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Running Wilde: Season 1
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From the Emmy Award-winning team behind the critically acclaimed FOX series "Arrested Development" comes Running Wilde, a romantic comedy series starring Will Arnett as Steven Wilde, a filthy-rich, immature playboy trying desperately to win (or buy) the heart of his childhood sweetheart, Emmy Kadubic (Keri Russell), the über-liberal humanitarian who got away.
Of all the TV ventures that Mitchell Hurwitz tossed into the ring after his hugely successful run with Arrested Development, Running Wilde seemed like it had the best shot at being at least a modest follow-up hit. But, alas, Fox pulled the plug mid-season in 2010, producing only 13 episodes and broadcasting only nine (the last four were relegated to its somewhat forlorn FX sister network). The premise of Running Wilde pits Will Arnett (also one of Hurwitz's co-creators) against Keri Russell in an adversarial romance that is smart, silly, genuinely funny, and reliant upon many of the stylistic elements that contributed to Arrested Development's hard-won success. Arnett plays Steve Wilde, the obscenely wealthy scion of an oil tycoon who follows the bachelor playboy playbook to the letter and covers up his embarrassing dim-bulb manner with flashes of perfect teeth, twinkly eyes, and handfuls of cash. Russell is Emmy Kadubic, Steve's childhood sweetheart who became an eco-warrior years previous, moving to the jungles of the Amazon to help the indigenous people battle the local operations of the evil Wilde Oil Company. The pilot sets up their reunion as she returns to Steve's New York country mansion after hearing about a humanitarian award he is to receive. What she doesn't hear is that he's giving the award to himself and is the same old egotistic pampered dummy. But the sight of her gives him pause and makes him think there might be a chance to make the childhood sweetheart thing an adult reality. Somewhat in spite of herself, Emmy is touched by Steve's willingness to change and agrees to move into a lavish tree house in his backyard, setting the stage for the episodic bickering and at-oddsing that make the show. The poor little rich kid and the self-righteous activist now grown up and engaged in a romantic dance is helped along enormously by an ensemble cast that makes the comedy zing back and forth from lowbrow to upscale and from farce to slapstick. Emmy's 12-year-old daughter Puddle, who hated the Amazon and will do anything to keep her mom from taking her back, provides a running narration/commentary that works sort of the way Ron Howard's did on Arrested Development. Her voice-over and performance are distinctively appealing elements of a show that runs on the fuel of amusing characters melding or clashing as the situation dictates, which is essentially the root of Steve and Emmy's relationship. Steve's servants Migo (Mel Rodriguez) and Lunt (Robert Michael Morris) provide strong comic support by exploiting his cluelessness (Migo) or by pandering to it (Lunt), and they shine together or alone in their interactions with Arnett. Popping up occasionally is Andy (David Cross, Arnett's Arrested Development co-alum), Emmy's forgotten fiancé and virulent Wilde Oil hater who stirs the romantic tension and generally dopey atmosphere from his base in the jungle or during visits to the Wilde mansion. But of all the scene-stealing engaged in by the supporting cast, Peter Serafinowicz outdoes them all as Steve's super-rich neighbor Fa'ad, a layabout loafer who may be even more vain, self-absorbed, and oblivious than Steve. Though the acting troupe is faultless and the jokes consistently on target as they build to crescendos or bounce out as one-offs, the cast and crew do have a little trouble maintaining stride as the episodes unfold. The impossible-to-define "it" that propelled shows like Seinfeld, Arrested Development, and The Office, among a few lucky others, remains elusive in Running Wilde. But in 13 delightful 22-minute segments the top-flight participants come very close to "it," creating at the very least a pleasant, often inspired sense of comic delight. --Ted Fry