There was a cloud hanging over last night's episode of Running Wilde. The negative critical reception was one thing, but the show got some really ugly press yesterday. The New York Times ran an article just to talk about how much the show was struggling, and in two separate one-on-one interviews, for the Onion's AV Club and New York magazine, show creator Mitchell Hurwitz, who as you surely know also created a little comedy named Arrested Development, candidly admitted that he was making a lot more concessions to the network than he would have liked. He even provided a specific example of a future episode (involving rich people dressed as hoboes) that is being held back because his ideas were deemed too off-putting for the show, which Fox apparently hopes will be more appealing to general audiences than the low-rated critical darling Arrested Development. In the interviews it sure seemed like Hurwitz was distancing himself from his own creation, providing cover should the show continue to decline in the ratings, making it necessary for him to find somewhere else to work.
So why do I continue to enjoy Running Wilde? Maybe I'm just an easy mark, willing to accept that the emperor is indeed clothed, but I have been laughing a lot at Running Wilde, and though last night's episode was slightly less funny, and less well-structured, than the previous weeks, I still found much to enjoy.
Kerri Russell's Emmy is stunned to learn that the one good thing about Steve, that he doesn't work for his father's oil company, is untrue. Steve collects a paycheck and has a large, unused office. She wants him to take a stand, like her fiancee Andy would (he's dispatched by Steve to Alaska to save a previously unthreatened Inuit tribe) and quit his do-nothing job. But eventually, after Steve fails to quit (he enjoys the cake-for-birthdays office culture) Emmy realizes that Steve can be her mole at the company, and even gets herself hired as his secretary. The joke here, which is a little obvious, and then unhelpfully spelled out by Fa'ad's tale of trying to survive in the vodka freezer, is that making compromises can be a dangerous thing. Emmy wants Steve to rise in the company so she can eventually take it down, even if it means they have to harm a few Inuits along the way.
There was more humor in the margins. A bit about all of Steve's childhood tutors being acclaimed composers (Marvin Hamlisch for math!) pays off with a great cameo by Paul Schaeffer of The Late Show with David Letterman. Fa'ad and Steve discussing Emmy's unworthiness (take away her looks, smarts, and personality and what does she have) was very funny as well.
The cloud still looms over Running Wilde, though. If the show continues to get low ratings even while trying to comply with broadcast expectations, Fox will have no choice but to put it out of its misery. It's caught in a classic trap. It's trying to please people who have no interest in watching it, while actively effronting it's possible core audience. The show might not get the time it needs to grow in either direction.