Mr. Robinson greets you with a bawdy bear hug of good-natured naughty comedy courtesy of its effortlessly funny star, Hot Tub Time Machine’s Craig Robinson. We find him playing keyboards and crooning a double-entendre-laced ditty called “Chocolate Muffins” with his band, the Nasty Delicious. “I will mix your batter with my wooden spoon,” he sings. “When I say ‘preheat,’ you say ‘oven’/Preheat!/Oven!” Everyone plays along and laughs; so do we.
If Mr. Robinson were only moments like this, it might really cook. This six-episode set belongs to that tradition of TV laugher that tries to turn a comedian’s life (Robinson really does have a band called the Nasty Delicious) into a star vehicle with a sitcomish storytelling engine. At best, you get something inventive and transcendent like Seinfeld; at worst, you get something watery and forgettable like…um…oh, yeah! Mulaney. Mr. Robinson aspires to something like Welcome Back, Kotter—he takes a job teaching music at his old high school to earn cash and score with a fellow alum-turned-teacher (Meagan Good)—but the series lands somewhere close to…um…what was that show again?
Robinson, for his part, is loose and sharp and wise to the needs of a scene. He gives great banter, and his friendly persona warms everything stale about the storytelling. Yet “warms” isn’t the same as “freshens.” You’ve seen these stories before. The one about auditioning for a record exec. The one about saving the music program. The one where someone babysits a dog and it runs away. The few worthwhile themes are subverted by absurd, borderline-racist characterizations and ribald pop-culture-referencing dialogue that tries way too hard. Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson: You deserve better. C–