Friday, May 30, 2014

The Crazy Ones 1x02 "The Spectacular" (How to Fail Spectacularly)

"The Spectacular"
Original Airdate: October 3, 2013

I don’t like failure.

I am a type-A perfectionist who always expects herself to be the best. In grade school all the way up through my junior year of college, I never received lower than a B on a report card. The only C I have ever received in my life was in a college Economics class. See, I don’t just strive not to fail; I strive to not come anywhere CLOSE to failure. Grades are quantifiable successes and failures. I’ve failed in other aspects of my life, of course. I’ve failed to make the correct decisions or do an assignment when I should or spend my time well. But I’m like Sydney Roberts, really, because I’m much more comfortable when I don’t take risks. I enjoy routines and things that are safe and predictable. I’m not great at “winging it” or being impulsive. What Simon teaches his daughter throughout the episode, however, is that it is one thing to fail but it is another to limit yourself and your potential. Elsewhere in “The Spectacular,” Zach and Andrew butt heads when Simon decides to try and reach out to the latter.

But before we discuss the importance of realizing you ARE capable and special and talented even if you fail (a message worth hearing, might I add), let’s discuss the plot of the episode, shall we?

“The Spectacular” opens with Simon, Andrew, and Zach at a photo shoot with models. It doesn’t take long for the audience of The Crazy Ones to understand something: Zach and Simon REALLY get along and Simon likes Zach. Why, per se, does the man tend to take to Zach more than Andrew? Well, Zach is outspoken. He’s suave and charming. He’s a go-getter who can be egotistical in both a good and a bad way. Simon is drawn to that personality type for two reasons: a) it exudes confidence, and b) it reminds him of himself. And because Simon tends to take to Zach and Zach tends to take to the spotlight, Andrew often gets overlooked by his boss.

Something within Andrew seems to snap this week, but he’s not the type of employee to complain or draw attention to his jealousy. So Andrew feigns indifference throughout most of the episode regarding Simon’s favoritism of Zach. Meanwhile, Simon is concentrating on his pro bono project of raising ducklings to place back into a recently environmentally rehabilitated pond. Sydney isn’t thrilled with the project but she’s even less thrilled with her father’s disinterest in her coffee campaign.

Simon and Sydney are polar opposites – she thinks before she makes even the most miniscule move; he leaps without thinking of the consequences. They need one another to form a balance and if the pilot proved that Sydney is Simon’s net when he leaps, then “The Spectacular” proves that Simon sees greatness in Sydney that even SHE cannot see. The advice that he gives her regarding the safe, reliable, and boring coffee campaign is quite similar to the advice Walt Miller gave Nick in New Girl: the best things in life, both fathers said, stem from taking risks. Simon knows that there is greatness and genius in Sydney but she squanders her gifts by refusing to use them. He makes a great point, you know.

To his credit, Zach tries to convince Simon that Andrew deserves recognition and credit due to the work he puts into their campaigns. Simon is confused and Andrew is embarrassed, but Zach is relentless: HE is the one constantly getting the glory and praise from Simon and perhaps it is time that Andrew receive something in return. This idea is a seed planted in Simon’s mind that will grow throughout the episode and will cause Zach to slightly regret the emphasis he placed on Andrew’s lack of praise. Simon is apologetic for the way he treated Andrew, which I think is actually a great character trait of Simon’s: he may be over-the-top but he aims to treat his employees with respect, as equals, and doesn’t desire for someone on the team to feel less valued than anyone else.

In the pitch with Windy City Coffee, Sydney proposes her good and safe and technically not WRONG idea for bus ads for the company. Simon interjects and proposes that they do a “spectacular” instead. When the client’s interest is piqued, Sydney has no choice but to agree to deliver the most inventive and creative ad campaign she ever has. And she blames her father for making her do this. She confronts him after the meeting, insisting that she doesn’t DO spectacular – she does reliable and dependable. What’s so interesting about Sydney’s character is that it would be easy to brush her aside as a type-A perfectionist. But what “The Spectacular” reveals is that Sydney is insecure. Reliable and dependable and safe? Those are words Sydney associates not just with her ideas but with herself. She thinks that being understated and simple is all she can be. And what Simon reveals to her when he forces her to think bigger is this: she can be anything and she can do anything and she needs to stop placing labels on herself and turning those labels into limitations.

(Elsewhere, Simon is still feeling guilty for how he’s unintentionally treated Andrew and asks Zach for ideas on how he can show Andrew that he truly cares about him as an employee. When Simon suggests the idea of Andrew helping raise the ducklings, Zach shoves the time-consuming and seemingly unrewarding project onto his partner. He quickly gets jealous when he realizes that the project at the pond isn’t just a pro bono one but something actually important to Simon, meaning that it is important that Andrew is a part of it. Zach gets a teensy bit jealous at their bonding.)

Sydney has finally cracked an idea for the spectacular and begrudgingly admits that her father was right: she IS creative and CAN think of great ideas and push her limits, but she’s not super thrilled about the discovery because it means that she now knows she has potential and it will always be there, begging her to live up to it. The idea is simple in theory – a giant optical illusion of a coffee pot pouring coffee into a cup in the city that will be three stories tall. The spectacular takes place in the plaza and all goes well – people are enjoying the giant optical illusion full of hot coffee while also enjoying partaking in Windy City Coffee’s coffee and free scones. The only thing that could possibly ruin the day is wind.

And, unfortunately, since Sydney forgot a wind guard and they’re all in Chicago, things go from precious to catastrophic in no time at all. People flee as the coffee from the three-story spectacular begins to rain down on them and blow all over the place. Suddenly Sydney’s first step out of the box is looking to be her last. It would be easy to have Sydney quit and return to her stable, safe, boring way of conducting her advertising. It would be expected, even. And though Sydney is dejected at her massive failure, she manages to quickly learn a lesson from her father about the word. Failure, as he explains, is not an end-all-be-all, but rather an opportunity. It is then that he explains to his team that the reason he’s so invested in the pond is because one of his greatest “spectacular” failures occurred there. In the 80s, he advertised Pop Rocks by filling the pond with them. Instead of a cute fizzle, he got an explosion that demolished a whole lot of fish in the pond and a lot of the pond itself.

The point of Simon’s story and the point of Sydney’s failure was not to dissuade anyone from trying something spectacular because of the fear of failure. No, much like Pierce Hawthorne in Community, Simon Roberts notes that failure isn’t something to be afraid of. In fact, failure means that you are doing something right – you are being bold and you are trying; you’re LIVING. And that is all he really wanted Sydney to understand. Now, with an angry client, the team decides to spin their failure into success. It’s a beautiful and teachable moment for Sydney and for us.

She recognizes the fact that it is okay to try and it is more than okay to fail in a spectacularly large way. What isn’t okay, however, is wallowing in the failure or returning to the preconceived notions of yourself. It’ not okay to box yourself in and believe you are incapable of great success. Instead of seeing failure as a dead end, “The Spectacular” encourages us to see it as a tool that can be utilized to blow up the seeming dead end and forge a new path.

Quite frankly, that’s a message worth listening to.

And now, some added bonuses:
  • “If I get a jacket, it’s like we both get a jacket.” “… But only you got a jacket.”
  • “Can I get a straight answer?” “No, but you can get a gay one because ducks are FABULOUS.”
  • “… Maybe I like him more on a subconscious level.”
  • “Oh that’s clever how they used the word against you.”
  • The entire storyline with Andrew and the ducklings is fantastic. In the end, the ducklings imprint on him and will not go into the pond without him leading the way. It’s adorable.
  • Sydney spins the chaos of the coffee spectacular into a horror movie trailer for the chain and it’s a fantastic idea.
  • “Release the quakans!”
  • “How long can we make this riff go? Until the end of time!”
Thank you all for participating in #SummerRewatch! Next week we spend a lot of time talking about burritos as we re-watch “The Breakfast Burrito Club.” Until then, folks! :)


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