Created by Mitchell Hurwitz and starring Will Arnett, along with David Cross in a recurring role as an “eco-terrorist,” Fox’s “Running Wilde” is a veritable “Arrested Development” orgy and had all the requisite excitement surrounding it. So maybe the premise was a little weak — Arnett’s fathoms-rich Steve Wilde is reunited with his childhood sweetheart, do-gooder Emmy Kadubic (Keri Russell, “Felicity”), the two end up living together and romantic comedy ensues. But surely, with Hurwitz and Arnett in control, the show would pull through with the wacky dry humor, clever wordplay and self-obsessed yet somehow loveable characters “Arrested” fans would expect, right? Nope — turns out the “Running Wilde” team has made a huge mistake.
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For starters, all the gravelly faux porn-star voice and overgrown naïveté in Arnett’s repertoire can’t save a badly written character. Wilde has all the playboy stylings of Gob from “Arrested,” along with a good dose of his accidental charm: “That’s the last nice thing I’m doing for anyone!” he shouts in one uncharacteristically funny scene, then buys his driver a drink. But unlike Gob, Wilde doesn’t have magician ambitions or any other quirky detail. He’s blatant and black-and-white, nothing but an Adam Sandler-style manchild with limitless funds. There’s nothing behind his youthful blundering for viewers to latch on to.
Russell’s Kadubic has a soppy faith in Wilde’s ability to become a better person. At multiple times, Wilde lets her down in predictable ways, and Kadubic reacts with the kind of surprised disappointment that even the most idealistic of world-savers would be hard-pressed to muster. Russell allows the character to rest in one dimension, never really twisting the lines to make Kadubic anything more than a hardworking optimist. “You do good for nothing — and I guess that’s what you still are,” she snaps at one point, and then makes a face, presumably at the dumbness of her line.
It’s impossible to see Kadubic as any kind of foil to Wilde’s blatant ignorance. Compared to him, she’s a saint. Sure, she’s a little self-righteous and unperceptive, but these are flaws that she and Wilde share. That’s nothing to build a TV relationship on.
But if Kadubic and Wilde are uninteresting protagonists with an unrealistic attraction, at least they’re written simply enough that their motives are clear: He wants to get with her, and she wants to save him. And also get with him, sometimes, in a few randomly placed outbursts of affection.
Puddle (Stefania Owen, “The Lovely Bones”), Kadubic’s unfortunately hippie-named daughter, doesn’t even have that much. Having spent her young life in the Amazon, Puddle has somehow developed a streak of materialism so strong that she stopped talking for six months because “I don’t want to live in the jungle!” It’s unclear where this burning desire came from, or how not talking will help her. Puddle acts like a spoiled brat, but with a mother as unperceptive and unobservant as Kadubic, how did she get that way?
Puddle is also in charge of the voice-over narration, for reasons that will go unexplained, because — well, why is voice-over narration even necessary for such a simple premise? It doesn’t explain anything, it never provides witty commentary on the action and Puddle’s omniscience when it comes to other characters’ thoughts and personalities is kind of awkward.
That said, the show isn’t unwatchable. Supporting actors Peter Serafinowicz (“Couples Therapy”) and Mel Rodriguez (“FlashForward”) provide some laughs as Wilde’s competitive neighbor and his caring driver, respectively. But the show’s premise is boring and its main characters fall flat. Ultimately, “Running Wilde” is nothing but a drab story of a wealthy bachelor who had everything and the one woman who had no choice but to keep them both together. And that kind of thing is bound for cancellation.