“Running Wilde” comes from the producers of “Arrested Development,” which actually would be the more appropriate title for this comedy — the main drawback being that the new half-hour is so pallid and disappointing compared with the old one. Will Arnett stars as a pampered manchild named Steven Wilde, who reconnects with a teenage flame who is now a single mom busy trying to save the rainforest. Yet all the “Arrested” parallels — including an appearance by David Cross — can’t make “Wilde” run. The best the pilot can muster is a few silly hops.
Fox has paired the show with the far more promising “Raising Hope,” but any similarity ends with the audible symmetry of those titles.
Keri Russell co-stars as the aforementioned Emmy, which should be about as close as this show comes to her namesake. She is to become the angel on Wilde’s shoulder, and the two are supposed to be still hot for each other — their lack of chemistry being only one of the disappointing areas in the pilot written by Mitch Hurwitz, Jim Vallely and Arnett (representing a third of the show’s nine exec producers).
Wilde isn’t a bad guy, necessarily, just one who has never had to do anything for anyone. Still, he sparks to the idea of inviting Emmy to an awards presentation he’s bestowing upon himself; he considers their fleeting romance (her mother worked for his family) the one good part of his life.
Meanwhile, Emmy’s 12-year-old daughter Puddle (Stefania LaVie Owen, who inexplicably narrates) has gone mute — and desperately wants to leave the rainforest and give up her mother’s do-gooder crusade. Given the basic notion of Emmy laboring to make Steven a “better man,” there’s something fuzzy about her kid being so eager to abandon altruism for a mansion-adjacent bunk.
Arnett plays a swaggering lout with the best of them, but such characters often fare better in measured doses than central roles. A second episode — somewhat better than the pilot — merely underscores the limitations in mining, without consummating, the Steve-Emmy relationship.
In terms of tone, it doesn’t help that the show ups the ante on craziness by giving Wilde an equally bizarre next-door neighbor (Peter Serafinowicz), though that does produce the pilot’s one laugh-out-loud sight gag, involving the status symbol of owning a pygmy horse.
Continuing along those over-the-top lines, Emmy’s boyfriend (played by Cross) is an eco-terrorist, albeit a pretty inept one, signing his name to the stink bomb he sends to make a political statement.
“No one’s gonna get hurt,” he tells her regarding the package. “Just a little embarrassed.”
Actually, that doubles as a fair description of the likely fallout from “Running Wilde.”