"The Junior Affair" is a comedy of misunderstanding. Puddle shares that she was dumped by her boyfriend, so Emmy and Steve decide to help her out in very different ways. Emmy starts hanging out with the ex-boyfriend hoping to convince him that Puddle is the only girl for him. Steve, meanwhile, strikes up a relationship with the boy's dad (played by Andy Richter) which quickly morphs into the father-type dynamic Steve wishes he had with his real dad. The problem, though, is that the boy thinks Emmy is trying somehow to strike up a weird May-December romance with him, and Andy Richter is all set on having a gay relationship with Steve Wilde. And, lo, Steve washed a car all seductive-like because he thought he was doing it for a dad. Oh, the hilarity.
Running Wilde works the best when it tries to nuance a relationship that starts off in obvious territory. Steve and Emmy are slowly orbiting around each other, and at least for the time being, it seems like never the two shall meet. It was satisfying to watch the two of them get to the end of this episode—rehashing the failed plots to win over Puddle. It was a long time in the making, but it turned out both Steve and Emmy were doing this all for the right reasons, and they were able to bond over their newfound togetherness and, as represented by "More Than Words," a bond that's been years in the making. But Andy Richter and his son brought little to the show. Both their scenes served to demonstrate that when Steve and Emmy have their eyes on the prize, they ignore all else. It's a point that was made early on, and continued throughout, only escalated by things like Richter kissing Steve and having Steve admit he thought it was how dads kiss kids. Boy was he mistaken.
It's not worth watching Running Wilde for the way it applies specificity to leading man sitcom tropes. That's what Modern Family is for, and it does it well. No, what I enjoy about Running Wilde is how it sets up early on what could be a monkey wrench in the plan, then delivers on that promise in the most pathetic way possible. Take Fa'ad in tonight's episode. It's established that he has this tough guy persona he enjoys playing, and the episode continually hints at the character busting it out at a moment's notice. Then, once he finally does, it's explained that he learned the accent and the mannerisms from Alan Alda, and what results is a spot-fucking-on impression of Alda by the always brilliant Peter Serafinowicz. His commitment to the bit paid off big, and demonstrated that Running Wilde is best served by letting its characters roam into unexpected territory.
I think it's simply a matter of letting quick jokes remain quick. I'd imagine most of the audience of Running Wilde could see where this Emmy's ex/his dad stuff was going a mile away. One bold joke would have done that whole thing justice, and the resolution between Steve and Emmy at the end would have still been totally earned. (Not to mention the silly resolution for Puddle—simply that as long as another guy was interested, she could care less.) But I get the sense that Running Wilde is afraid of episodes without a center. The last few have fixated on something very early on, even if it's not the strongest aspect of an episode, and carried it out until the end. I'd be fine letting a few of these lack a clear throughline if it meant fresher jokes and a more distinct sitcom style.
Still, "The Junior Affair," other than Serafinowicz's turn, wasn't that bad. Storywise, it was cohesive. Jokewise, it became evidence that Running Wilde, for all its care, is still all over the place with its sense of humor. Please more, though: We're starting to get somewhere with this one.
- "I don't have time for this."
- I guess Andy's still out of town, I take it?