Running Wilde

New TV Week continues with the premiere of Running Wilde, the new FOX sitcom starring Will Arnett and Keri Russell (and also Peter Serafinowicz, and also a cameo at least in the premiere from David Cross) developed by Mitch Hurwitz. So, basically, the new Arrested Development. Kind of. I mean, no. It’s not. Obviously. But if you watched it last night, I think we can agree that it does have the same feel to it. Not just because of the casting, but also the saturated colors, and the rapid-fire jokes, and the absurd visual humor, and the use of a narrator. So it’s not like the similarities aren’t there. Just like when everyone compares The Event to Lost even though they are very different because they involve plane crashes and tropical islands and mysteries. It makes sense. Anyway: this show. Not bad! Not great! Not bad, though! It’s got some good laughs in it, and I can usually watch Will Arnett be a jerk about the phone book and enjoy it. With comedies in general, tearing too much into the pilot always seems like a waste of time. There are certainly exceptions to the rule (Eastbound and Down, The Office UK, Arrested Development) where a comedy hits the ground running HARD, but usually it takes some time. Personally, for example, the first time I watched 30 Rock I thought it was OK but didn’t really understand who was going to want to watch a TV show about writers on a TV show. That’s like watching paint dry on paint. (And, admittedly, based on the ratings–despite the critical success–it appears NOT THAT MANY PEOPLE want to watch a show about writers on a show. YA ZINGT!) But 30 Rock is great, duh. And Running Wilde could become great, too.

However, the show does seem to have one major problem that might be impossible to resolve.

Uh, being rich is awesome?

You see, the central premise of the show is that Will Arnett is a miserable billionaire playboy who finds no satisfaction in life because money can’t buy happiness (said the person with so much money) and he long ago lost the girl of his dreams. That girl is played by Keri Russell, who has dedicated her life to supporting LIBERAL causes and lives in the jungle with her hippie boyfriend (David Cross) and daughter, Puddle. (SIDENOTE: good name. Seriously. LOL.) Through some kind of sitcom machination, she comes back, reunites with Will Arnett, finds herself simultaneously attracted and repulsed by him, decides to leave again, but is eventually convinced to live in a tree house on his estate, because she’s a regular Julia Butterfly, and now we have our basic premise for the rest of the show.

Both of these characters are broad caricatures with an equal number of shallow signifiers, but they’re not equally interesting. While there is something funny about the functionally retarded alcoholic louche born with a silver foot in his mouth, there’s nothing particularly funny about the over-earnest scold. Keri Russell’s character is there to represent the audience’s moral center in the face of the absurdist egomania of Will Arnett, but it kind of makes the audience feel bad about itself, because maybe the audience needs to lighten up and take a joke. At the very least, the audience needs to pull the splintery stick out of its vagina. (Not to mention the part where, as a viewer who actually believes in the human value of liberal politics, these broad swept caricatures are often kind of insulting because they imply that wanting to help people or make the world a better place is for frigid, naive assholes who can’t hold their liquor, or whatever.)

But none of this is the central problem. The central problem is that in the conflict between Money vs. Morality, MONEY WINS EVERY TIME. We all know this. It is just more pleasurable, and pleasure, like water in the Amazon, always finds its level. It doesn’t have anything to do with value systems or priorities or emotions or heart. It would be one thing if Keri Russell had always LOATHED Will Arnett (although, if hundreds of years of romantic comedies have taught us anything, even that is a battle she will eventually lose), but the fact that he is basically the love of her life but just happens to be a cog in the giant social wheels against which she is fighting suggests that the dramatic tension of their relationship is going to wear thin as soon as she discovers that the jacuzzi is bubbling with her favorite champagne.

Hopefully, the show will just move out of this. There are so many talented people involved, and so much promise, that it would be a shame for it to fail just because of a fundamentally flawed premise. Plenty of shows have abandoned in part, if not completely, their original concepts. Haven’t they? Haha. I just made that up. I have no idea if that is true. It sounds true, though, right?

In closing: huh? (Also: you can watch the full pilot episode of Running Wilde here.)

Comments (48)
  1. this article offends me as a frigid, naive asshole who can’t hold his liquor, or whatever.

  2. My biggest concern was that they’re trying too much to play on the Arrested Development angle. Similar humor and styles are okay, but having the narrator make reference to Will Arnett’s character make a “huge mistake” is a bit much.

  3. The really big question here is, who is going to see the new 3D Wes Craven joint?!

  4. I pretty much agree with every word you’ve written here. Except maybe “cog” in the next to last full paragraph. That’s bullshit, Gabe.

  5. As long as Keri Russell doesn’t ruin the it by cutting her hair, I’m sure this will become a great show. (I am not sure.)

    • I’m excited for the plot-line where Keri Russell starts time-traveling!

      • I fully expect Keri Russell to present her character as a strong female presence early amongst a male-heavy cast, though by season 3, her indecisiveness between the two male leads (one a principled giver, the other, a roughish bad-boy) will become stale. Her strength of character will then quickly devolve into “feminist” platitudes until, by season 6, we will be begging Undead Peter Serafinowicz to just go ahead and fucking shoot her already!

  6. I could watch Will Arnett watching paint dry on paint. Doesn’t matter what the man is doing, he is hilarious.

  7. I didn’t really like the narrator being the little girl. I guess I just hate having someone younger than me tell me what is up.

  8. I thought it was “fine”- my code word for “I EXPECTED BETTER”- but the girl playing Puddle was god damned awesome. The quick pan to her with an entire cupcake in her mouth was possibly my favorite moment in the show. But yeah, it, uh….I hope it moves past the premise, because I don’t see that chestnut working for very long.
    So last night my lady friend was watching “Glee”, and I wanted to watch this, and in between was that “Raising Hope” show, which was….funny? Good? I liked it? Maybe I was just whacked out on endorphins because of the surprise caused by a show with a “VERBING NOUN” title not just being awful from the get go, but I thought the show itself was pretty damn good. SURPRISE HIT.

    • “The doodler is back!” –slightly inaccurate quote that I half remember

    • I liked Raising Hope too! It was a solid pilot. I kind of liked it more than Running Wilde in straight pilot-to-pilot comparison. I’m excited to see how that whole evening of Fox programming shakes out. It could be a solid Tuesday night for me. (Because I’m also a lady friend who watches Glee and god damn it, I can’t quit that show)

      • I lay the blame at my ladyfriend’s feet, but when it’s on I do watch and enjoy Glee- although I actually like the recaps more. I like it enough that I get mad at it, because of the things that the recaps refer to as “because Glee”- the places where things feel strained and inorganic because of the needs of the show. Like, there is no reason why anyone should like Rachel. She is a horrible monster woman. She is the worst ever. She should be kicked out of the club, because she’s the worst, and every episode seems to be mainly about her doing terrible things and then half-heartedly making amends for them. I get that it is a fictional show, and so these terrible things are over the top- that’s why it’s funny that she sent someone to a disused crackhouse, not horrifying. But the end result- she drove a new singer into the arms of the enemy- is something she should get kicked out for. I mean, Finn at the end is like, “THEY’LL GET OVER IT IN TIME,” and it’s like….why would they? Why would they need to get over your 1000th huge fuck up? Why wouldn’t they drive you from the town, with torches, and pitchforks?

        ANYWAY.

    • this guy likes little girls. internet police, arrest this man.

      • Bukowski calling out Burroughs ! – Barfly vs Junky ! – Whatta literary beef.
        Only one way to sort this out – FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

  9. I’m going to try to stop being so surprised when people outside of Texas know who Ann Richards was. 
    Anyway. 

    http://j.mp/az4vt1

  10. I really dug the Arrested Development callback: “Steven began to wonder if he’d made a huge mistake.”

  11. Sit Down, Shut Up started out pretty bad, and eventually got REALLY GOOD (season two was great).
    I think I laughed enough to hope for more. I think it could develop into one of my favorites… that is, if it doesn’t get canceled first.

  12. I don’t want to like this because Fox will break my heart when they cancel it. Just like Arrested Development. And when they brought back Family Guy.

    • Srsly? Its on Fox? Why the fuck would Mitch Hurwitz make another show with Fox after all the AD bullshit. My hate filled letters to Rupert Murdoch were POINTLESS!

  13. This show needs more segways:

  14. I mostly enjoyed this premiere and will keep watching, but it has so many expectations leveled against it that it has yet to live up to (duh. pretty much everybody’s opinion).

    The one thing that did really bother me was Peter Serafinowicz’s character “Fa’ad Shaoulin”. I love Mr. Serafinowicz very much, but couldn’t he play a British rich guy instead of an ambiguous Middle Eastern/South Asian/Other nationality? Or am I missing something about his character. He’s playing an ethnicity other than his own, right?

    “They get more expensive when they’re smaller?”

  15. My problems with this show:

    1. Keri Russell = not funny and bad at acting
    2. Obvious, one-note, groan-inducing jokes
    3. Narration by little girl
    4. The “huge mistake” callback was like when Veruca Salt referenced “Seether” in that song “Volcano Girls.”

    I really want to like this show though, so I’m willing to give it another chance. Sometimes the pilot doesn’t fully tap into a show’s potential.

  16. Gabe, I was thoroughly enjoying your commentary, but you lost me at “needs to pull the splintery stick out of its vagina” because OUCH.

  17. I haven’t commented here in about 87 billion years but I just had to, to say that this show was not so funny but Raising Hope was SO funny! Plus the main character guy is so adorable I want to bear him even more children that he can strap into his bean bag car seat

  18. Meh. I was actually fast forwarding through a lot of this episode. Not a good sign for a half-hour comedy. Not season pass worthy quite yet.

    Also, hi guys! Been away for a while? Did I miss anything?

  19. I have such a crush on Keri Russell. I’ll watch the next few eppys!

  20. I agree with about everything in this post except the uk office thing. Very unfunny. I tried several times and I hated it.

  21. I’m worried Keri Russell is not nearly funny enough for this show. Also she is a bad mom?

  22. Is anyone else weirded out by Will Arnett’s voice? I watched him on Jimmy Fallon last week and realized that gruffness is his actual speaking voice. All this time I thought it was part of his schtick. Anyway, his voice totally doesn’t seem to match his face. Is it just me?

    • Actually, the gruff, lewd asshole voice is kind of why I have had a wild, shameful, and uncontrollable crush on Will Arnett since forever. Also a little on that guy who played Billy on Six Feet Under and Elton on Clueless. I make weird choices.

  23. Best New Party Game #347: Try and explain the plot of Running Wilde in a way that makes people want to watch it using only one sentence that is not “from the makers of Arrested Development” or any words there in.

  24. when i was a kid i got to take the school hamster–panda–home for spring break. my mom thought he smelled bad so she sat him out on the balcony overnight and the poor thing died from excessive heat. we called my teacher, who told us to just go to the pet store and buy a new hamster for $2. we found a hamster that sort of looked like panda & we named it panda and put it in panda’s cage but when i took it to school the next Monday everyone knew that it wasn’t panda.
    Running Wilde makes me think of that hamster. FOX killed Arrested Development (slowly and painfully over the course of the third season) and now they’re trying to replace it with with a $2 hamster.
    sorry for rambling, but this post brought up all kinds of repressed emotions for me…

  25. Just to make you feel better Gabe, your last paragraph is totally true! The first season’s development is key to creating a show worth watching for more than one season. The best shows remove plot elements that were in the pilot as they develop because they just won’t work. It’s like Richie Cunningham’s long lost brother, Chuck. He was a flat character who wasn’t going anywhere, so they just wrote him out. And Happy Days went on to stay awesome.

    You may ask how I can say these things with such matter of fact-ness. It’s because, ladies and gents, I went to college:

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