It was after the third time Rob Riggle screamed GRONKOWSKI! during his ESPY monologue that I wonder, why hasn't Craig Robinson hosted this award show yet.
Robinson's a big sports fan and could effortlessly blend comedy and music in a way the show has not seen since Drake tried in 2014 and Jamie Foxx pulled off much more successfully when he hosted in 2004.
Robinson's star has been steadily rising and with his new prime time television show "Mr. Robinson," which premiered Aug. 5, this could be his breakout moment. After playing supporting roles in projects like The Office, and Pineapple Express, Mr. Robinson is a customized role made to showcase Craig's unique skill set.
Set in Chicago, Robinson's hometown, Mr. Robinson is a story about a part-time struggling musician, who occasionally teaches high school music to make ends meet. One night while Robinson performing with his band, Nasty Delicious, a beautiful face from his pass walks through the door. They talk and Craig learns that she is teaching at their old high school. From there Robinson hatches the plan to regain her affection and substitute teach at their school, which will also allow him to stack some cash. Those who point out that Mr. Robinson shares a similar premise as shows like Hanging with Mr. Copper and The Steve Harvey Show, are not off base. However, before Robinson launched a career in comedy he was in fact an up incoming musician that taught middle school music. That layer of authenticity is apart of what separates Mr. Robinson from just any another generic reboot.
Now there are some sitcom staples in the show for instance Brandon T. Jackson (Roll Bounce), plays Crag's brother and band mate, Ben. Ben is chocolate Ed Norton, consistently unreliable, harmful but only to himself and completely earnest. Since this show takes place in a school there has to be an overzealous Physical Education teacher. Benjamin Koldyke (Work It) as Jimmy Hooper is every T.V. gym teacher you have ever known right down to his John Stockton cut shorts. The last of the predictable pieces is socially awkward but academically advance science teacher Samir Panj played by Asif Ali.
It's understandable to chide against unoriginal programing, we live in an on demand media space, where we can re-watch our favorite shows with ease. Because of this evolving landscape I don't believe that unoriginality is an unforgivable new show sin. A great example of how familiar content can be revived in interesting ways is the work of recently passed legendary T.V. writer and director Bud Yorkin. Yorkin is best known for his collaborations with Norm Lear. Though Tandem Productions Yorkin and Lear created All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and Good Times, among other great shows. Thought all of these shows were groundbreaking none of them were original ideas. Both All in the Family and Sanford and Son are American versions of British Broadcasting Company (BBC) shows and Good Times was a spinoff from another Tandem Production, Maude. The genius that ran through all of these shows was how they paired traditional sitcomformats and injected them with rarely discussed topics allowing for nuance storytelling. I'm not suggesting through six episodes Mr. Robinson is walking in the footsteps of any of the great aforementioned Tandem Production shows but Mr. Robinson has a shot of being a really solid show.
Two major reasons why Mr. Robinson sticks out, one it features a great crop of talented young actors and women leads that are interestingly written. Together Deante Brown, Amandla Sternberg, Ethan Josh Lee and Francesa Maia look like a very well stage diversity picture from any college brochure. Imagery withstanding the four play Deandre, Halle, Quan and Maria, Mr. Robinson's main group of students. All of their portrayals convey the duality of adolescence life. At times miles ahead of the adult counterparts other times confused by the world they will inherit. Plus if Amandla is allowed to be half as dope in this show as she is in real life we are all in for a treat. The women of Mr. Robinson are complex and intricate. Megan Good (Think Like a Man) plays Victoria Wavers, former high school fame of Craig and current teacher. Good carries the twofold role of being the potential love interest as well as the moral center of the show. Thus far Good balanced both well in the introductory run, plus what Megan is doing to pencil skirts is worth of every participation sticker imaginable. Peri Gilpin(Frasier) and Spencer Grammer round out the cast as Principal Taylor and teacher Ashleigh Fellows. Principal Taylor love-hate relationship to Craig keeps him uncomfortably on his toes. Whereas Ashleigh, who is a part-time exotic dancer and real estate wiz brings a sweet, sultry, quirkiness that is indispensable.
This cast of characters, some patented, others unique, swirl around Robinson who can be at times self-serving and at time completely selfless. Onstage as the front man of Nasty Delicious he is the master of the universe, off it at times Robinson is the pie in the face court jesters and when needed a voice of reason. Mr. Robinson is Craig Robinson as leading man, confortable and in control. So if you are fond of shows where jokes are cyclical and resolutions are promised you should check out Mr. Robinson. It is steaming on Hulu or directly on NBC site.