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Thursday, August 6, 2015

PILOT REVIEW: Mr. Robinson


Starring: Craig Robinson, Ben Koldyke, Brandon T. Jackson, Spencer Grammer, Amandla Stenberg, and Peri Gilpin

Created by Owen Ellickson, Developed by Robb Cullen and Mark Cullen
Written by Robb Cullen & Mark Cullen, Directed by Andy Ackerman

Mr. Robinson is a long-delayed sitcom that's getting the "burn-off" treatment by NBC by airing six episodes in three weeks in August. It centers on Craig Robinson (name of both actor and character). The character is a struggling Chicago musician who takes a temporary job as a music teacher at his old high school to try to hook up with an old friend, now an English teacher (Meagan Good). Most of the main characters are the other teachers, a lame gym teacher who nicknamed himself "Magnum PE," Jimmy Hooper (Ben Koldyke), a math teacher who strips on the weekend, Ashleigh Fellows (Spencer Grammer), and the no-nonsense principal with a wild past, Eileen Taylor (Peri Gilpin). Rounding out the main cast is Craig's brother and bandmate, Ben (Brandon T. Jackson), and one of his students, Halle (Amandla Stenberg).

This show is such a colossal waste of talent and it further perpetuates the stereotype of multi-camera sitcoms being stuck in the past. This feels more like a TV Land sitcom than a broadcast network sitcom. Everything feels so incredibly dated and/or lame. A gym teacher who regularly makes a Magnum P.I. reference? Students who routinely talk about google or twitter just to show their tech abilities? I am around teenagers a lot and they do not talk like that.

The show tried to do all the things school shows or movies always try to do: an unconventional teacher getting his kids to really care. This has worked well in movies like Dead Poets Society but it didn't work here at all partly because everything felt so rushed. Craig had no problem getting the kids on board. In fact, he barely had any resistance as he taught them a vocal version of the song "Fancy." The pilot's climax was an attempt at a very sweet moment which re-created the 1994 prom to Janet Jackson's "Escapade" and for me, it did not come off at all the way it was intended. I think that's because everything felt so rushed and the writing and acting were so off, that it didn't seem sweet at all. It just kind of led to a shrug from me.

I didn't even get to the horrible jokes featuring Peri Gilpin that referenced both Notorious B.I.G. and Diddy. When you have people like Robinson and Gilpin, who were fantastic on The Office and Frasier, you know this show can do better. The writing is just so pathetically lame and it's clear that those writing have no idea how teachers or teenagers talk. It was a good concept with a good cast but the execution is just terrible.

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