Rarely have I seen a show that seemed to have so much potential on paper, while at the same time managing to convince me that so little of that potential will ultimately be realized. The outline of Running Wilde may not exactly jump out at me – the wacky love-interest angle between the rich, spoiled son of an oil tycoon, and the (let’s face it) laughably liberal girl who got away when the two were kids – but the people involved in the show offer up bags of potential television goodness, and moreover bring to mind just the sort of potential that is ripe for the market right now.
Will Arnett is a fairly safe bet at the moment, as more and more people come into the Arrested Development fold. It’s a rare testament to everything about AD that the number of fans never seems to stop growing. Thus, when we throw into the mix that Running Wilde is also from the mind of AD creator Mitch Hurwitz, and written/created by Hurwitz, Jim Vallely, and Arnett, things are looking pretty good.
Even putting to one side the AD appeal of Arnett, the guy is funny. He’s funny even when he isn’t trying to be, and has the sort of charm that makes you not only like him, but nudges you toward liking whatever he’s doing.
Now add Keri Russell, and the initial interest meter is, at least theoretically, off the chart. While not a fan of Felicity myself, a lot of people certainly were, and a lot of those people are clearly in one of the major demographics this show is aiming at. Besides which, fan of her main draw or not, she was wonderful in Waitress, an underappreciated gem, and she has a likability equal to Arnett’s.
You want to back it sight unseen, because you have to figure that at worst it will be able to channel something to the surface that will work around to fairly enjoyable entertainment. There is a certain sitcom suspension of sensibility that allows you to accept, for a while anyway, the hopelessly opposite forces that are these two characters. Steven Wilde, embarrassingly rich, self-centered, and immature, butting heads with Emmy Kadubic, the kind of holier-than-thou do-gooder who is going to wreak her good and perspective on the world no matter what anyone (including the recipients of said good) thinks about it.
Buoyed further by Emmy’s daughter Puddle (Stefania Owen), who ties the show together when it turns out that her non-speaking non-violent protest is aimed at not wanting to live in a tent in the Amazon rainforest.
Despite the fact that the show is specifically designed such that making any negative comment about it will leave you feeling like you’ve kicked a puppy, I can’t find a word that describes it better than silly. It’s just plain silly, and you aren’t often going to see the promos for a show running the quote, “It’s perfect! 5 stars! It’s so wonderfully silly!”
While certain recent shows of marked popularity have a good dose of silly in their mix (Community, and Parks and Recreation leap to mind), they also have some bite to them. Elements of dry, dark, or at least clever humor add to the overall theory, and (in the case of the two examples) they are largely using the silliness inherent in Community College life, bureaucracy, and more, rather than simply being silly.
There may be a few laughs, but there is little cut or power to the brand of comedy here, and the result is at best mildly amusing and rather forgettable.
On the other hand, it really isn’t so much bad as it is riddled with positives that don’t actually matter. Arnett and Russell perform quite well, and Stefania Owen is quite good (and mixes cute and wise to the perfect degree). The supporting cast is likewise delivering admirably. But, what difference does it make? It’s a pedestrian sitcom in a surprisingly non-pedestrian era of scripted television, and we are not now at a place where the likes of Three’s Company can shine, however you may gild its goofiness.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the show is that it seems it must undergo a rather serious metamorphosis (much like the transmutation of Cougar Town which was so extensive that the title doesn’t make sense anymore), and there is no way to tell where it’s going to go.
With a host of solid shows premiering this fall, and a rich crop of returning favorites, this is probably one that will get lost in the shuffle, and I wish the two stars were in something I could sink my teeth into.
See trailers and interview footage here.
From the Emmy Award-winning creator and the star of the critically acclaimed FOX series “Arrested Development” comes RUNNING WILDE, a romantic comedy starring Will Arnett as STEVEN WILDE, a filthy-rich, immature playboy trying desperately to win (or buy) the heart of his childhood sweetheart, EMMY KADUBIC (Keri Russell), the über-liberal humanitarian who got away – all told through the perspective of a 12-year-old girl.
Steve Wilde has never performed a selfless act. But why should he? He’s rich! The son of an oil tycoon, Steve hasn’t had to work a day in his life and has always gotten everything he’s wanted – with one exception: the love of Emmy.
The daughter of a former Wilde housekeeper, Emmy is an earnest do-gooder who has spent her adult life trying to save the world. And though Emmy is content living with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest, her 12-year-old daughter, PUDDLE (Stefania Owen), just wants to be a normal kid experiencing her adolescence in a normal place. And she would speak up except for the fact that she hasn’t spoken in a few months.
When Wilde Oil’s expansion in the rainforest threatens her adopted tribe, Emmy decides to attend Steve’s self-thrown “Humanitarian of the Year” award ceremony in hopes of convincing him to help her cause…and also maybe because she still has a thing for Steve. But same-old Steve is unwilling to help because fighting Wilde Oil (a/k/a Dad) means putting his meal ticket in jeopardy.
Rather than run the risk of letting Emmy slip away again, Steve pulls out all the stops to win her heart. To do so, he enlists the only other people in his life who can help: Oxford-accented neighbor and “frenemy” FA’AD SHAOULIAN (Peter Serafinowicz); MIGO SALAZAR (Mel Rodriguez), Steve’s employee/sidekick/errand-boy; and (reluctantly) the scheming MR. LUNT (Robert Michael Morris), Steve’s “manny”-turned-secretary as well as the biggest protector of Steve…and his own job.
Despite having everything he ever wanted, Steve knows he can’t buy love and happiness, which falls in sharp contrast to Emmy, who has nothing but love and happiness. So with Emmy committed to doing good for nothing, and Steve being a good for nothing, will this hopelessly mismatched pair ever be able to reconcile their differences?
RUNNING WILDE is produced by Tantamount Studios, Five Hole Pictures and Principato-Young Management in association with Lionsgate Television. The series is written and created by Mitch Hurwitz, Jim Vallely and Will Arnett. Hurwitz, Vallely, Arnett, Eric Tannenbaum, Kim Tannenbaum, Peter Principato and Paul Young serve as executive producers. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo directed and served as executive producers on the pilot episode.