Friday, August 7, 2015

Pilot Review: Mr. Robinson

Mr. Robinson (NBC)
Premiered August 5 at 9pm

Craig Robinson is undeniably a talent. The actor slash musician stole many scenes as Darryl, a warehouse employee, on “The Office,” and I enjoyed seeing him in person at the American Comedy Awards last year where he served as pianist and emcee for the event. Having him star in a show seems like a worthwhile idea, and at least NBC gets a bit of credit for not just naming it “The Craig Robinson Show.” I feel it’s a necessary rite of passage for any comedian who has achieved moderate success on some other television show, and usually, the ending to the story isn’t a happy one. It’s strange that NBC would pick August as a time to launch this show, although I guess with just six episodes, two per week, this will fit in perfectly before the fall season officially launches and serve as a potentially fruitful test run for a larger series pickup. Unfortunately, what this show has to offer is a very antiquated sort of comedy, one that dispenses with reality and logic and instead presents as absurd a situation as possible at every turn. I can accept Craig getting a job as a substitute at a school to win over his high school crush, Victoria, played by Meagan Good of “Californication” fame, and I can even get behind Supervisor Dalton wanting to seem cool in front of this rock star. But I can’t stomach the preposterous, stretchy nature of Gary Cole’s ridiculous rocker knowing Principal Taylor and her actually expressing any interest in him, let alone quitting her job to go have sex and do drugs with him (I also couldn’t place the actress who plays her, and it turns out it’s Peri Gilpin from “Frasier”). Ben is also a lamentable character, dragging down what was never going to be a great show and turning into something fully unfunny and often cringe-worthy.

How will it work as a series? Two episodes at a time gives a good picture of what to expect from this show, a highly formulaic combination of Craig making jokes and not actually teaching kids with more serious life lessons to be learned that feel out of place in such a silly environment. There are so many shows like this on the air, and the laugh track isn’t even the problem; it’s just the quality of the show.
How long will it last? For a summer series, this show actually did pretty well, and if it keeps it up over the next two weeks and four episodes, it could well return for another potentially extended run. Reviews for the show largely seem to be just as enthusiastic as mine, so I wouldn’t be too optimistic about NBC committing just yet unless the ratings really do stay high.

Pilot grade: C-

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