In the world of Mad Men, Simon Roberts is as crazy as they come.
No, Simon doesn't reside in the same universe as AMC's 1960s-themed series. He's a present-day advertising executive on this CBS show, working for the fictional firm Lewis, Roberts & Roberts. Simon is a bounce-off-the-walls genius who could sell a home-security system to Chuck Norris. Sure, his methods are a little nuts. And he boxes with a gigantic Rock'Em Sock'Em Robot to get the creative juices flowing. He's even been known to lead a flush of baby ducklings around the office like a proud (and very tall) mama duck. Oh, and he's had more wives than a New Jersey-based reality show and more stints in rehab than Lindsay Lohan.
But you can't argue with results. And Simon is all about results.
Of course, he doesn't make this marketing magic happen all alone. The second Roberts in Lewis, Roberts & Roberts is Sydney Roberts—Simon's long-suffering, straight-laced daughter who does what she can to rein in Simon's free-form insanity. She's the sensible sock to Simon's platform boot, the Alka-Seltzer to Simon's deep-fried chili dog. And while it's clear the parent-child roles have long been reversed in this strange-but-loving family, the two make an effective team. Smirking copy writer Zach, sad-sack artist Andrew and sex-addled assistant Lauren round out Simon's core group.
But the focus is, unquestionably, on Simon. With Robin Williams pulling the character's strings, how could it not be?
Williams has been one of comedy's most frenetic talents for going on five decades now (his very first television comedy, Mork & Mindy, ran from 1978-1982), and it's clear that the guy hasn't let a little gray hair slow him down. He's always been known for his improvisational comedy, and the makers of The Crazy Ones say they generally just point Williams in the direction they want him to go and let him trundle or gallop or even sashay over there however he wishes.
This can make for some funny moments. But it also makes The Crazy Ones risky for families. Williams became a comic legend because, in part, you never know exactly where the guy's going to go. And sometimes, you don't want to follow where he leads.
Exacerbating these concerns, the show's makers sometimes intentionally point Williams—and indeed, the entire episode—in salacious directions. For instance: In the pilot, Simon and Zach sit down with Kelly Clarkson to ask if she'd be willing to sing a jingle marketing McDonald's Happy Meals. Clarkson, who says she's looking to rebrand herself, says she'll do it—but only if she can sing about sex.
"We just need to come up with a meat-related song …" Zach begins.
"For a family restaurant," Simon says. "How hard can that be, really? It almost writes itself." And as if to prove it, Simon and Zach launch into a free-form jingle loaded with sexual double entendres. (The show's inclination toward the naughty suggests that profanity could be a problematic element too.)
For all its manic problems, The Crazy Ones tries to deliver some warmer, cuddlier moments. It offers some nice thoughts on family and friendship, and sometimes its takeaway message can sound like a slightly off-kilter inspirational poster. And for me, having grown up with Mork & Mindy, it's nice to see Williams back on the tube.
I just wish I could relax about this 21st-century effort as much as my parents could back in the '70s.
Andrew's jealous of the affection that Simon showers on Zach. In an effort to make up for it, Simon takes Andrew under his wing (as it were) and asks him to help raise some baby ducks—part of a pro bono account Simon took on to promote a rehabilitated lake. The gig doesn't seem glamorous at first: It involves scraping the ducklings' anuses to help them defecate. (Simon explains in clinical detail why it's important that Andrew devote so much time to a duckling's backside, and we see him administering the work, too.) But when Simon explains how personal this project is to him, Andrew realizes that being trusted to raise the ducks really is a measure of how much Simon appreciates him.
We hear some good messages here about not being afraid to fail, about the importance of dreaming big and the value of doing even icky jobs to the best of your ability. But we also hear scads of references to Sydney's metaphorical penis: The word itself is repeated perhaps more than a dozen times, along with a slew of double entendres related to it.
Simon quips about how he drank Scotch for breakfast in college. There's a verbal gag about getting straight or gay answers, along with a few other gay-themed jokes. A model bares her cleavage, and we hear a few references to sleeping around. Characters say "d‑‑n" once and misuse God's name once.