The TV listings for Thursday night confused me. Michael J. Fox’s new show was on for an hour, while Robin Williams’ new show was only on for half an hour. Somehow all the promos over the summer had given me the impression that Fox’s show was a half-hour comedy while Williams’ show was an hour-long drama.
My confusion was short-lived. NBC ran the first two episodes of The Michael J. Fox Show back-to-back. At the same time, CBS aired the pilot of The Crazy Ones, which turned out to be a single-camera comedy with no laugh track. I watched both shows and definitely preferred The Crazy Ones, which is about an advertising agency run by a father and his daughter, played by Williams and Sarah Michelle Geller.
I thought The Crazy Ones was as good as a show you might see on HBO on a Sunday night. I got the feeling that Robin Williams was allowed to ad-lib in the tradition of his idol, the late Jonathan Winters. I was also impressed by James Wolk, who had no trouble keeping up with Williams during a funny scene when they are making a pitch to Kelly Clarkson. A couple of times Williams’ character mentions an old John Burroughs quote that has been adopted by improvisers everywhere: “leap and the net will appear.”
In the pilot episode, the ad agency is desperately trying to keep the McDonald’s account. I wondered if the whole series could actually be one giant product placement. As long as they didn’t make fun of the client, they could promote a real product every week, like on The Apprentice. However, the promo for next week’s episode showed glimpses of a coffee brand that didn’t look real to me.