change her mind. So Sydney did, and that was enough to convince Clarkson to be their gal. Cue the happy ending. 

The Crazy Ones did a great job of hitting all its marks to create a comedy-drama hybrid about an underdog team of creatives trying to instill some values in this world. The wacky dad's timely speeches, the no-nonsense daughter's timely speeches, and the small victories inherent in the thawing-out of frigid obstacles (like the McDonald's team and Clarkson) were all manufactured to appeal to our sensitive human nature, and they did.

But this is just selling, guys. We're inclined to root for Simon and Sydney because they're front-and-center, and Williams is doing his shtick and Gellar is making those Oh-my-G faces, but all they really did in the pilot was come up with a last-minute strategy to keep an account. All the pre-packaged ups and downs were merely tried-and-true manipulations, and The Crazy Ones thinks the audience is the sucker. I don't want you to think that this is a takedown on advertising. A show about advertising can work (see: that dapper AMC show about Don Draper), but here, it came off as a dog-and-pony show. The biggest mistake The Crazy Ones made was that it failed to give us any real sense that Simon and Sydney actually believed in the message they were selling. Instead, they tried to sell whatever they could to keep the account, which turned out to be a recycled campaign that worked before. I don't know about you, but I ain't buying.

 


NOTES or CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED CRITICISMS THAT BREAK THE MOLD OF THE TRADITIONAL REVIEW AND INSTILL FAMILY VALUES AND THAT BLUE-COLLAR ATTITUDE THAT JOE PUBLIC LOVES AND WANTS

– What did you think of Robin Williams and his many voices? Do you find it funny when he goes into old Indian Chief voice? I'm actually surprised at how good of a dramatic actor he is, and for his part, he handled the monologues really well. 

– What exactly is the role of James Wolk's Zach in this show? Man meat? 

– If someone stood up and sang a few lines of a song from a commercial in a restaurant when you were trying to eat, do you think everyone in the eatery would applaud?

– It's impossible to get through this without letting the late, great Bill Hicks say his part (NSFW language):

– Yes, I'm fully aware of the irony that advertising pays my salary. Go figure!


What'd you think of The Crazy Ones' series premiere? 

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 4/17/2014

Season 1 : Episode 22

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This show makes me question myself "Why didn't I pursue a degree on Advertising?!?" 20 minutes of creative juices, hilarious punchlines, reciprocated love, and a lot more!!!
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Doing a class project on The Crazy Ones! Please take 2 min to help me out :) https://medill.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5bU07O6cUlePywR
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i guess if they had one more day, they could of gotten taylor swift to do the jingle..? i liked the show, even though i wasn't expecting much, it was pretty funny! will be looking for some more
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Really hoping this show stays: 20 minutes of unadulterated no-strings fun! And Robin Williams. Who's awesome. Loving it!
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Loved it! Classic Williams. Hope it stays around.
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Was this show supposed to be funny ? All I saw was free advertisement for a junk food firm that doesn't need it, horrible, family feelings that were so cliché and so sweet my teeth ache !
With Dads, it's one of the worst new shows I've seen this year!
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once more with feeling....i see what you did there.
The pilot didn't work for me as i hoped it would, but i still think the show has a lot of potential. Usually i am fine without it, but was there even a B-plot in this story? It all felt very straight forward, as highlighted in your review.
If they develop the charcters and give them something to do except chasing celebrities down it might work.
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there were funny moments, but this is going to be four episode thing , before i can say for sure, that i like it...loved the song in the restaurant with Kelly Clarkson...that was really funny....!!!
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That was first class Robin Williams. Very funny. But can that carry a show for a whole season? I doubt it.
But I'm willing to give it a chance.
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This was a pretty huge misfire for the simple reason that it wasn't funny, not at all. I'm not anti-Robin Williams but ebullient comedians can crash and burn if they're adequately controlled, and their material isn't great.

I don't see why a comedy with all these brilliant people involved can't be fantastic but they'll need to get the tone right. This was a case of ungrounded characters acting as crazily as they could and assuming that we were having as a time as they were. They can go the manic route if they want but they'll have to do it better. I'm also a little disappointed that SMG is just playing the straight character, that's a wasted opportunity for her and will make her character much less interesting than she should be.

I'm a huge Kelley fan and I'll keep watching a bit but I'm seriously hoping this was an acute case of pilotitis.
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Anyone selling me McDonalds as a family value is clearly rooting for a very bad bad end to the human kind.
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I couldn't agree with you more !
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Anyone who has seen The World According to Garp, Dead Poets' Society, Awakenings, One Hour Photo, Good Will Hunting and even Mrs. Doubtfire knows what a great dramatic actor Robin Williams is.

As for the show, I liked it. I knew David E. Kelley was going to try to manipulate my emotions, but I guess I'm not as complex as I like to think I am because I fell for it hook, line and sinker. But I'd like to think that it's because of the amazing cast that they were able to pull it off, especially the dramatic, revealing turns by the aforementioned Williams. James Wolk really shined here. I could easily see this as a 1 hr dramady.
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It's a sad day when a Kelley Production bombs like this!
I still can't believe Harry's Law was canceled. That was vintage Kelley and the cast was beyond superb. This one is seriously dreadful. Both leads are nothing to be excited about at all and the whole thing just seemed off.
If this gets a full season knowing back in the day they canceled Wedding Bells after 6 episodes, i'm done with Kelley (Monday Mornings was pretty bad too). Only good comedy this fall so far is The Goldbergs. At least that's one right?
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Ugh.. I don´t know.. for me it seems that Robin Williams is about to break down in any minute and take to a mental hospital.. his character make such sad and fragile impression. And Sarah (as much I love Buffy) isn´t very good comedic actress.. she never was..It was weird combo of comedy and drama - more like schizophrenia feeling.
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Its way better than I expected and I really liked the cast. I might stick around, we shall see.
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I was kindly disposed towards this, but the McDonald's product placement put me off immediately. Considering the damage this brand is doing on the general population's health, I will not watch a show that uses this brand for comedy purpose. What's next? Monsanto? Oh well, one less show to watch I guess.
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Oh my gosh, Tim, I usually like your reviews and I'm sorry to say that, but could you be more pretentious? What I saw was a very nicely done and funny show about people doing their jobs in a fun way. Hell, I'd want to have so much fun in the office as The Crazy Ones. What did you want them to do? Start saving the world one commercial at a time?
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well I guess it was fine didn't crack me up too much but didn't make me switch my channel the one thing that really annoyed me though was the makeup artist made SMG look way beyond her years and what's with that weird side hair bun , that's my only concern.

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Not as bad as i thought, but i am not sold at all - and its all down to Robin Williams.
If they had reined him in and made the character more like the psychiatrist he played in Good Will Hunting and let the other cast members be the wild ones it might have worked better.
If he played an actual ad fixer, who was staying around to build something with his daughter, it might have been warmer and funnier.

Sarah Michelle Gellar was under used on the comedy side and Zach just seemed to be a foil for Williams character
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I really enjoyed it but my one criticism is James Wolk never took off his shirt. The writers need to find a way to make him take off his shirt in future, just once... maybe twice an episode. Three times wouldn't hurt...
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Yeah I'm not too sure about this show. I'm lukewarm on Trophy Wife, and I really enjoyed Michael J. Fox's show, but this one didn't do much for me. I think there was enough good out of Gellar, Wolk (who I actually really liked here, I think he's probably just so charismatic that he can literally do anything) and Linklater (in the little time he had) to get me to watch next week, but I don't think this will be season pass material. Robin Williams is just too shticky in this for me. As Tim pointed out, he's actually a really good dramatic actor when he calls upon it, and while I knew we were going to see some spastic Robin Williams antics, I wanted a little less of that and a little more of the heart we've seen in some of his dramatic roles.

I'll give it another try, but it's going to have to win me over.
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I thought it was pretty terrible, not funny, full of contrived cliches (smell the secretary's hair, ugh, have the hunky Wolk rub on the singer... please...) and when it tried to be moving, I wanted to gag... the whole McDonalds & traditional family values felt like a total farce but I guess that was 'product placement'? Anyway it got great ratings so I guess they are here to stay though I'd never watch it again... Williams was fine but as much as I loved SMG as Buffy, I do not think she is great at straight comedy (vs the sometimes unintended comedy that was Buffy)

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Not sure about this one. Will have to wait and see.

I think Robin Williams is a true comedic genius, although he's not for everyone's taste. His best line for me was when he found out Gail O'Grady's character was attending the meeting, he quipped, "She's out during daylight, this must be important." Classic!
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Didn't like it at all. Extremely disappointed. I would have preferred Harry's Law over this. I watched the double Big Bang Theory, and laughed until I cried, and watched Two and a Half Men after The Crazy Ones and laughed as well. The only show that left me cold was TCO. Will half to find something else to fill that half hour.
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How good was the new Big Bang? There's a show getting better with age.
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It was really good, I laughed so hard I cried. You're right the show gets better with age. I also loved Amber Tamblyn in Two and a Half Men. I did get to watch The Michael J. Fox Show last night and I really liked it. There's this British show called "Mrs. Brown's Boys" and it's absolutely hysterical.
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Mrs Brown's Boys is Irish.
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Yes I know. I should have said it's on BBC Canada not sure if it's available in the U.S. Either way it's a very funny show.
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Really liked it but don't know how highly it speaks to the show that Kelly Clarkson was the best part of the pilot. Girlfriend outperformed Sarah Michelle Gellar AND Robin Williams.
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I didn't laugh NEARLY like they wanted me to. I did grin once or twice. The person that made me laugh once? Kelly Clarkson, when encouraging SMG to get up and sing. I'm smiling now just thinking about it. But she won't be a series regular... so...

This had the total Ally McBeal feel. I really liked that show a long time ago. I don't know how long I will stick with this, but it was better than DADS (ugh) so I might give it one or two more episodes to see if it makes me laugh. However, Robin Williams needs to stop. The Indian Chief voice was funny, I smiled. That scene seemed more natural, like a guy who can do impressions really just doing it in a way to make his family laugh in the midst of a crisis. The other stuff felt FAR more forced, and I hope it doesn't happen every ep.

If I had to choose between this and the Michael J Fox Show though, MJF was more family feeling and funnier.
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Robin Williams is my favorite actor so naturally I was excited for this. I was not disappointed, I was crying with laughter at times. I hope CBS treats this as well as there other sitcoms because they have a new hit here.
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I quite enjoyed it. James Wolk made me man-swoon and laugh at the same time. SMG did well, balancing both the drama and the comedy. Robin Williams, in general, is both great and annoying. In smaller doses, he's awesome... but too much of him can get nauseating. In this pilot, I thought he was used pretty well. Most of his stuff was actually straight-up drama, with a bit of his silliness mixed in, and I thought that was good. All in all, I enjoyed it. The Drive-Thru Lovin' song made me giggle hard.

"I always deliver. Remember that baby hippo at the zoo? Maybe that was a dream... either way, I was in my underwear..." Williams' delivery of that line was well done.
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normally i`d say i liked it but c`mon, it`s robin williams! he can do no wrong and seeing him alone brings back enough happy memories for me.
and he is still so adorable!
smg works well with him. i always liked her comedian side.
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I thought it was ok, but I find the advertising a bit annoying. I'll give it a 4 episode test and see how it goes.
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I really liked the pilot. It's a comedy that I highly anticipated and it looks like it can be a big hit! Williams and Gellar have great chemistry together and they are both very respectable and talented actors. The thing I love the most is that Robin Williams usually does comedy and Sarah Michelle Gellar usually does drama/thrillers and they combine their talents in The Crazy ones!
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I'm partly sold because of that impromptu jingle Williams and Wolk came up with at the restaurant. I laughed out loud at work watching that. :) I guess I'll try and see where it goes for a few weeks...
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I guess I'm in the minority here, but urgh, I should have seen from the trailer that I wouldn't like it. They basically fitted the entire episode into those.

For a twenty minute show, I imagine Robin Williams was babbling some incomprehensible gibbersh for ten or possibly more minutes during its running time. As hairy_gizmo, noted, if you enjoy watching 'Robin Williams riffing and would watch the show if that was all he did', then you should watch it, because from the pilot, that's all this show will be.

I myself don't enjoy his brand of humour, and while I think he can play dramatic parts well (Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting show us this), I don't believe The Crazy Ones will be ever offering him any really hard-hitting material to work with.

Many have noted that this is a single camera comedy on CBS, which is surprising, but it looks like the character of Lauren will fill in for the audience in that department, laughing at every one of William's jokes (and looking good while doing it). There wasn't too much character development anyone else either, and that fine for a pilot, but I can't really see characters like Sydney and Zach being able to break out of their predetermined stereotypes, as 'the hunk' and 'the obsessive compulsive daughter'.

The show does interest me in its content matter, though, not so much what happens in the show, but the behind the scenes stuff. What other big brands would be willing to lend their companies to the show? Would they have conditions if they do? Surely someone from McDonalds had to look over the script before it was filmed, right? This all fascinates me very much.

Also, there's an endless possibility of guest stars playing 'versions' of themselves, which I'd normally be against, but I think it would work perfectly for a show like this. But again, the question remains, who would be willing to guest star? Clarkson's fine and all, but it terms of worldwide appeal, she's not so big.

I guess I'll be giving this the four episode test. It fits well in my television schedule (I live in Australia and watch the The Big Bang Theory and now this on Fridays when I get home from work because it's a nice way to unwind, but to be honest, I'd rather be trying to catch up on some other comedies I'm missed in replacement of this). I'm hoping it gets better.
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It was good, a lot better then some of the other 30 min shows out there. I'm glad they set it in an ad agency, there's a lot of shows currently on that are trying to run off the Modern Family success and just about a family, so at least it stands out.
Thought it moved from comedy to emotional too often, it didn't pull it off as seamlessly as Scrubs or Boston Legal used to - but I hope that will just be the pilot and it will calm down.
Also SMG singing - hilarious!
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Didn't really care for this one. Robin Williams annoys the hell out of me. I probably wont be tuning into any more epis. It just didn't grab me.
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I liked the pilot but then i enjoy watching Robin Williams riffing and would watch the show if that was all he did - and I liked him with James Wolk. Yep its about soulless advertising so they had better focus on character rather than that.
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I loved the pilot. Sure, it had its little ups and downs but I like how the characters work together. It feels like they've been working together and now their parts. I think it wasn't a surprise that the whole family theme applied to the characters as well and I knew what I was getting while watching. Shows are here to manipulate us.
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I like it although I have always found Robin Williams a little annoying.
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I like it
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There have sure been a lot of women named Sydney on TV. Have you ever met a woman named Sydney in real life?
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The pilot episode was brilliant.
Kelly Clarkson was awesome as were Williams and Gellar.


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I see what you did there. "Once more with feeling"
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Staff
James Wolk, Man Meat is actually how James Wolk's business cards read.
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You make some very good points about the weaknesses of the pilot, but it is a pilot and they have to sell the show before they can get into the meaty goodness of characters and all that.

Did they leap in? Yes. Did it work? Mostly. I don't think they could have gotten that deep into the advertising world that quickly any other way, so it works out there. Did I want more characterization? Of course, I always do. Is it on the forefront of my mind? No. They pitched something that was both entertaining and a little touching and for a pilot, that's more than good enough for me. I'll be back next week.
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heh, leap.
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