Given the astronomical ratings of The Big Bang Theory, currently the most-watched scripted show on television, CBS could get decent ratings for the rest of Thursday night if they just ran a loop of old aspirin commercials from the 1950s. Y'know, the ones with the little animated jackhammers attacking a cartoon x-ray of the pounding skull of a man in a gray flannel suit.
Actually, now that I say that, that would be awesome. They should totally do that.
Sadly, it would be more entertaining than either of the new sitcoms CBS has currently scheduled for Thursday nights between The Big Bang Theory and the increasingly irrelevant Two and a Half Men. Both The Crazy Ones and The Millers have excellent casts and high-powered off-screen talent, and yet both are seriously hampered by terrible scripts and inconsistent characterization.
Look At Me, I'm Wonderful!
The Crazy Ones is a bizarrely self-indulgent trifle from David E. Kelley, who indulges all of his most irritatingly whimsical mannerisms on this tale of an aging Chicago ad executive. Speaking of whimsical mannerisms, Robin Williams returns to television for the first time in over thirty years as creative genius Simon Roberts, caught in a strange no-man's-land between the cocaine-fueled anarchy of his old stand-up persona and the icky sentimentality of his "serious" film roles. Sarah Michelle Gellar has the thankless role of his daughter and creative partner Sydney, an underwritten part that's supposed to serve as the buffer between Williams' antic riffing and the audience. But since she spends most of her screen time being exasperated by her dad's schtick, the audience also finds his tics obnoxious and tiring.
The genuinely talented Hamish Linklater is utterly wasted as the agency's art director; his sole memorable character trait is that he talks at the same time as Sydney, making both of them unintelligible, which I suspect we're supposed to find endearing and make us want the characters to hook up or something. James Wolk, last season's Mad Men breakout, plays a smarmy charmer who makes Bob Benson look the soul of office discretion. But by far the most annoying is Amanda Setton as Sydney's assistant. She's a likeable actor, whom you may remember from the early episodes of The Mindy Project, where she gamely did the best she could as the generic Jersey-girl receptionist before she was written out of the show. But her key scene in the pilot, where she offered to let Simon smell her hair because "the scent of a young woman's shampoo" is supposed to reinvigorate an older man, was Kelley at his creepy, patronizing worst. I mean, it was just really icky.
Congratulations, Dads, You're No Longer 2013's Worst Sitcom
Still, as annoying as it is, The Crazy Ones is still at least slightly better than The Millers. Creator and executive producer Greg Garcia is in danger of losing all the goodwill he got as the creator of My Name Is Earl and the genially charming Raising Hope with this formulaic tripe. With Will Arnett, Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges in the leads, the show has an immensely talented cast. But the by-the-numbers plot (local news reporter Nathan finally tells his bickering parents that he divorced his wife, which promptly causes his father to walk out on his mother after 43 years) is more suited to one of those tongue in cheek retro series that they're making on Nick At Nite. The quality of the writing is even worse: unrealistically sitcommy, with telegraphed jokes and obnoxiously broad characterizations. The enormously talented Martindale is stuck playing a shrill, intrusive mother, and as the clueless and accident-prone dad, Bridges gives Homer Simpson a run for the most too-stupid-to-be-alive character currently on TV. The always-appealing Jayma Mays, as Nathan's younger sister Debbie, comes closest to likeable, but she's nowhere near enough to save this mess.
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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.