And that's precisely what The Crazy Ones did. Is it great? Not exactly. Does it show promise? Sure thing. It managed to go from a staid beginning, a beginning where all I could think is "well, at least Sarah Michelle Gellar looks stunning," to something with an authenticity I enjoyed.
Speaking of SMG, the pilot was a breath of sweet, victorious relief. Her musical moment was still about as hokey as you can get. Right up there with the cheesiest of plot resolutions. But overall the episode let her kick all kinds of trash. She was snarky, she was holding her own, and even her straight-man moments were less submissive than the trailer would have me believe. The show is clearly concerned with her increasingly powerful role in the agency, and that is one train I can happily ride. There are traces of dearly departed Buffy Summers, with Gellar delivering quick one liners, arched reaction shots, and witty asides that give her a gumption I've sorely missed.
The other thing this show has going for it is patter. Sweet mercy, there is patter. The script sounds like it was a hefty document, loaded with pages upon pages of text, and I haven't heard this much dialogue since the good old Gilmore Girls days. These people have something to say, and they are making it know quickly and quirkily.
My greatest source of unease going into this was Robin Williams. I'll admit it--I don't have much tolerance for him as a comedian. Call me crazy (I'm sure you will), but I enjoy sly humor more than the incessant improv that fuels comedians of William's ilk. I like my humor to simmer quietly than explode with absurdity, to make me feel superior and in on the joke, thankyouverymuch. Williams is just too frenetic for me to actually enjoy it. He was edging on that territory here, but managed to nicely reel it in. For the most part. I still don't find ketchup as a stand-in for spooge splatter quite as amusing as he does--it's actually an incredibly lazy joke--but it's not as terrible as I thought.
There's even a moment where Williams gets to show off his acting chops, and it leads to the most heartfelt, promising segment of the series. In the beginning these fast-talking ad agents are milling about, nervously anticipating being dropped by their largest client, and SMG's character is forced to pep-talk her father (Williams). After a pitch worthy of any advertiser, Williams finally calms down enough to look at her, to take in her assertions of his greatness, and quietly say "I almost think I could be."
That's what this show is. It's the show that is almost there. The show that almost could be great. And I think it just might be.
-James Wolk. James Wolk, James Wolk, James Wolk. I am so glad he has the chance to be openly charming and just the slightest bit smarmy. This is the type of douchebag I can get behind--not pretentious and slightly fey, ala Schmidt*, but suave and egotistical yet adorably sincere. Zachary indeed.
*I can feel the hate mail coming my way. I get it, you love him, whatever. I don't. And I won't. So shove it.
-The pilot continues to further the Mad Men parallels, mostly by blatantly ripping off a Mad Men pitch. The famous Carousel pitch from season one is capitalized here, when Williams sells a picth based on nostalgia factor alone. Yes, nostalgia is hip. Yeah, it can be used to sell things. But think outside the box please. Especially when McDonald's jingle nostalgia is not nearly as lovely and ethereal as the moment built by Jon Hamm. You're setting yourself up for failure Crazy Ones, and I would abandon that track before it's too late.