21
Sep
2010
Running Wilde: Season 1, Episode 1
Pilot
Jordan
Ever since Mitch Hurwitz created Arrested Development, expectations for everything he touches have been through the roof. By creating the best sitcom of all time, Hurwitz made it very difficult for himself to make anything else. So when I heard he was re-uniting with Will Arnett and David Cross for Running Wilde, I remembered to keep my expectations low. After all, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Henry Winkler were all involved in Sit Down, Shut Up with him, and we all know how that turned out. However, it was inevitable that I would compare the show to Arrested Development (and I'm willing to bet every other person reviewing it will as well), and to an extent that's simply not fair. The success of AD didn't just come down to Mitch Hurwitz, nor to Jim Vallelly (who wrote for AD and co-wrote this pilot), nor to Will Arnett or David Cross. And the brilliance of that show was hinted at in its pilot, but it surely got better over its few seasons on the air. Yet I will not even compare the pilot of Running Wilde to the pilot of Arrested Development. I have said many times that a pilot is rarely a show's strongest episode, and so I tend to give pilot's the benefit of the doubt. In order to do that, I will avoid pointing out the many comparisons to Arrested Development that the show provides (though no promises that will hold true in coming weeks) and look at the pilot on its own merits.

Will Arnett is Steven Wilde, an oil heir who has lived off his trust fund for his whole life. Arnett has made the unbelievably rich and incredibly naive character his bread and butter for years now, and with seemingly no diminishing marginal returns. He is still hilarious here, whether he is giving himself the "Humanitarian of the Fiscal Year" award or taking credit for building a treehouse in his youth because he showed one of his servants the plan and told him where to build it. Migo, one of his employees who he pays to be his best friend, also skims off the top from him because of his total naivety about what things cost in the real world (he takes one hundred dollars from Wilde for a six pack of diet soda, and tries to hide the cost of other things throughout the episode), and Mr. Lunt, his former nanny who spies on Wilde to anticipate his every desire in order to keep his job.

Wilde has been aloof, and unhappy, ever since his childhood sweetheart Emmy (Kerri Russell) left. Emmy kept him grounded and tried to teach him about the suffering in the world, and what he could do to change it. Now, she lives in the jungle with her daughter Puddle and her enviro-terrorist boyfriend (David Cross, who is hilariously introduced being almost torn apart when he chains himself to a tree and a bulldozer, only to realize he and Emmy never told the driver of the bulldozer he was there). The show hinges, to some extent, on the chemistry between Arnett and Russell, and that was my largest fear going in. Yet when they first meet again and she drags him into a closet, the two enter into a dance of brilliant confused intentions, as each considers seducing the other and badly resists the urge. Its a hilarious moment, but more importantly it immediately reassures that these two are a workable romantic pair, as well as a capable comedic one.

Running Wilde is at its best when it resorts to some inspired and subtle background gags (perhaps the best of which has Wilde dramatically moping and playing the piano, only to have him stand and the player piano continue playing the tune. He quickly darts back to turn it off before anyone notices, and that awkward moment is one of the best in the episode). This cast has a lot of chemistry, the writing is fast, quippy, and subtle, and this pilot hits more often than it misses. If Hurwitz and his gang of merry misfits continue to flesh out the very strange world of Steven Wilde as well as they begin to in this episode, I think Running Wilde may become the best new comedy of the season. At least until Fox cancels it.

Grade: B+

Notes:

-Great subtle callback: David Cross mentioning mailing the Wilde's three kilos of oil, then, one scene later, walking into his tent saying, "Not enough postage? What was I even sending?" before the oil explodes all over the tent.

-Another subtle joke: The band at Steve's reception quietly playing the theme to The Price is Right while all of the audience members in matching clothes and nametags mill about.

-"Oh. NOT to drill. That's going to be a problem."

-"I saved a horse today! I'm going to...I know where I left it."

-"That's two diet colas. Your total comes to..." "Yeah, we know how much it is!"

-"And I never saw him again." " And that's when Dad bought me my first speedboat."

-"Raising a daughter in the rainforest...I mean, that's where they make all the nanny's, but still..."

-"Oh right, you can't talk, and I'm not a mindreader." "I can't go back to the jungle. I need your help!" "Alright. But if you tell anyone I can read minds, the deal is off."

-I didn't get a chance to mention him above, but Peter Seranfinowicz, as Fa'ad, Wilde's neighbor and rival in riches, is hysterical, especially when playing off Arnett. "Doctor Magazine says you're the best in the world!" "Thank you, Doctor Magazine!"
Tags: Running Wilde
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