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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Running Wilde: Pilot

Critics seemed tepid at best about "Running Wilde" but I trusted the talent involved enough to give the pilot a look, and I'm glad that I did. What I was a thoroughly enjoyable, cleverly written comedy, with some definite room for improvement but enough going for it to keep me tuning in.

Will Arnett (GOB from Arrested Development) plays Steven Wilde, a trust-fund "kid" who begins the episode complaining that no one will come to the party he's throwing for himself to celebrate the Humanitarian Award he's giving himself. Wilde's sheltered life is maintained by his manservant/friend Migo, who seems to care about him for more than just his cluelessness about the cost of things. (Migo takes $100 for six Diet Cokes and doesn't give back any change, then later at a drive-thru cuts off the server before she can divulge the cost of a beverage.) A personal secretary named Mr. Lunt is also there, in a bit of a redundant role that the show might not need. Interestingly, we don't see anything of Wilde's father.

Keri Russell, who is a really beautiful woman, by the way, plays Emmy, Wilde's schoolboy crush turned Amazonian preservationist. She hears about the Humanitarian Award, but not it's facetiousness, and rushes to the states in order to convince Wilde not to let his father drill in the Amazon.

I like that the show didn't make Russell's character a saint. She's actually kind of a scold, which Wilde picks up on, leading to a nice exchange where Emmy asserts her moral superiority over Wilde, and her further superiority for not feeling morally superior. It's witty, and it's quick, and while it's not as layered as Arrested Development (at least not yet) it made me laugh.

Narrating the show is Emmy's daughter, Puddle (no explanation given) who hates living in the jungle and enlists Wilde in a scheme to allow her and her mother to stay. Obviously, Wilde is not a great co-conspirator, though he and his tiny-horse (they're actually more expensive the smaller they get) owning neighbor Fa'ad gamely plug their way through the con.

No one can say what comedies are going to be able to sustain their humor or draw a large enough audience to stay on the air. (I've always wondered whether Arrested Development would have languished in later seasons the way people think 30 Rock and The Office have, and how that would impact its place in the culture.) I'm going to keep watching Running Wilde because I want to see how the show wrings humor out of Emmy's efforts to better Wilde, and his efforts to convince her it's working.

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