‘Mr. Robinson’ Is a Frustrating Waste of Craig Robinson’s Talents

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If you don’t want someone to watch a sitcom, a good idea might be to burn it off quickly and quietly, two episodes at a time, during the dog days of August. That’s what NBC is doing with Mr. Robinson, Craig Robinson’s long-overdue — and frustratingly dull — sitcom.

Robinson’s a great comedian and a stealthily funny actor, and occasionally steals scenes with just his delivery. But in Mr. Robinson, he’s mostly sleepwalking through cringeworthy dialogue and unfunny jokes, meandering around an overdone premise with no real stakes or originality. He plays a fictional version of himself — also named Craig Robinson — except instead of an actor/comedian, he’s a musician/substitute teacher.

Craig, who plays in a band called The Nasty Delicious alongside his brother (Brandon T. Jackson), is still harboring a crush on Victoria, the woman (Meagan Good) he stood up in high school. When he learns that she’s a teacher at a school, he takes on a substitute teaching gig and — surprise! — ends up staying there so he can help out a small classroom of multicultural students (by teaching them how to rhythmically bang on desks?) but also, of course, learning a little about himself in the process! And by making lots of terrible jokes, singing awful songs, and repeatedly hitting on the woman who shoots down his advances.

Predictably, there is a ragtag group of teachers who all shoot the shit in the teacher’s lounge: principal Christine (Peri Gilpin) who just hits on Craig (usually with references to his race), math teacher Ashleigh (Spencer Grammer) who moonlights as a stripper and mentions this approximately every single time she talks, and P.E. teacher Jimmy (Ben Koldyke) who is just plain unbearable. The plots are just as superficial: Craig wonders if he should stay, someone loses a dog while dog-sitting, the students (including Amandla Stenberg) weirdly help Craig try to win over Victoria, the students sing awful pop songs (yep, “Uptown Funk” makes an appearance), and Craig continues to wonder if he should stay.

There is definitely room on television for a good, funny sitcom about teaching — there’s a wealth of material in that profession — but so far, TV hasn’t had much luck considering neither last year’s Bad Teacher and 2006’s Teachers were both canceled quickly. Mr. Robinson continues this bland trend, offering up nothing but stock sitcom plots and one-dimensional characters. At least it will get canceled and set Craig Robinson free to pursue a better sitcom.