Running Wilde has one of the worst titles and best pedigrees of the new TV season. Stars Will Arnett and Keri Russell play characters that seem tailor-made for them: Arnett’s hilariously venal Steve is like a single-child version of Gob, while Russell’s Emmy is an older, screwier Felicity. Adding to the good juju: Wilde is co-created by Arrested Development‘s Mitch Hurwitz. That’s enough to send expectations skyrocketing, but the Wilde pilot was reshot considerably. The show is pretty far from perfect — check out Ken Tucker’s review of Wilde and fellow gerund-titled Fox sitcom Raising Hope — but last night’s premiere was fast-paced and funny…and featured at least one character who deserves to be the Kenneth/Abed sitcom breakout of the year.
First, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. Arnett’s character is probably a little bit too tailor-made for the actor: Arnett co-created the show and co-wrote last night’s episode, so whenever Russell’s not around, Running Wilde feels uncomfortably like The Michael Richards Show. With his Baldwin-in-a-forest-fire rasp, Arnett can deliver gag lines with deadly accuracy (“Fa’ad is gonna feel a holocaust of envy.”) But he works best in a group, or at least with a straight man to play off of.
Thank goodness for Russell. Emmy has a bit of the DNA of Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth: she thinks she’s a moralist, but she’s really just as selfish as everyone else. You could see that in the funniest moment of the night, when Russell proclaimed how proud she was for not feeling superior to anyone: “But if I were the type of person who needed to feel superior, I would say, ‘I feel sorry for that shallow, rich guy. But good for that deep, poor girl for not judging him!'”
The best reason to watch, though, is Peter Serafinowicz, who plays Steve’s wealthy neighbor Fa’ad. When Serafinowicz pretended to be a psychiatrist, I was on the floor. “I am Doctor!” “The best, and the dumbest!” “Thank you, Dr. Magazine!”
What did you think of Running Wilde, PopWatchers? I kind of adored Stefania Owen as Emmy’s daughter Puddle, but not sure how long I can handle her cute-snarky narration. And will everything be better if David Cross keeps appearing as Emmy’s boyfriend?