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CBS' The Crazy Ones is star vehicle without brakes or steering wheel


Familiar faces abound in The Crazy Ones, except for Amanda Setton (far left). Otherwise it’s James Wolk from Mad Men, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Robin Williams in his return to series TV. Photo: Ed Bark

Premiering: Thursday, Sept. 26th at 8 p.m. (central) on CBS
Starring: Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk, Hamish Linklater, Amanda Setton
Produced by: David E. Kelley, bill D’Elia, Jason Winer, Tracy Poust, Jon Kinnally, Dean Lorey, John Montgomery, Mark Teitelbaum

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The Crazy Ones may not be fall’s worst new comedy series, but its premiere episode easily is the biggest underachiever.

CBS has grouped Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar and long-accomplished producer David E. Kelley (Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) in an ad agency sitcom whose truth-in-packaging slogan easily could be, “Watch us all fall on our (familiar) faces.”

William, starring in his first TV series since Mork & Mindy, is all over the place as semi-mad adman Simon Roberts. He’s first seen trading punches with a giant-sized Rock ‘Em Sock ’Em Robot, which unfortunately is unable to kayo him. Simon instead is more or less pulled away by his daughter Sydney (Gellar), the Chicago-based agency’s hard-pressed creative director. She informs him that their biggest client, McDonald’s, wants to fire them.

The rest of this very loosely stitched half-hour comes off as a combination product placement ad/improv sketch. In a recent interview session with TV critics, the producers noted that Williams’ character is drawn from real-life adman John Montgomery, whose biggest make or break client in fact is McDonald’s.

Arch rival Burger King won’t be amused. Nor likely will viewers be during the course of a “storyline” in which Simon very unconvincingly sells a no-nonsense McDonald’s representative (guest star Gail O’Grady of NYPD Blue fame) on an updated “You Deserve A Break Today” campaign fronted by a big-name vocalist yet to be determined.

But Jennifer Lopez “wants to be paid in diamonds,” Mariah Carey’s not interested, “Adele’s British and Pink threatened me,” laments agency art director Andrew Keaneally (Hamish Linklater). And besides, adds Sydney, “Last time I checked, icons don’t like to sing about meat.” Well, you learn something new everyday.

But maybe -- just maybe -- the agency’s meal ticket could be Kelly Clarkson. She just happens to be in Chicago, with Simon and right hand man Zach Cropper (James Wolk from Mad Men) impulsively joining her for drinks in hopes of making a quick sale. “I want to sing about sex,” she demurs.

“We just need to come up with a meat-related sex song,” Zach replies before he and Simon make a very painful attempt to jingle-ize on the fly. Viewers are supposed to be cracking up at this point. Not gonna happen.

Clarkson is game throughout, even if her motivations and subsequent pair of recording sessions (“It ain’t the meat, it’s the motion”) make no sense at all in anything remotely resembling the real world. Meanwhile, Williams keeps being Williams, alternately sticking to a script and screwing around while Gellar labors to play it straight. It all makes for quite a mess.

The opening episode comes up short of a 20-minute running time, even with some outtakes thrown in during the closing credits. It seems that all involved know there’s an enormous amount of work to be done for The Crazy Ones to be salvaged in future weeks. Maybe that could still somehow happen, although a McRib sandwich might have a better chance of making the cover of Bon Appetit.

GRADE: C-minus

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