'Running Wilde': Zero Edges

On paper, Running Wilde looks like the second coming of Arrested Development.

Running Wilde

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9:30pm ET
Cast: Will Arnett, Keri Russell, Robert Michael Morris, Stefania Owen, Mel Rodriguez, David Cross
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: Fox
Director: Mitchell Hurwitz
Air date: 2010-09-21

On paper, Running Wilde looks like the second coming of Arrested Development. Both shows spring from the creative mind of Mitch Hurwitz, and Running Wilde's writing team includes of Arrested alum Will Arnett and James Vallely. Both shows also feature the actors Arnett and David Cross. The premiere of Running Wilde even has Arnett uttering a phrase that fans will recognize as a running gag from Arrested Development: "Maybe I've made a huge mistake."

Arnett's character, too, is similar to the unforgettable Gob. In Running Wilde, he plays Steven Wilde, a spoiled, entitled, super-rich man completely out of touch with the so-called real world. Having never worked a day in his life, his main pursuit is one-upping his equally rich neighbor by accumulating various ridiculous status symbols, like bigger plaques and smaller horses. Wilde is just as clueless, self-centered, and shallow as Gob: you might imagine he's what Gob would have turned out had the Bluth Corporation been more successful.

One thing Wilde has that Gob never did, though, is a serious love interest: Emmy Kadubic (Keri Russell). She's Wilde's childhood sweetheart, the daughter of one of the family servants. She also has a different political and social sense than he does, and so provides the series with its basic tension: while Wilde devotes his life to excess, Emmy devotes hers to fighting it. At the start of the pilot episode, she and her daughter, Puddle (Stefania Owen), are living in the Amazon rain forest, among one of its most impoverished tribes in an attempt to preserve the tribe's culture. When Wilde Oil threatens to drill on the tribe's land, Emmy travels to Wilde's mansion to ask him in person to stop the drilling. Then, the premise of the show kicks in: Wilde learns that if he wants to win Emmy's heart, he has to learn to be a better person.

This plot point suggests one reason why Running Wilde is not Arrested Development, where such moral education was framed more cynically, or at least in a manner more aware of TV clichés. Moreover, in its first episode, Running Wilde demonstrates a distinct lack of its predecessor's lightning speed and intense saturation of jokes. This may be a structural issue: Running Wilde doesn't offer an intricate ensemble cast, but only the usual sit-commy supporting array, a wacky neighbor and a couple of crazy servants. It's clear that the show is really just about Wilde and Emmy.

This isn't to say that Arrested Development fans should despair. The upside is that Running Wilde is still entertaining. Wilde is the kind of scoundrel that Arnett is born to play, and the show keeps setting him up for easy joke home runs, which he delivers with his signature sleazeball style.

In addition, Running Wilde hints at an emotional core that Arrested Development was never quite able to access. Though there are lots of quips between Wilde and Emmy, they share many tender moments as well. When Emmy laments that time as given her nothing but "more edges," her boyfriend replies, "I think it's your edges that make you beautiful. Look at me -- I'm a joke. Zero edges." Before we start to worry that he might be going too soft, however, Wilde reverts to form, pointing out the callous on his hand -- that he got from golfing. Emotional moments don't last too long here.

Wilde's golfing is at once a sign of his egregious wealth and alarming unself-consciousness. Running Wilde is clearly a post-recession show, a response to series where protagonists flaunt their riches and selfishness, too entrenched to acknowledge their own privilege. (Sorry, Gossip Girl.) Wilde's pursuit of the most inessential items in the world -- a horse that can fit into the backseat of a car, for example -- makes it easy for an audience of more normal means to laugh at him, as opposed to feel bad about not having what he has.

To its credit, the show doesn’t suggest that Emmy is beyond criticism. She flaunts in her own way, using her lack of wealth to school Wilde. He accuses her of using her lowly station in life to feel superior to others: "You have been lording having nothing over me since the day you found out I had everything." She explains that she wants to raise her daughter with "values," but she looks overzealous here. Puddle, having grown up in the Amazon, is just as out-of-touch with average experiences in the U.S. as Wilde.

The interplay between these two different visions of excess is unlike any other series on television. One hopes that Emmy doesn't have too much success in reforming Wilde into a better man: it's too much fun to watch Arnett act out.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.