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New Shows For Fall: Fox

September 13, 2010

The Paley Center for Media gave sneak peeks at several of the programs that will debut this season. (Keep in mind, the networks themselves selected the programs they wanted to showcase).

Fox presented their selected shows: The drama “Lone Star” and two new comedies: “Running Wilde” and “Raising Hope.”

“Lone Star” features actor James Volk and follows the life of Bob… well that’s his real name, though he doesn’t get called that often. He’s kinda got a lot on his plate because he’s married to the raven haired daughter (Adrianne Palicki) of a Houston oil magnate (Jon Voight), and he’s been invited to become a big player in the family business. However, he’s also in love with a hometown girl (Eloise Mumford) in the small berg of Midland and their low-key, quiet life together seems idyllic. In between, he’s been selling shares in a set of oil wells to folks and earning a fantastic living. Only one problem: there are no oil wells. Bob here is what you call a con man. His marriage into the oil family was simply to get in and clean them out, what is known as “The Long Con.” But after getting offered the plum job he needs to do the deed, Bob suddenly starts thinking he can actually go legit and become a real player, this to the consternation of his dad who taught his son every scam in the book.

There is a definite element of “Dallas” in the early going, with Voight being a kind of Jock Ewing self-made man figure, and his sons who don’t particularly like how their brother-in-law is horning in on their birthright. But it’s all played straight up. There’s no sense of camp here at all. This series really could bring back the nighttime soap with a style that actually works for the 21st Century. And Volk is both charming and sensitive in a way that convinces you he really could take your life savings away if that’s what he wanted, or at least could carry on two separate lives and that somehow it would all be okay.

I’m sure that “soap” isn’t the intent of the series, but that’s not a pejorative. I think it could be pretty spectacular if they set it up that way, since there’s intrigue coming from just about every angle and our protagonist is forced to more or less lie to everyone he encounters to keep his multiple façades in place. It should be worth viewing.

“Running Wilde” is a new sitcom from Mitchell Hurwitz (“Arrested Development”) and starring Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”) as Steven Wilde: a wealthy and self-indulgent jerkface living off of his father’s oil money in a home that suspiciously resembles Stately Wayne Manor  from the old “Batman” TV series. He has no friends to speak of, besides the hired help, brilliantly played by Mel Rodriguez and Robert Michael Morris, and his equally rich and arrogant neighbor, portrayed by Peter Serafinowicz. The problem is that Emmy, the one girl who Steven maybe sorta loved in his youth and whom he might possibly still wants to impress, played by Keri Russell (“Felicity”), is now an environmentalist trying to stop the Wilde Oil Company from destroying the ecosystem of an Amazonian tribe.  David Cross (“Arrested Development”) is Russell’s overly eager and amusingly rat tailed and beaded boyfriend and the show’s narrator is their daughter, Puddle, played by Stefania Owen, who hates the jungle and just wants a regular life as a regular kid in a regular civilization.

As you can tell, there are a lot of “Arrested Development” elements in this new series, and the situations are nothing if not as absurd as that previous sitcom. Arnett seems perfectly natural at being hilariously annoying, Russell makes a competent foil for both Arnett and Cross and the clash of caring for the planet or caring about your own interests is a discussion that we’re ready to handle, as long as it’s with a lot of laughs. I’m pleased to say, this promises plenty!

Finally, we have a new series from Greg Garcia (“My Name Is Earl”) titled “Raising Hope,” which features the most dysfunctional family, possibly in television history: The Chances. Lucas Neff is Jimmy, a hapless twentysomething still living in a hovel of a home with his mom Virginia (Martha Plimpton) who cleans toilets to earn her daily bread, dad Burt (Garret Dillahunt) cousin Mike (Skyler Stone) and the actual owner of the place, Maw Maw, Cloris Leachman. Leachman is not letting Betty White steal all of the thunder this year, and will gain a lot of attention playing a totally wacked out grandma to this completely crazy group! The trouble begins when Jimmy, out for an errand, rescues a damsel in distress, then as a thank you, they have a one van stand, and she gets preggers. But then complications arise for both the new mom and for her daughter, Princess Beyoncé, leaving Jimmy and the gang to deal with the new baby doll.

If you liked the homespun humor and occasional slapstick of “Earl,” you will get a charge out of “Raising Hope,” because it captures that backwater quality and does aim for the lowbrow often. Fortunately, they hit the bull’s eye nearly every time they try, so that makes it all worthwhile. “Raising Hope” won’t break any ground when it comes to dealing with parenting, and really, it might just set the concept back about 50 years, but it’s so silly you have to give everybody props for doing it right!

Grades for the pilots that Fox showed:

“Lone Star” B+ (this really could reboot the nighttime soap in a big way)

“Running Wilde” B+ (Let’s try to keep this one around a bit longer than the last Hurwitz series)

“Raising Hope” B (much like “Earl” for a “dumb” comedy, it’s pretty smart)

Up Next: ABC

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2010 7:29 pm

    These shows actually sound like they might be worth watching. Particularly interested in the “Earl” clone. Loved My Name is Earl.

  2. September 13, 2010 7:32 pm

    The only thing is I remember one show with a bunch of white folks tried to be cute by naming a baby character “Oprah” and I can’t even remember what that show called, it was canceled so fast.

  3. September 13, 2010 8:59 pm

    omg, that is ringing some bells for me too! damn, what was that?

    while I’ve been waiting years for Martha Plimpton to get her star vehicle, I must say that is not exactly what I had in mind. I do love me some Cloris Leachman though.

  4. September 13, 2010 9:02 pm

    I’m excited by “Running Wilde” because of all of the “Arrested Development” ties. Plus I love Peter Serafinowicz (so much so that I’m willing to give the remake of Yellow Submarine a shot, should it ever come out).

    I’ve eyed “Raising Hope” skeptically, but now that I know about the “Earl” connection, I might give it a shot.

    It seems like every show I like on Fox gets cancelled. I liked “Firefly” and “Drive” and I also enjoyed their show “Sons of Tucson” before it was cancelled after 4 episodes. I hope these last, if they’re good.

  5. September 13, 2010 11:05 pm

    On the “Raising Hope” tip, and Re: Martha Plimpton, I didn’t mention what I found most interesting, in the wake of my “The Thing Called Love” essay from a couple of weeks back. I guess I can say that the reason the family inherits this baby is because the mom was a murderer who kills her boyfriends. And in one scene, they made a point of mentioning that this woman’s birthday was May 12th. That just not so coincidentally happens to be the birthday of Samantha Mathis. Boyfriends may die, grudges do not!

  6. September 13, 2010 11:20 pm

    And in one scene, they made a point of mentioning that this woman’s birthday was May 12th. That just not so coincidentally happens to be the birthday of Samantha Mathis. Boyfriends may die, grudges do not!

    Oh. snap.

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