Raising Hope, “Dead Tooth” and Running Wilde, “Into the Wilde”

I like the idea of writing up these FOX comedies together, so I’m going to keep it going, at least until one of them gets good enough to deserve a solo space.

Both series had varying degrees of success in their pilot episodes and they both progressed with varying degrees of success. Neither series is particularly good at this moment, but are taking steps towards something better than they currently are, while admittedly sticking with some of the annoying things from the pilot.

Raising Hope quickly dived deeper into the lower class humor that I hoped that would avoid, particularly with the episode’s namesake. A female character with a dead tooth might seem funny on paper or even in execution for a few seconds, but as an episode two running gag and possible series-long gag, it makes me sigh heavily. Kate Micucci’s Shelley is introduced here as the aforementioned girl with a dead tooth and is supposed to serve as something of a romantic antagonist between Jimmy and Sabrina, but it doesn’t really work even despite the tooth because it is difficult to care about that relationship in the first place.

Sure, Jimmy and Sabrina share a cute scene in the pilot, but it seems a little rushed to spend the second episode on their relationship and not Jimmy’s issues with Hope. I do appreciate the series’ attempts to stray away from full episodes of baby endangerment, Jimmy’s new circumstances with Hope and how he works to find a babysitter deserved more screen time amid the mini melodrama of how he’d charm Sabrina. However, the moments that do focus on Jimmy’s struggles to now balance his new life with his old one were just fine, even if they’re being told through the lens of stupidity (most notably the scene where Jimmy declines to join his friends in pretending to fall of a bridge because he has to watch his daughter).

These scenes and the little C plot with Burt trying to get Virgina to quit smoking for her own good (even if he frames it through the fact that he can’t take her breath anymore) help give Raising Hope a familial charm that keeps it above the shallow waters of “Hey! They’re poor and stupid!” Thus far, the series is keeping the balance between those elements of Greg Garcia’s comedy well enough that I’m in for episode three.

Meanwhile, Running Wilde came into episode two with much more to prove considering its pilot wasn’t all that funny and had a lot of work to do to set up its goofy premise. Thankfully in episode two, the character interaction feels more natural, even if the situations within the episode itself are fairly ridiculous in their own right.

But what I realized while watching the episode is that if Running Wilde is going to work, it might just have to embrace the ridiculousness of its plot and really take a step further to keep the jokes coming because as much as I want it to be so, Will Arnett and Keri Russell don’t have the chemistry the series wants them to have. Because of that, why not just let Will Arnett and David Cross’ characters go out in the woods together under false pretenses and end up with Cross’ Andy wrapped up in heavy paper? Why not create a running gag (and a funny one at that) where people can’t hear at the bottom of the tree house? Why not create a faux kidnapping plot that actually relies on a substantial emotional beat to be fully successful?

These things are goofy and not the best kind of comedy, but at this point, getting real laughs is a step up for Running Wilde. Moreover, that final moment in the cabin with Steven is actually fairly natural and real in the context of episode. It’s hard to feel bad for any Will Arnett character (and that’s the point), but I do appreciate that the series is trying to make Steven distinctive from Gob. He’s a much more likable character who is at least trying to do the right thing at all times, even if he doesn’t know what that is (compared to Gob’s last-minute changes of heart).

Neither episode is especially strong, but there are elements of progress here that suggest Raising Hope and Running Wilde are with sticking with.

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