30
Nov
2010
Running Wilde: Season 1, Episode 7
Mental Flaws
Jordan
First, a programming note: For those of you who don't know, its now been made official: Running Wilde is cancelled, and the remainder of its 13 episode run is going to be burnt off over the course of the next month, on Sunday evenings from what I've heard. I'll keep my eye out for the show and will cover the episodes as they air, provided I don't miss them, but its kind of a pointless exercise all things considered, so if the episodes prove too hard to track (Fox is notorious for throwing episodes of shows its looking to burn into random time slots until their order has been broadcast) I may not review any or all of them.

I can't say I'm too sad to see the show go, though honestly. I still maintain that the central relationship between Steve and Emmy is legitimately well drawn, and remains potentially good fodder for a television series. I also think that Fa'ad is a hilarious character and played perfectly by Peter Serafinowicz (who I like so much I have actually learned to spell his name without double checking it). Yet after watching all seven of the episodes that have aired to date, I am left wondering if the show's creators ever honestly brainstormed more than one episode. Literally every episode of the series so far has been patterned on a variety of comic misunderstandings between Steve and Emmy, usually with nary a subplot in sight and the supporting characters mostly just delivering jokes that fall within this plotline. Think about how many parties have been the center of an episode's plot. After only seven episodes, the show is entirely too predictable for its own good. There have been many shows that center each week on comic misunderstandings, and that isn't necessarily a bad idea for Running Wilde (though I think Mitch Hurwitz will always be better served with a show that allows for more variation in the plotlines), yet there is a difference between being a sitcom that emphasizes the sit (by using a standard "situation" to drive the plot of each episode) and being a show that only has one episode and presents slight variations on it week after week.

Mitch Hurwitz wanted to create a sitcom that could be a mainstream hit, but I think that Running Wilde displays more clearly than ever that Hurwitz just isn't meant for the mainstream. He doesn't understand what makes a mainstream comedy work, nor, clearly, why Arrested Development wasn't a mainstream hit, not really. He seems to have taken the lessons a petulant and bitter child would've learned from his masterpiece, and so turned in a terrible sitcom as retribution to a world that didn't recognize and reward his genius. The networks say Arrested Development was too smart to be a mainstream hit? Fine. Hurwitz will give them Running Wilde, a show with a near identical comedic sensibility to Arrested only, well dumber. Where AD was famous for its subltety, its ability to underplay its jokes, and its multifaceted layers of jokes that rewarded re-watching, Running Wilde telegraphs its every joke to the point that it destroys the comedy (see tonight's running gag about Steve not understanding what a dental school is, for a perfect example), plays its joke as broadly as possible, and has Puddle's narration explain the plotline which is already written so simplistically that anyone could easily understand it, which destroys the pacing and any hint of the narrative subtleties that were the joy of Arrested Development. The networks thought Arrested Development was too serialized for casual viewers to understand? Great. Here's Running Wilde, a show so absurdly episodic that literally the same thing happens every single week. If you miss an episode of Running Wilde, don't worry, the next one will be pretty much identical. In sum, Mitch Hurwitz didn't really create Running Wilde as a potential mainstream hit, he seems to have created it as a childish joke on what a show has to be in order to draw an audience. It isn't a particularly well told joke, and it mostly makes him seem ornery and bitter. Also, it didn't draw any audiences.

This week's plot, which is almost pointless to go over, has Steve trying to invite Emmy to another party, which Emmy wants to go to unti lshe realizes Steve is inviting her for shallow reasons (as GOB would say, "come on!") After she chips a tooth (wow, another Arrested callback. For the fans? Because I think we would've been happier if the show was just funny on its own without relying on, "hey, remember when that funny thing happened on your favorite sitcom ever? We do too!" gags), she embarks on a campaign to uglify herself so Steve will disinvite her while Steve fights his urges to do just that. In the end, they don't go to the party, because Emmy really gets sick in front of a fake doctor played by Johnathan from 30 Rock and a faker doctor played by Fa'ad. That's pretty much it, in a nutshell.

I won't miss Running Wilde when its gone. If anything it has made me actively question my faith in Mitch Hurwitz and his ability to produce a television show that can stay on the air, and in his maturity as a human being. To be clear, my disappointment with this show takes nothing away from Arrested Development, which I still maintain is the greatest sitcom of all time, and which I still think proves that Hurwitz is a comedy genius who honestly didn't get the appreciation he deserved while the show was on the air (Though the accolades, critical support, and slowly gorwing fervent fan base should really be enough for the man). Unfortunately he spent the entire run of Running Wilde living in the shadow of Arrested to the point that it often seemed like he was only doing the show this way as some weird sort of revenge against Fox for cancelling his magnum opus (which also explains why I have so often broken my initial pledge to avoid mentioning AD in these reviews). At the end of the day, Hurwitz may be satisfied in his revenge, but he has failed in his admitted aim to make a television show that would draw enough viewers to stay on the air and make him a steady income. Mostly I think that's because Running Wilde isn't a television show at all. It's a temper tantrum.

Grade: C-

Notes:

-"Come on, Africa. Let's waterski safely."

-"Yes, she's attractive on the surface, but she doesn't have any of Emmy's beautiful inner qualities--like her metabolism...or her teeth."

-"Those are just things! Except for Weebiscuit and Carla."

-Perhaps my favorite line about Fa'ad yet: "How does he even get in here?" Good God I hope that someone gives Serafinowicz something else to do very quickly, or that Mitch Hurwitz drafts him into his repertoire for use on his next, hopefully better show (which with any luck he'll do on Showtime or HBO where he'll have creative freedom and fewer ratings worries).

-"You know its in the ear now, right?" "Since when?"

-"Wow. Important."
Tags: Running Wilde
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