The new show for 2010 where my taste seems to diverge the most from the critics is “Running Wilde.” Few have found much to redeem it, but I really think there’s something there.
After having seen the original pilot this summer, I watched the revised version on Fox Tuesday, and I felt largely the same way I did before. There’s an underplayed but underlying sweetness that goes on throughout the show that I find very appealing. While the pilot(s) didn’t make me laugh a ton, I smiled almost the entire time.
Much of the critical reaction has focused on the so-called problem of having Will Arnett’s ne’er-do-well Steve Wilde as a lead character, but I don’t see an issue there. From the beginning, Steve is someone who feels a rather acute emptiness in his life and wants to do something about it — the problem being that he doesn’t know exactly how to go about doing it. This isn’t a loathsome character; it’s a lost character trying to find his way. There’s a big difference. The idea that he’s superficial is, well, superficial.
Keri Russell was a great choice as Emmy, the woman who motivates Steve to be a better man. She mostly plays the straight man like Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth on “Arrested Development,” but she also has her own flaws and blind spots that humanize her — and she can deliver the comedy when called upon. The supporting cast is also strong, with the possible exception of Robert Michael Morris as Mr. Lunt, if only because I preferred the female character that he replaced from the original pilot. Stefania Owen as Emmy’s daughter, Puddle, is particularly charming, and Peter Serafinowicz as Fa’ad is funny in almost every onscreen moment.
Yes, there are laughs in the show. One of my favorite bits had a forlorn Steve sitting at a piano, melancholy notes being played. A few moments later, he gets up … and the notes are still being played until he flips a switch. I’m sorry, but I laughed out loud. And it really underscores who Steve is — the emotions are there, even if his life is surreal.
As long as “Running Wilde” is allowed to keep playing those notes, I’ll be on board.