[As I’ve already mentioned, and will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: “Running Wilde,” FOX
The Pitch:“Cool! Will Arnett doesn’t think he’s a movie star anymore. Let’s let him do whatever he wants… Keri Russell, too?!?!?”
Quick Response: The Will Arnett persona is often a hilarious one, but it’s also a persona best suited for supporting roles. The magical thing about “Arrested Development,” when we take a step back from it, is that it was a collection of character types, not a one of which could have supported an entire solo series, including the “normal” characters played by Jason Bateman and Michael Cera. While Will Arnett isn’t exactly playing Gob Bluth in “Running Wilde,” he’s playing the self-absorbed son of a wealthy businessman with questionable ethics, a man so pompous that even when he tries to do the right thing, his instincts and upbringing make it nearly impossible. In short, his “Running Wilde” character isn’t a magician, but otherwise? Gob. All of FOX’s releases keep calling him “lovable, but immature.” So far he’s the latter, but not the former. He’s paired with Keri Russell, whose vulnerability, hair and convincing ease with tears often distracted from her comedic gifts on “Felicity” and in the feature “Waitress.” It’s a promising pairing, since Arnett can’t help but be insincere and Russell can’t help but be sincere. But for now, creators Arnett, Mitch Hurwitz and Jim Vallely don’t quite seem to have the series to go with the two leads and with surprisingly capable child co-star Stefania Owen. The pilot is a tonally confused hodge-podge of exposition, flashbacks, voiceover, “Arrested Development”-borrowed stylistic tropes (via Anthony Russo, who directed both pilots) and not-quite-kosher ethnic caricaturing. [On the ethnic caricaturing, “Arrested Development” was never politically correct, but it parsed everything through this magnificently inappropriate family. “Running Wilde” doesn’t have that filter. It just feels a bit racist, though that feeling could pass after (or if) several one-note characters get fleshed out.] I chuckled once or twice and unavoidably found Russell beguiling, but by the time we reached the premise of the show — Russell’s character is a do-gooder and her mission is to make Arnett’s character a better man — I didn’t quite see the value of most of what we went through to get there. This is a series that almost might be better started with Episode Two. Look, I’d love nothing more than a new “Arrested Development,” but not enough to give this rocky start a pass.
Desire To Watch Again: There are too many talented people involved with “Running Wilde” both in front of the camera and behind it for me not to want to keep watching for at least a few more episodes. And it’s not like there isn’t potential. But the pilot is a concern.
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