Fox’s new sitcom Running Wilde has a couple of things going for it from the start. Its creator, Mitchell Hurwitz, was the mastermind behind Arrested Development, a quirky, critics’ darling of a show. Wilde’s stars, Will Arnett (another Arrested Development alumnus) and Keri Russell (Felicity), are attractive players who do their best to make their characters amusing and likable.
The show’s toughest job goes to Arnett, since Wilde is goofy, egotistical, and self-serving but not a sympathetic character. It will take some doing to get the audience to feel for this guy.
Arnett plays Steve Wilde, a spoiled, immature, super-wealthy son of an oil baron. He has everything in life but the woman he loves. Since childhood, he has been enamored of Emmy, an environmental activist and humanitarian who is the the daughter of Wilde’s former housekeeper. Emmy believes life in the Amazon rainforest is worth preserving and works with its natives to that end. Along with her on this mission are her “eco-terrorist” boyfriend Andy (David Cross), and her precocious daughter saddled with the unique name of Puddle (Stefania Owen). Twelve-year-old Puddle is the narrator of this story, which is another checkmark in the plus column for the show. Without Puddle’s oddly world-weary perspective, the story might eventually lapse into run-of-the-mill sitcom trappings.
As it is, the pilot is engaging and offbeat with Wilde inviting Emmy to his Humanitarian of the Year dinner (which he orchestrated himself). He is ably assisted by Migo (Mel Rodriguez), his driver and confidante, and Mr. Lunt (Robert Michael Morris), his somewhat fey but more than competent secretary.
Wilde’s first encounter with Puddle is a laugh out loud moment but it’s not the only one. This is a funny show in a darkly comic sort of way. No one in this story is truly happy and it’s not clear if they ever will be, even if they get what they’re after. Plus, there is an extenuating circumstance, a big one, that could ultimately spell doom for a relationship between Emmy and Wilde. But don’t look for spoilers here. Put Running Wilde on your Tuesday night viewing schedule this fall. The show is worth seeing for yourself.
Running Wilde will air Tuesday nights at 9:30 on FOX, beginning September 21.