12
Oct
2010
Running Wilde: Season 1, Episode 4
The Junior Affair
Jordan
If you haven't read any of Mitch Hurwitz' recent interviews about Running Wilde, and are excited about this show's prospects, consider yourself lucky and steer clear of anything the creator has said about it since the show premiered. Also, don't read this sentence: Hurwitz has basically been on a campaign of lowering expectations, and is doing this so well as to make me seriously worried about the future of the show (he has literally said that because he is following network notes this time around, Running Wilde will be less funny, less innovative, less complicated, and more repetitive than anything he's done before). Reading all I have of Hurwitz' interviews in the last few weeks may have made me dislike "The Junior Affair" more than I otherwise would have. Essentially, this is an episode in the standard Arrested Development model, in which all of the characters try to solve a pretty straightforward problem, yet fail through their own vanity and obtuseness. Its a model Hurwitz has done very well before, but its also one that is bound to draw the kind of Arrested Development comparisons I have tried so hard to avoid in my reviews, and unfortunately, Running Wilde doesn't really keep up.

Here is the basic run down of the plot, so that I can spend more time in this review breaking down what the show did right this week, and where it misstepped: Puddle tells Steve and Emmy that she and her boyfriend broke up so they won't chaperone her dance and embarass her. Steve and Emmy, each trying to right their own perceived wrong from decades earlier when they failed to go to a dance together, set about trying to show Puddle's boyfriend, and her father, the error of their ways, and in the process, each ends up accidentally dating their mark. Comic hijinks ensue.

On the surface, this sounds like a description for any number of Arrested Development episodes, and on the surface, it is. The problem for Running Wilde is that in an attempt to attract a larger audience, it is staying on the surface. From the beginning of the episode, it was clear that Puddle hadn't actually broken up with her boyfriend, just as it was clear early on that Lance thought Emmy was trying to seduce him and that Dan (played by the always excellent Andy Richter) thought Steve was hitting on him. And just in case it wasn't clear, Puddle's narration spelled it all out for us. The reason that this sort of plot structure served AD so well is because the plot of any given episode had an air of unpredictability, so that even as you knew that the characters would misunderstand things, and that their entire goal was probably off from the start, you had no idea what exactly they would be failing to grasp, and the reversal at the end of the episode almost always came as a surprise. Here, it all has a vague sense that its been done before, and better, but mostly because the show is still spelling out all of its jokes too much.

Even the revelation that Steve and Fa'ad have used their riches to try to break into show business, while humorous, was less funny because it immediately brought to mind Michael's musical performance as Peter Pan in The Trial of Captain Hook, and George Michael's star wars kid parody, both of which were much funnier. Yet Fa'ads Gangs of Gangsters and Steve's Junior were both funny gags, especially the way the footage from Fa'ad's film cleverly obscured his ridiculous "New York" accent (which was an incredibly spot-on Alan Alda impression, pulled off marvelously by Serafinowicz, whose name I have learned to spell if only because I keep praising him as the show's ace in the hole) until it could be perfectly employed against Dan at the end of the episode (Though even that felt a little forced and telegraphed).

There is a lot of very solid material in "The Junior Affair," and I laughed throughout. Yet for the second week in a row I was left a little cold by Running Wilde in its execution. Don't misunderstand my criticisms these last two weeks as the words of someone souring on the show--quite the contrary. I honestly believe that there is a great show in Running Wilde, and I think it can, and will get there if it is given time to find its footing. I just hope that it manages to figure out how to appease its network overlords without simplifying all of the comedy out of its premises. There was a great episode buried inside "The Junior Affair" and begging to get out. I just hope Hurwitz can stop preemptively bagging on his own show for long enough to mine the comedic gem out of his newest creation.

Grade: B-

Notes:

-I honestly try to avoid Arrested Development comparisons, as it really isn't fair for Running Wilde to have to live up to the greatest sitcom of all time right out of the gate. But tongight openly invited the comparisons, and so I thought them apt.

-"Well its easy to criticize me now. I mean I was the cowardly Tin Man right? But you're the one who should have had the straw to give me the courage to stand up to my father back when we were in Toto!"

-"Well I was outside today, you bastard! From noon until 4:15."

-"I don't have time for 'I don't have time for this.' Not this time, Dad. I don't have time for this."

-"I'm in the middle of some important business with one of the many private armies I run."

-"Fa'ad, it takes a lot to emasculate me. I didn't even cry during my last Brazilian."

-Nice background gag of Fa'ad trying to bring his tough guy into the country club, only to be required to change into a jacket to meet the dress code.

-I loved Steve washing the car while Dan watched. It was so obviously homo-erotic and Will Arnett played it with naive glee.

-"Lutz, unlokc my Junior High School Dance Wear Closet!"

-"Don't look now. That's the cute Regatta statue I once dated."

-"I think this song's for the kids Dan." "You let the mtry to stop us." "I don't think anyone is trying to stop us, but it is for the kids..."
Tags: Running Wilde
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