30 years after 'Mork,' Robin Williams brings 'The Crazy Ones' to TV | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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30 years after 'Mork,' Robin Williams brings 'The Crazy Ones' to TV

Actor Robin Williams participates in "The Crazy Ones" panel at the CBS Summer TCA on Monday, July 29, 2013, at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
July 30, 2013 - 8:32 AM

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Want to make Robin Williams laugh? Call him a Sad Clown.

That's what one critic did Monday on CBS's Television Critics Association press tour presentation for "The Crazy Ones." The fall comedy stars Williams as the head of an ad agency with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" star Sarah Michelle Gellar playing his daughter and business partner. James Wolk ("Mad Men") is also part of the ensemble.

Responding to a comment from a critic that there are sweet, poignant moments on the show — setting up the "Sad Clown" remark — Williams did a whole wacky bit on being a sad clown, jumping out of his seat, causing his lapel mike to become un-tethered. He wondered what it would be like waking up next to a sad clown: "Oh, my God, what are those big feet doing in my bed?!"

It was the kind of funny business reporters and fans have come to expect from Williams. There are flashes of the same free spirited antics in the pilot, although David E. Kelley — an unlikely showrunner — says Williams can stick to a script, too.

"He says my words perfectly — then he uses his," says Kelley.

The former "Ally McBeal" and "Boston Legal" showrunner says writing for an old pro like Williams was intimidating: "I feel like I've been handed the keys to a car that I am ill-equipped to drive."

Kelley says an actual ad executive approached him with the idea for the show several years ago. He says it's basically about "this iconic, crazy advertising genius and his relationship with his daughter."

The pilot episode shows Williams' and Gellar's father-daughter characters trying to pitch a new ad for McDonald's. The fast food giant gets plenty of plugs throughout the half hour, but the producers insist there was no payment for embedding the Mc-references.

"But if you look under your chair there's a Happy Meal," cracked Williams.

The 62-year-old funnyman burst to fame in 1978 after being cast as a comedic alien in the ABC series "Mork & Mindy." He praised his co-star from those days, Pam Dawber, for her ability to play straight woman to his insanity.

"Pam held the line for me. She was incredible, which allowed me to be as outrageous as I was."

After the formal press conference, Williams was asked about how TV and comedy has changed since those "Mork & Mindy" days. That show "started out real playful, then eventually, it just burned out," he said. These new shows "can't just be about riffing."

The culture seems to have sped up, too, matching, in some ways, Williams' frenetic style. Even he has trouble spitting out all those rat-tat-tat references before they become stale. Williams told an Anthony Weiner joke during the session, for example, and then wondered aloud whether Weiner jokes were already last week's news.

He came up with a variation of Andy Warhol's old line" "In the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes," changing it to, "in the future, everybody will have their own TV network."

Gellar says while it can be intimidating working opposite a famous comedian like Williams, "he cares almost more about making everybody else's stuff work everybody else feel comfortable."

Williams says he shares a lot of back story with his character, "like rehab, divorce, and all that stuff."

He expects the character of his ex-wife will be introduced in later episodes.

"He's had an interesting life, to say the least, you know, just like myself. I went to rehab in wine country just to keep my options open."

Asked what made him happy these days, Williams turned serious, citing his family, work and being around creative people.

"And riding my bike is one of my happiest moments."

He married his third wife, graphic designer Susan Schneider, in 2011 and has three grown children in real life.

"They were always the toughest audience of all," says Williams, who sees Gellar's character as a combination of his oldest son and daughter, "understanding, but at the same time, tough."

Besides "The Crazy Ones," which will air Thursday nights this fall on CBS and City, Williams has two films coming out, including a holiday feature opposite Joel McHale and Lauren Graham entitled, "A Friggin' Christmas."

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Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist whose home base is Brampton, Ont.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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