Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robin Williams Tones It Down to Provide Big Laughs

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robin Williams Tones It Down to Provide Big Laughs

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES ? The first thing you notice on the set of "The Crazy Ones" isn't the vintage pinball machine, the toy guitar or the life- size Rock ?Em Sock ?Em Robot. It's a caricature above the fake elevator doors, featuring the face of the show's megastar.

"It's like being on drugs again," said Robin Williams as he stared at the painting last month during a break from shooting. "The first day I walked in and saw that I went, ?Oh, OK. No pressure.'"

The expectations were indeed high when CBS announced Mr. Williams' return to prime-time TV, where he emerged as a major talent 35 years ago on "Mork & Mindy." That sitcom once ranked as high as No. 3 in viewership, but viewers eventually got exhausted by Mr. Williams' manic persona ? the court jester who's headed to the guillotine if he doesn't keep the king roaring with laughter. It was canceled after four seasons.

So there was every reason to believe that "The Crazy Ones" would come across as "Crazy Robin," with Mr. Williams sucking up all the oxygen from anyone who dared to share a scene with him.

When a TV series is built around a gifted comic, there's always a danger that it may wind up more like an audition reel than a relatable sitcom. Just ask the writers at "The Michael J. Fox Show," who took the show's title too literally and failed to give Mr. Fox's co-stars much to do. Melissa McCarthy's series "Mike & Molly" is doing a slow fade as "Mike" starts to bear more and more of a resemblance to "Mindy."

But "The Crazy Ones" has avoided that trap and developed into a warm, well-balanced workplace comedy, one that is the second most popular new show of the season, just behind its Thursday-night companion, "The Millers."

No one has benefited more than former "Buffy" star Sarah Michelle Gellar, who brings an engaging mix of frigidness and vulnerability to her role as Mr. Williams' TV daughter and business partner in a Chicago ad agency.

"I think we always knew we were just lucky to be in his presence and to get to play off him," Ms. Gellar said. "But I think automatically it sort of gelled that we were a team."

Not that Mr. Williams is always on his best behavior. …

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