‘Running Wilde’ – ‘Oil and Water’: A job fit for the Colonel

Senior Television Writer
10.06.10 22 Comments


A review of last night’s “Running Wilde” coming up just as soon as I get out of the Easthampton drunk tank…

Yesterday afternoon, Vulture posted a very candid, fairly depressing interview with Mitch Hurwitz about his struggles with this show. In particular, he suggested that he’s dealing with network notes far more than he ever did on “Arrested Development,” and that FOX’s push to simplify storylines is really impairing his writing staff’s ability to make the funniest show they can.

I don’t know that it’s fair to lay all the blame at the feet of FOX, as I don’t get a sense from the interview, or any of Hurwitz’s previous ones, that he has a really clear sense of what this show is and why it should be working if he and the others were left alone. But the Keep It Simple, Stupid approach was very apparent in “Oil and Water.” The “Arrested” version of this story, in addition to servicing a much larger cast, would have featured six or seven more twists in how Steve and Emmy felt about his job at the oil company, whereas here we only got a couple of reversals.

Still, this was clearly the strongest, and funniest, of the three episodes so far. I laughed pretty consistently at the running gag about Steve’s home school teachers (“I had Marvin Hamlisch for math”) enjoyed how Steve surprised everyone, including himself, by fitting in so well at the office, and was glad to see another side of Emmy as she got too into character at the job. I’m still not sure  Steve is complicated and/or sympathetic enough to be at the center of a show, but this was a step in the right direction.

And for all of Hurwitz’s talk in the interview about how “Arrested” comparisons are unfair, he and the writers keep inviting them. The bit where Puddle is narrating while Fa’ad does everything wrong to avoid frostbite was exactly the kind of joke Ron Howard would have told (and though I like Puddle, this one would have been funnier coming out of Howard’s mature, sincere voice), while the KFC product placement (leading into an actual KFC ad) was as shameless as Tobias and Carl Weathers’ trip to Burger King, only not as funny.

Still, I’ll take a little improvement here, even if that interview, and the ratings, and the news that FOX is pre-empting the Oct 26 episode to double-run “Raising Hope,” don’t exactly fill me with optimism for the show’s creative or financial future.

What did everybody else think?

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