About halfway through “Hugging the Now,” an episode which allows for the expected Robin Williams penis jokes and tasteless gay impersonations, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Sydney Roberts asks her father Simon, played by Williams, “have you ever left anything unsaid?” As a joke, it works, but not in the way it’s intended. It’s almost a meta joke, since it’s hard not to get tired of Williams going full speed ahead with no one on the creative team stopping him.
This in a nutshell is the biggest problem with The Crazy Ones as a series. It’s like Williams is a stereo at full volume, but instead of unplugging it or turning it down, everyone in earshot just decides to go with it and dance. This is made abundantly clear in every episode’s end credit outtakes, with the cast giving what I hope are pity laughs at Williams not stopping for anything. But even when Williams is turned down from 11 to around a 5 or a 6, The Crazy Ones still is overly bland and disappointing considering the talent behind and in front of the camera.
“Hugging the Now” has Simon nominated as Creative of the Year for an Advertising Impact Award, which he hasn’t been nominated for in years. Maybe the most interesting dynamic of Simon’s story is his fear that his best days are behind him and now he’s a struggling older man trying to still be relevant in today’s world.
However in these first six episodes, there’s no good reason for Simon to believe that he isn’t still one of the world’s greatest advertisers, especially since in every episode he 100 percent nails every single pitch, regardless of time restraints and last-minute notices. So far The Crazy Ones has shown that he basically can’t fail.
One of Simon’s co-nominees is Josh, a man on whom Sydney crushed hard through school, but never acted on her feelings. Now given a second chance for action after years of fantasizing, Sydney sees him again and he almost immediately kisses her. Turns out he was also harboring similar feelings. As the two get closer over the weekend, Sydney lets it slip during their marathon session of Bones that her father will be campaigning for the upcoming award, and Josh steals the idea and makes it his own.
At the very least, “Hugging the Now” gives us the first sign that Simon is capable of losing something, as he loses the award to Josh, probably because of the advertising theft. We also do get a bit more depth to the character of Sydney, who rarely has anything to her besides her interactions with her father. But still, the three other main cast members are nothing but one characteristic and not much else. Zach is a womanizer, Andrew is the awkward one and Lauren is increasingly creepy. And that’s just about it.
But as with most episodes of The Crazy Ones, it’s all mostly cringing, waiting for Williams to inevitably go on another unwanted improv rant. It’s sort of sad that the most amusing parts of The Crazy Ones have involved Gellar referencing her Buffy past, as she does here by asking if Josh even likes David Boreanaz.
The Crazy Ones needs to allow its characters to fail more often, like it does here, and not be afraid to challenge itself, by for example pulling back on Williams. There’s the possibility of great things, but right now it’s being drowned out by a lack of surprise and an abundance of riffing.