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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

THE CRAZY ONES Much "Improved"

Article first published as THE CRAZY ONES Much "Improved" on TheTVKing.

CBS's freshman comedy The Crazy Ones was funny from the start, but somewhere along the way, it has become so much more. It has found the perfect blend of heart and humor, often dwelling into deep pathos to find the laughs. This seems a natural direction for series star Robin Williams to go in, and the perfect ensemble surrounding him has tapped into the same vein.

This week's episode, "Dead and Improved," has a great illustration of a laugh out loud scene that will make you cry. A jingle writer that works for Simon (Williams) has died and his daughter, Melora (Missi Pyle, Big Fish), begs Simon to send him off right. The problem is, no one, Simon included, liked the man, making it super difficult to strike the 'wow' note in a eulogy that Melora seeks.

The story is so much more than this simple plot, though. Simon begins to look at his own legacy when faced with mortality. There is raw doubt in his eyes as he wonders if he's all show, no substance. His daughter, Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar) assures him that he's a good man who has had a lasting effect on the world. Through Sydney, Simon begins to see what Melora saw in her own dad, which allows him to find his speech, one that will make everyone laugh and cry at the same time.

It's very hard to serve a plot like this and to do it well. The Crazy Ones nails it. We have Williams, Gellar, and Pyle delivering knock-out performances with a brilliant script. It's full of nuance and meaning, one sure to ring true to many a viewer out there. Anyone who has parents or children can relate to this, making an excellent scene on its own mean something personal to those watching at home, providing connection for the audience.

"Dead and Improved" takes the idea of legacy a step further by tying the B plot into it, too. A Charmin rep, Mitchell (Kurt Fuller, Psych), is disowned by his company as he becomes unstable after his wife leaves him. Zach (James Wolk), Andrew (Hamish Linklater), and Lauren (Amanda Setton) feel obligated to set Mitchell right again, not to just turn him out on the street. Their sympathy continues even after he strips naked in their lobby.

The Mitchell thread weaves seamlessly into the A story, ending with Mitchell looking satisfied at the funeral, and doesn't even feel like a segregated tale. This cohesion is a strong selling factor for The Crazy Ones. Though it's an ensemble cast and each individual does have their own motivations and side stuff, the characters are very much part of a team, and it always feels like that. Simon and Syndey have moments with Mitchell, and Zach, Andrew, and Lauren are involved with Melora and the funeral. It's all inter-connected, and they all help one another out.

I also like how The Crazy Ones ties in enough reality so that it doesn't just feel like a cartoonish parody of the world. The excellent rendering of the Rice Krispie theme song at the beginning and Mitchell working for Charmin, with a bit of a real Charmin commercial played in the episode, really make the firm feel authentic. Not to mention, voice actor Fred Melamed gamely recurs as himself, including a couple of scenes in "Dead and Improved."

Most of this year's batch of new comedies has failed to resonate with viewers. While The Crazy Ones' ratings are modest, there is a special spark present that is lacking in most of its peers. The relationship between Simon and Sydney alone is worth watching for, and if you haven't had the opportunity to check this show out yet, please do, in case it soon becomes too late to do so.

The Crazy Ones airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

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