TV review: ‘Running Wilde’ fails to live up to its promising, star−studded pedigree

By Joseph Stile

Fox’s freshman comedy, “Running Wilde,” has a pedigree that most shows would kill for. Written by some of the minds behind the Emmy−winning cult classic “Arrested Development” (2003−06), it stars funnyman Will Arnett and Golden Globe−winning actress Keri Russell, and features a talented supporting cast. In theory, “Running Wilde” should be an instant hit, yet somehow it completely misses the mark.

“Running Wilde,” which was created by Arnett, Mitchell Hurwitz (creator of “Arrested Development”) and James Vallely, focuses on Steve Wilde (Arnett) and his attempt to win back Emmy (Russell), the one who got away. It does not help Steve’s cause that he is an immature, self−centered oil tycoon and Emmy is an obsessive do−gooder environmentalist – a plot which follows the typical rom−com formula all too closely.

Steve Wilde is the type of character that Arnett plays best: the egocentric, over−privileged man−child who is painfully unaware of just how horrible a person he is. Arnett has been hilarious in this type of role in smaller doses on “30 Rock” and “Arrested Development,” but it’s not the type of character that can carry an entire show. Even with a running time as short as 22 minutes an episode, his antics grow stale.

Further damaging not only Arnett’s performance, but the show as a whole, is the clunking narration by Emmy’s daughter, Puddle (Stefania Owen), which is heard over almost every scene. Rather than letting this talented cast show the audience what is going on, the narration insists on explaining exactly what is happening.

Russell, who is best known as the star of the hit show “Felicity,” (1998−2002) is serviceable as the love interest, especially because of the strong chemistry she has with Arnett. The two leads share a similar comedic timing and delivery, particularly when working with the more absurd humor, and are skilled at reacting to one another’s jokes.

The show’s biggest laughs come from Russell and Arnett’s first interaction at a party Arnett’s character has thrown in honor of himself. At the party, Steve is trying to sober up so that he can talk to Emmy, while Emmy is simultaneously trying to get drunk so she can talk to Steve. The amusing misunderstandings and puns that ensue make the show seem like it could have a certain charm, although the rest of the episode then fails to deliver.

While Russell and Arnett are funny together, they don’t convey their romance very convincingly. Emmy is supposed to be the love of Steve’s life and care about him in return, but on−screen their all−consuming love is unbelievable. This is most apparent when Steve shows Emmy that he has kept the tree house in which they spent much of their time together as children. In this scene, Arnett’s delivery makes it seem that Steve is more afraid to be alone than actually in love with Emmy, and the character comes off as pathetic rather than sympathetic.

The show manages to deliver a few strong laughs, though mostly from the absurdity of characters like David Cross’s self−proclaimed eco−terrorist Andy, whose constant bumbling leads to a number of easily garnered laughs. This type of absurdity, and Cross’s scenes in general, are way too short, and the show would greatly benefit from expanding on both of them.

Though its pilot is merely lackluster, “Running Wilde” definitely has enough talent to turn itself around with a little effort and some stronger scripts. If worse comes to worst, it’s always nice to see mini−”Arrested Development” reunions.

Read more here: http://www.tuftsdaily.com/arts/running-wilde-fails-to-live-up-to-its-promising-star-studded-pedigree-1.2345302
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