Review: ‘Running Wilde’

Monday, September 20 by

I was the only person who liked “Running Wilde” when they sent the original pilot out over the summer. I thought it was very Mitch Hurwitz-y, it made me laugh and I could see where it was going for a series. Of course, I like things no one else likes so they’re not going to cater a show to me. I like the reshot version of the show a little less, but maybe this is what the general public will like.

Will Arnett plays Steven Wilde, a rich trust fund baby who’s somewhat Gob-y, although he was more Gob-y in the original version so maybe one of the notes was “less Gob-y.” He’s somewhat self-centered and oblivious to the world around him. That’s not to say that Arnett is rehashing his character, it’s just funny to base a show around that type of main character and then take him somewhere he couldn’t go as part of an ensemble.

More after the jump…

Already in the new scenes it seems like they’re trying to make Steven nicer, which is just plain impatient. He already starts learning a lesson by the end of the episode. Can you give him at least the first act to be an A-hole who needs to be redeemed? He’s getting a humanitarian award from his father’s oil company and he knows that looks bad, but his concern is that a girl won’t like him, not that he’s a fraud.

Steven’s childhood sweetheart Emmy (Keri Russell) lives in the jungle trying to save an endangered tribe from Wilde Oil. The show treats the environmental movement with the same irreverence as the wealthy community, having fun with clichés like chaining yourself to a tree. Her fiancé Andy (David Cross) is the same as in the pilot only played by David Cross now. That character doesn’t suffer in the new version. Her daughter Puddle (Stefania Owen) doesn’t speak because she hates it in the jungle and is trying to get her mother’s attention. I’d be pretty pissed too if my name was Puddle.

All of the characters are well defined in their roles. I really liked a character that was removed from the original pilot. Steven had a maid who was kind of like his nanny with a whole system for dealing with his needs. I don’t think the new butler Mr. Lunt (Robert Michael Morris) is as endearing or funny. Nothing against Morris, I just think the other character was more defined.

The best elements of the humor are the weirdly surreal ones. Steven is in constant competition with his friendly rival Fa’ad (Peter Serafinowicz), and they find obscure ways to compete that are probably real but just out of our world enough to be funny. It’s got a sort of “Arrested Development” format with narration and cutaway gags, and they mess with that very device in the first episode. Even the background music they play is a joke. The humor is layered and fast-paced.

The parts that worked for me are still there, mainly in the scenes that weren’t reshot. Emmy and Puddle go to Steven’s award ceremony to try to get his help with the tribe. What Steven does for them is brilliantly misguided and outrageous. I could see this show moving forward where every week, Steven tries to do something good but his ideas are even worse than the problem. It would probably take five years to fix his bad behavior.

“Running Wilde” was great comedy material where people try to be good but they’re so bad at it that it’s funny. I’m concerned now that they’re already too self-conscious, too worried about people liking them and that’s the death of edgy comedy. Hopefully now that they’ve tinkered with the pilot enough, they can just move on and tell stories with these characters and the network, viewers and critics will give them a chance.

"Running Wilde" premieres Tuesday at 9:30/8:30c.

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