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Running Wilde: "Oil & Water"

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On Running Wilde, the joke is always on one character. Everyone else sees things a mile away except for that one person. It happens a lot all over television; comedy, of course, is about blind spots. If we were watching Arrested Development, the joke would likely be on Tobias, and the family would send him off on some wild adventure (likely having something to do with the Hot Cops). He'd have no idea until much later in the episode what was going on, and much humor could be mined from his obliviousness. At one point during tonight's Running Wilde, Steve concocts a scheme to send Andy off to Alaska. He lies to Andy, telling him there's some grand scheme to uncover, and Andy is the only man for the job. He pushes Andy into the car and sends him off on his merry way with some off-handed comment about how he wants to hit on Emmy; three seconds later, Andy goes, "Emmy?" He's got roughly what Steve is up to. Barely any time passed.


Such is the way of Running Wilde, a show that is becoming comfortable telegraphing its jokes and intentions a mile away.

I apologize for the Arrested Development comparison just then. I know it's not fair to the guys working on the show. It's just that while last week's episode was a step in the direction that distinguished Running Wilde from its perhaps-not-influential predecessor, "Oil & Water" was a step back. This was an Arrested Development episode, but slower and way more obvious. With lines name-checking the Blue Man Group and dropping the term "forget juice," it's hard not to notice.


So Steve tries to get rid of Andy so he can hit on Emmy, which is becoming the way things work around these parts. Emmy wants to get close to Steve but is angry to learn Steve is technically employed by Wilde Oil, to the point that he not only collects a paycheck but has an office and everything. Steve, determined to woo this wild woman from the jungle, head down to Wilde Oil to quit, only to find the camaraderie and KFC he's been missing in his stuffy old house. Emmy learns the truth and gets angry at Steve. Steve goes down to quit once and for all. Emmy realizes that if Steve works at the company she can leverage that relationship to get information to ultimately stop the company's nefarious deeds. Steve can't work up the courage to quit, and Emmy is ecstatic. Then Emmy realizes the error of her ways only to find that Steve couldn't really go through with the whole "job" thing anyways—mostly because they don't take their weekends on Wednesdays.

If it sounds confusing, that's because it was. Running Wilde has the danger of falling into plot-rehash territory, mostly because Mitch Hurwitz is ambitious. He used to tell so many stories, and instead has decided to focus on just a few each episode. That's all well and good, except that the stories he has chosen to tell are quite ambitious still. Puddle tries her darndest to narrate the hell out of the murky plot (she's getting much better), but the show is still working to find its groove between character-based silliness and a plot that actually resembles an overarching story.


The gags were fresher last week but felt stale tonight. A few jokes to Steve's obliviousness to the "common man" and his chicken are fine, but they decided to have a woman at the office spell everything out: KFC is fried chicken, a punch is a sign of friendship, etc. Very few jokes were allowed to stand on their own. It was certainly a joy to see Paul Shaffer slummin' it in the Wilde mansion, and hear Fa'ad talk about the "slippery slope" that's actually a literal slippery slope of ice he was trying to climb. But I'm fearing that Puddle saying the word "atrocity" a bunch of times, mentioning she learned a new word in school, then having Steve say atrocity one more time…is the way things are leaning now.

If the show is trying to be inclusive instead of exclusive with its humor, that's obviously great. But "Oil & Water" makes a bunch of obscure jokes and then explains them. I think there's a middle ground between Arrested Development and, say, Everybody Loves Raymond, and watering down Arrested Development ain't it.


Stray observations:

  • Perhaps I'm more than a little annoyed that Fa'ad was given so little to do this episode—and so far away from everyone.
  • David Cross wearing women's clothing and actually loving it = yet another AD throwback. Then again, maybe we're all reading a bit too into this.

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