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The Hurwitz Formula: ‘Running Wilde’ and ‘Arrested Development’

September 28th, 2010 by Nicholas White

Considering its pedigree, the new Will Arnett series “Running Wilde” could be the next great cult hit, much like Fox’s “Arrested Development“, which helped place Michael Cera, Will Arnett and “Mr. Show” star David Cross in the spotlight as it breathed new life into the careers of Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi and Jeffrey Tambor. “Arrested Development” never had big ratings, though, and was canceled in 2006 after just three seasons. (Rumors of a movie have been in circulation for years now.) Will “Running Wilde” — which comes from “Arrested” creator Mitch Hurwitz, producer Jim Vallely and star/executive producer Arnett — follow suit? The quirky Fox comedy, which airs Tuesdays after “Glee” and “Raising Hope,” got off to a slow start last week, with just 5.5 million viewers tuning in to the series premiere. And while “Arrested Development” is considered a bona fide cult hit these days, the success of “Running Wilde” (cult or otherwise) will depend on where the show goes beyond the pilot. How does “Wilde” draw on its predecessor’s formula? We stack it up against “Arrested Development” below. — Nicholas White for the Yahoo! TV Blog and Hulu

Elitist Backdrops
Living in the world of extreme wealth is a hallmark of both shows. “Wilde” follows an oil family on Long Island, while “Arrested’s” dysfunctional Bluth household was built on a patriarch’s wealth. Both seem to have corrupt laziness at the top, with their heroes living in a shell of insulated privilege. Instead of the soapy drama of series like “Dynasty,” however, Hurwitz infuses his series with a deadpan comedic tone that suits the immaculate, high-end details.

In each series, Arnett plays essentially the same brainless man-child with disconnected emotions and perfect cuticles. As the love-hungry Steve Wilde, he’s placed front-and-center in the storyline, while “Arrested Development’s” foppish goofball Gob was one mess of a wannabe magician.

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Voiceover Narration and Quirky Characters
Twelve-year-old Puddle (Stefania Owen) is the storyteller on “Running Wilde,” while Ron Howard served as the uncredited narrator on “Arrested Development.” They help give form and structure to the show, adding a clear sense of humor to events as they unfold. Puddle was mute while living unhappily in the Guatemalan jungle; it took Arnett’s Steve to loosen her up. And David Cross is back again, this time playing Keri Russell’s eco-terrorist boyfriend. While he played the De Rossi’s cuckolded therapist husband “Arrested,” this time Cross is a beard braid-wearing activist hell-bent on saving the rain forest. In both cases, his pitfall-prone personas display endearing peccadilloes.

Realistic Settings
With a common visual language, similar musical cues and faux realism in each series, you can almost imagine the worlds of Steve Wilde and Gob Bluth intersecting in some bizarro alternate universe. With flashback cutaways that provide depth to each character’s back story, Hurwitz and his team make it seem as though we’re looking inside the lives of real — though admittedly ridiculous — people.

Running Wilde airs Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c on Fox.

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