'Mr. Robinson' fails to recreate NBC comedy
Remember when NBC used to be a bastion of comedic greatness? Not too long ago shows like “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Community” and “Parks and Recreation” all aired on the Peacock Network, on the same night. Now with all those programs gone, viewers are left with shows like “Mr. Robinson.”
“Mr. Robinson” lacks any semblance of effort within its first two episodes. It’s the kind of show that needs to resort to naming its central character after its main star (Craig Robinson, “The Office”) in a half-assed attempt to emulate greater comedies like “Seinfeld” in name only, without any of the great writing and introspection.
Featuring Robinson as a fictional, Chicago funk band leading version of himself “Mr. Robinson” finds its protagonist entering the world of high school music education to impress his former high school sweetheart, Victoria (Meagan Good, “Think Like a Man Too”), who happens to be an English teacher at their old school. While the role draws from Robinson’s actual past as an elementary school music teacher, “Mr. Robinson” fails at making Craig Robinson the comedian relate to Craig Robinson the character in any meaningful way. There are hints of a mid-life crisis but the show never explores its character’s personal struggles well enough to create any form of comedic or emotional payoff. Furthermore, Robinson feels replaceable as himself. While shows like “Louie” utilize on the intertwined nature between their namesake star and character, “Mr. Robinson,” is so shallow it makes everyone involved feel interchangeable.
Such is the case with the shows lazy use of stereotypes to round out its cast. There’s Samir (Asif Ali, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”), the Indian chemistry and physics teacher, who spends the second episode trying to make a beef substitute in order to challenge his brother known as “The Curry King.” Joining Samir as poorly written cutouts is Jimmy Hooper (Benjamin Koldyke, “Work It”), the dumb jock P.E. teacher, and Craig’s brother Ben (Brandon T. Jackson, “Tropic Thunder”), a black musician who happens to be bad with money. Unoriginal at best and occasionally offensive at worst these characters are retreads of already worn out tropes.
Even worse is “Mr. Robinson” ’s lack of understanding towards the actual profession of teaching. In a cultural climate that seems to continuously look down on those who take the responsibility of developing today’s youth, “Mr. Robinson” serves to emphasize the growing misconceptions about educators. Math teacher Ashleigh (Spencer Grammer, “Rick and Morty”) is not only a teacher but also simultaneously a stripper who flips houses. Because if there are two professions known for making that kind of money its teaching and stripping.
But this emphasizes “Mr. Robinson” ’s biggest issue in regards to teachers: how few of the teachers actually seem to care about teaching. The show continuously paints the career as a fallback plan for those whose dreams are deferred. Hooper is a burnt out former professional tennis player and Samir is seen as a disappointment who needs to grow beyond the confines of his career. Ironically Craig, a man who substitutes for extra cash and attempts to use his position to basically stalk a woman, is one of the few characters to show any passion towards the job. Albeit that passion manifests itself in showing kids the power of music by having them perform Iggy Azalea, but at least the intentions are good. No character says teaching was what they wanted to do with their life, tossing aside the years of effort many put into studying education and instead making teaching look like a side career for those of higher ambitions or a last stop for has-beens.
On top of that, the show just isn’t funny, reaching for the lowest hanging fruit and still coming up short. Take note everyone, saying a student drew a picture of a penis on his test doesn’t count as a joke. Also do not open with a song called “Chocolate Muffins” that is obviously a rip-off of the much funnier double-entendre filled “Chocolate Salty Balls” of “South Park” fame.
“Mr. Robinson” is a failing grade on screen for lack of effort, poor performance and an insulting disregard for its subject matter. These faults aren’t correctable by just detention. Reviewer recommends “Mr. Robinson” be expelled from the airwaves of NBC posthaste.