Running Wilde -- TV Review

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Being rich is a burden, as Steven Wilde (Will Arnett) discovers in Fox's new sitcom "Running Wilde."

Pampered, wealthy and protected his entire life by devoted (if self-interested) personal secretary Mr. Lunt (Robert Michael Morris), he discovers he has no true friends once he tries giving himself a humanitarian award.

Enter his polar opposite -- and former childhood crush, the daughter of a former housekeeper -- Emmy Kadubic (Keri Russell). She has had dubious success saving an Amazon rainforest tribe with her loutish "eco-terrorist" fiance (David Cross) and trouble with her daughter Puddle (Stefania LaVie Owen), who refuses to speak and is so poorly socialized that at a party she munches on the foliage. The two are meant for each other ... in a few seasons, anyway.

"Wilde" is packed with concept and quirky, surreal moments that echo Arnett and executive producer Mitchell Hurwtiz's first joint effort, "Arrested Development." (So does the character of Wilde, clearly related to "Development's" Gob Bluth.) That show scored with critics and sank with audiences, which might explain why the pair has put the veneer of conventionality on their new "romantic comedy" project.

The end result: "Wilde" shoots, it scores -- and also misses. The pilot is full of one-line delights -- material possession-deprived Puddle learns she's staying out of the rainforest for good and shouts, "I'll go get my thing!" -- but there also are John Hughes-esque clunkers like Wilde's comment to Emmy: "You have lorded having nothing over me since the day you found out I had everything."

But the bigger issue is that Arnett -- an adept physical comedian -- is no leading man, and he and Russell don't always seem to connect, much less spark. Owen as Puddle is a freckle-faced delight, but Wilde's neighbor Fa'ad (Peter Serafinowicz) is embarrassing -- are we really still darkening actors' skin to play "ethnic" roles in 2010?

Still, "Wilde" is a fast-paced grab bag; it's hard not to like a character who dunderheadedly imports an Amazon tribe to a five-star hotel rather than tell his dad not to drill on their land, all to prove he's a decent guy. But for now, audiences will have to sort through the good stuff and toss aside the lumps of coal that keep "Wilde" from being a truly wild ride.

Airdate: 9:30-10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21 (Fox)
Production: Tantamount Studios, Five Hole Pictures, Principato Young Management, Lionsgate Television
Cast: Will Arnett, Keri Russell, Robert Michael Morris, Mel Rodriguez, Stefania LaVie Owen, Jayne Houdyshell, Joe Nunez, Peter Serafinowicz
Executive producers: Mitch Hurwitz, Jim Vallely, Will Arnett, Eric Tannenbaum, Kim Tannenbaum, Peter Principato, Paul Young, Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Creator-writers: Mitch Hurwitz, Jim Vallely, Will Arnett
Producers: Peter Burrell, Jake Aust. Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Director of photography: James Hawkinson
Production designer: Eric Fraser
Costume designer: Karen Patch
Casting: Dorian Frankel, Jennifer Euston