'Running Wilde' Review: They've Made A Huge Mistake
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Tonight FOX debuts Running Wilde, one of the most anticipated new comedies of the fall season. Running Wilde is the brainchild of: Will Arnett, Mitch Hurowitz and Jim Vallely, all of Arrested Development fame. A comedy with that pedigree seems like a sure fire hit, right? Unfortunately, Running Wilde leaves a lot to be desired. So what went wrong?
As much as it pains me to say this (because I've always liked the guy and keep in mind I have only seen the pilot), Will Arnett may not be a leading man. A little Arnett goes a long way, and so far it has worked out wonderfully for him. He seems to be an in demand guest star for any buzzed about comedy that is looking for some cred. Running Wilde is Arnett's first attempt at leading man status (in a TV show), and so far the results are mixed. In Running Wilde, Arnett is playing a variation on his 30 Rock character Devon Banks, which is a variation on his Arrested Development character Gob, which I can only believe is a variation of Arnett himself. But in previous shows Arnett was not the lead character, and therefore wasn't around enough to wear on the viewer. Do you really want to sit through 22 minutes of Arnett's trademarked gravely whisper? So far Arnett has really only shown us one type of character: the overly confident (but secretly insecure), yet considerably dim, rich snob. Steven Wilde isn't much different.
Arnett plays Steven Wilde, a filthy rich man-child, who is the son of an oil tycoon. Steven has spent his life in the bubble of the rich and famous his entire life. His every whim has been catered to by his boundary-crossing butler Mr. Lunt (played creepily by Robert Michael Morris). His closest friends are paid employees like Migo (Mel Rodriguez) or other rich men who are too wealthy to know how to lie; like his neighbor Fa'ad (Peter Serafinowicz). The only dose of reality he ever got was from his childhood sweetheart, and best friend, Emmy Hadubic (Keri Russell). Emmy is the daughter of a former housekeeper whose well intentioned do-goodery, and persistence to change Steven into a better person, may have lead to her mother being fired. Emmy never got a chance to show Steven the light ... Until now.
For reasons that only happen in sitcoms, Emmy and her daughter Puddle (Stefania Owen) decide to leave the Amazon rain forest, and shift their attention to the reformation of Steven. Emmy wants to finish what she started with Steven, but not in a romantic way. No, Emmy is dating Andy (David Cross) a fellow treehugger with a nasty boondoogle hanging from his beard. But Andy better watch out because Steven is definitely hot on Emmy's trail. Emmy wants to teach Steven to "do good, for nothing," and Steven wants to be the man that Emmy knows he can become.
Running Wilde does boast a pretty impressive cast. Keri Russell who plays Emmy is as likable as always, but her character seems a little too one note. This show could get tired quickly if her only reason for being on the show is to make Steven a better man. In the episodes to come I want to see more of Emmy's development. Stefania Owen, who plays Emmy's daughter Puddle, is very charming and witty, and will certainly remind most viewers of Arrested Development's Maeby Funke. David Cross isn't in the pilot enough for me to have a strong opinion on his performance but it was nice having him around. The real standout for me is Mel Rodriguez who plays the tortured Migo. He has an understated presence that really shines among all the broad comedy.
Even though I was less than thrilled with the pilot, I haven't given up on Running Wilde just yet. I plan to hang in there long enough to see if the show will course correct. But as for now I am sad to report that in the case of Running Wilde, it appears that the parts are greater than the sum.
(Image courtesy of FOX)