Series Premieres — Raising Hope, “Pilot” and Running Wilde, “Pilot”

FOX doesn’t have much like in the live-action comedy department. Aside from Arrested Development, there’s been nothing to write home about from the biggest broadcast network around, and that’s kind of weird. This season, the network is re-committing to the format with two series with famous pedigrees. And though it’s better that I don’t take those pedigrees into consideration  when reviewing Raising Hope and Running Wilde, I do, and for one of these series, the effect is a positive one. For the other, not so much.

I am not a fan of Greg Garcia. Yes, Dear was what it was and I quickly grew tired of the lower class idiot aesthetic he created with My Name Is Earl. There is only so many times I can laugh at someone because they are poor and stupid, especially when the people aren’t particularly likable. That was my baggage going into Raising Hope and by the time Garret Dillahunt’s dumb grandpa character spoke about how great Charles Manson’s music was, that baggage had completely left my mind. Raising Hope is, at least in the pilot, both legitimately funny and heartwarming.

Again, I suspected all the characters to be “white trash idiots,” and in many ways, that’s what they are. But at least here in the pilot, there is a sense that this family really, really cares about one another, despite the fact that Dillahunt’s Burt Chance treats his son Jimmy like crap at work or that Martha Plimpton’s Virgina was willing to make a sharp turn that led to Hope rolling around in her car seat just to prove a point to her dense son. There are moments that make these people seem like mean fools, but they relate to one another in a special way that is charming, despite the class humor. The scene with Burt and Virgina performing a song to get Hope asleep was really cute.

I suspect that Raising Hope will eventually lean on the Greg Garcia formula that drove me nuts on My Name Is Earl. At that point, I will be thinking about checking out. But until then, I’ll keep watching and probably keep reviewing the episodes.

As for Running Wilde, obvious expectations and baggage abound. Mitch Hurwitz, Jim Vallely, the Russo Brothers and Will Arnett were all part of the greatest comedy of the last decade, Arrested Development. Unfortunately, only the Russo Brothers have had consistent success since then (they do great work on Community) and going into Running Wilde, I (and nearly everyone) wondered if AD was just some sort of combination of awesome events to great the most awesome comedy ever.

After watching Running Wilde, it seems that is absolutely true.

There is nothing wrong with Running Wilde. It’s not awful. Will Arnett is less annoying than I suspect he would be based on his last few appearances on 30 Rock and his general inability to carry a series on his own. Playing a Gob-like character probably won’t work in the long run, but it’s not too frustrating in the pilot. Keri Russell is also fine, but more or less playing Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth character. That’s unfortunate, because things like Waitress prove that she can be funny on her own, so having to play the straight woman to Arnett’s mugging is not the best formula.

And in general, Running Wilde just seems to be trying too hard to be weird in AD-like ways. The supporting characters are obnoxious and trying too hard to be unique and zany. The premise itself is also trying too hard. Though it quickly tries to dispense with the backstory and jump into the comedy, the pilot still has to do a lot of work to get where we’re going. Moreover, I’m actually not sure where we’re going. I can’t completely picture how episode five looks for this series. And with it not being too funny either, that’s a troubling thought.

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