ABC Television Network
It's been a rough year for freshmen comedies. Despite critical raves, loyal-but-tiny fanbases, and heavily orchestrated Twitter campaigns, we lost a lot of potentially great series this year. Trophy Wife showed us a new kind of TV family, but may have been crippled by its ironic title from the start. Enlisted won the hearts of its few viewers and the support of the U.S. military, but couldn't overcome a weak timeslot and wonky scheduling. And despite an A-list star in Robin Williams, advertising comedy The Crazy Ones never found its audience. But while we've had to say our farewells to these shows, we don't have to wave goodbye forever to the comic talents they introduced us to. Here are a few of this season's breakout stars who we know have illustrious careers in their future.
Parker Young, Enlisted
We're always surprised to find that someone so chiseled can be as funny as Parker Young is in Enlisted's first and only season. As sweet and sincere baby brother Randy, Young tempered the swagger and sarcasm of older siblings Pete and Derrick and brought some serious heart to the show. Before booking the military comedy and a role on the slightly longer lasting but also canceled Suburgatory, the actor's credits consisted of guest spots here and there and — obviously — several modeling gigs. Now that the world knows he's not just a pretty face, we're hoping for big things from Parker.
Albert Tsai and Michaela Watkins, Trophy Wife
If Trophy Wife left us with one gift, it was that of little Albert Tsai, who has the timing aspiring comics would chop arms off for. Bert worked in conjunction with any and every other character on that show, but we're especially fond of his scenes with loopy mom Jackie. Michaela Watkins isn't exactly a Hollywood newbie, but Trophy Wife reintroduced her to some viewers who hadn't seen her regularly since her single season as a SNL cast member. Watkins got to deliver some of the show's finest one liners ("Wait. Robert Downey had a son?") and we're dying to see her back on our TVs soon.
James Wolk and Hamish Linklater, The Crazy Ones
Wolk is no stranger to Mad Men fans, who know him as the mysterious (and, as of late, heartbreaking) Bob Benson. And Linklater is a veteran stage actor who also played a significant role in The Newsroom's second season. But The Crazy Ones got us to fall in love with the two of them together, and we just can't let go. Zach Cropper and Andrew Keanelly — or Zandrew, if you will — had a bromance that, given time, would have rivaled that of even Turk and J.D. Wolk and Linklater are both skilled actors in their own right, but we can no longer imagine them apart. Thanks, CBS.
FOX Broadcasting Co.
The general consensus on The Crazy Ones is that the show is all right. It's okay. It's not bad. The issue with those statements is that the show — created by David E. Kelley and starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar — has the components to be more than that. Robin Williams! Buffy! The guy who created Ally McBeal and Picket Fences! Having a group that talented working on a project should equal more than a collective shoulder shrug from the viewing audience. Basically, the outtakes that run over the end credits shouldn't be the funniest part of the show.
Luckily, the show is only halfway through its first season so there's still time for it to grow and realize its unfulfilled potential. The key for all involved is to get a little crazier. By embracing the cray-cray, Kelley could have something special instead of something merely pleasant.
Set Robin Free
Williams' character in the show, advertising executive Simon Roberts, is supposed to be a little bit like the real-life older and wiser actor. But there's no reason that Simon has to adhere that closely to the Williams of recent years' responsible lifestyle. Williams is at his best when he's manic, not when he's reserved. Simon needs to be put in situations where Williams can be unleashed and bounce around. Neither Kelley nor Williams have to sacrifice the gravitas entirely… the show just needs more Good Morning, Vietnam, and less Patch Adams.
Buffy Meets Ally
Gellar as Simon's daughter Sydney is your run-of-the-mill stick in the mud. She's boring, and that's boring to watch. Kelley needs look no further than his own creative background to find the answer. The show might need Gellar to play the straight arrow center but that doesn't mean that she has to be dull. Spike in a little of Ally McBeal's whimsy and see what happens. Having her become obsessed with a video game was a good start, but there needs to be more of that. After all, she's supposed to be Robin Williams' daughter… how stiff could she possibly be?
Bring in New Playmates
It genuinely seems like Williams likes his young cast mates. It also seems like he's stuck being the old man and that's not fun. While it's not perfect, Williams perks up when Brad Garrett shows up occasionally as his business partner. Now, Williams needs a friend or two at his own level to come play with him. Having Pam Dawber, the former Mindy to Williams' Mork, guest star is cute, but she's not really a comedy equal. Bobcat Goldthwait, Christine Baranski, Nathan Lane, Martin Short, Bill Irwin, Bonnie Hunt… there are a number of former costars or friends that could pop in and provide a spark for Williams. (Just as long as none of them are named Billy Crystal.)
Lose the Romance, Increase the Bromance
The show's supporting players — Hamish Linklater, James Wolk, and Amanda Setton — have proven to be more than capable, but the romantic subplots bog things down. Linklater's Andrew has a crush on Sydney. Wolk's Zach and Setton's Lauren are friends with benefits. None of it really works. If there are to be love interests, let them come from outside of the ensemble, but it needs to stop hindering workplace comedy. What does work, however, is the byplay between Linklater and Wolk, especially when Williams is involved. Whether he's working with them or playing them against each other, Williams' appears to have the most fun when he plays scenes with the two young guys. If storylines that pair Williams with his male counterparts helps him unleash his id, do more of it. After all, when it comes to The Crazy Ones, the crazier the better.
When you're in high school it feels like the whole world is against you. In writer/director Stephen Chbosky's high school-set The Perks of Being a Wallflower the whole world may actually be against Charlie (Logan Lerman) whose freshman year of high school should be listed in the dictionary under "Murphy's Law." Plagued by memories of two significant deaths as well as general social anxiety Charlie takes a passive approach to ninth grade. A few days of general bullying later he falls into a friendship with two misfit seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) who teach him how to live life without fear. Perks starts off with a disadvantage: introverts aren't terribly engaging but Chbosky surrounds Charlie with a vivid cast of characters who help him blossom and inject the coming-of-age tale with a necessary energy.
Set in a timeless version of the '90s Charlie's world is full of handwritten journals mixtapes and a just-tolerable amount of tweed. He writes letters to a nameless recipient as a way of venting a preventative measure to keep the teen from repeating a vague incident that previously left him hospitalized. The drab background of Pittsburgh fits perfectly with Charlie's blank existence. And when he finally comes to life as part of Patrick and Sam's off-beat clique so does the city. Like the archaic vinyl records Sam lusters over (The Smiths of course!) Chbosky visualizes Charlie's journey through the underbelly of suburban Pennsylvania with a raw emotion blooming lights and film grit at every turn. Michael Brook's score and an adeptly curated soundtrack accompanies the episodic affair which centers on Charlie's search for a song he hears during the most important moment of his life.
The charm that keeps The Perks of Being a Wallflower from collapsing under its own super seriousness come from Chbosky's perfectly cast ensemble. Lerman has a thankless job playing Charlie; often constrained to a half-smile and shy shrug Lerman is never allowed to grapple with Charlie's greatest fears and problems until (too) late in the film. Watson nails the spunky object-of-everyone's-affection but she's outshined by Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth another rebellious friend in the pack who takes a liking to Charlie. The real star turn is Miller riding high from We Need to Talk About Kevin and taking a complete 180 with Patrick a rambunctious wiseass who struggles to have an openly gay relationship with the football captain but covers his pain with humor. A scene of confrontation — at where else the cafeteria — is one of the best scenes of the year.
Chbosky adapted Perks of Being a Wallflower from his own book and the movie feels stifled by a looming structure. But it nails the emotional beats — there is no obvious path to surviving high school. It's messy shocking and occasionally beautiful. That about sums up Perks.