Stretching the Boundaries

Is Super Fun Night an Australian comedy? Well, since you ask… no. It’s made in the USA by an USA network for USA audiences. And yet here we are, about to have a whinge about it anyway. Our excuse? It stars “Australia’s own” Rebel Wilson as both lead and series creator. Plus we talked about the US version of Wilfred that one time so it’s totally fair enough, okay?

We’re filing this one under “overseas sales” even though it’s not a remake of a local series because if you squint your eyes a little it’s kind of obvious that this is just Wilson’s latest attempt to peddle a comedy persona she’s been working pretty much non-stop since she left Pizza: the fat chick with a heart of gold who’s also kind of a tramp but not knowingly so but she’s still a tramp so yeah. Hey, remember when she said this:

“Kimmie is prissy in a way.” Wilson paused. “It would be nice if there were hearts on her clothes. She believes in true love, and that’s part of what gets her out of the house.”

And then dressed like this:

Kimmie-Boubier-Rebel-Wilson

So yeah, there’s that. Sometimes you just have to go for the big laugh.

Meanwhile, what did Fairfax TV reviewer Tony Squires have to say about it?

Super Fun Night copped a hammering from US critics, but its first few episodes gathered a strong following from audiences. People want Wilson to succeed because she appears to be an everywoman, dealing in knockabout, self-deprecating humour.

Give it a crack. You only stand to lose half an hour of your life.

Gee, so the people with an educated opinion thought it was crap but morons loved it so you’re going to side with the morons? Clearly we place a value on our time slightly higher than “whatever, you’ll be dead soon anyway”.

That said, we did actually watch the first episode and… yeah, it was crap. Two minutes into the episode and we’d already seen a toilet joke, a “whoops, check out my embarrassing underwear” joke (different underwear than the photo above, mind you, which suggests we’re going to be seeing a lot of Ms Wilson’s scanties) and a cutaway joke which… okay, they’re an accepted part of comedy now, but if you can’t do them better than Scrubs (or The Simpsons, or even Family Guy), then don’t bother.

What follows is a bog-standard US sitcom of the “utterly generic” variety featuring the occasional scene designed to play to Wilson’s strengths, which are fat jokes and singing. She has two friends – an Asian Nerd and a Butch Gal – there’s a Cute Guy at her workplace who already seems into her and she likes him back so presumably the only reason they’re not together is because he doesn’t root fat chicks, and a Blonde Bitch type who by week six will turn into either everyone’s friend or Ms Babcock from The Nanny. Wasn’t The Nanny a good show? Yes, yes it was.

Reportedly Super Fun Night is doing well in the ratings in the US, but some seem to think that’s more due to it getting a massive lead-in from Modern Family than any inherent quality in the show itself. It’s hard to see Super Fun Night being any kind of long-term hit: Wilson’s act works best in small doses, while the supporting cast are totally forgettable and the set-up is clearly going to be ditched the second they can think of something better.

Ironically, the one thing that seems to be dragging in all the praise – having Wilson playing a strong, independent woman despite her size – is the thing that seems certain to kill the comedy. Elaine on Seinfeld was a bundle of neuroses, and 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon was a slobby sexless nerd. In contrast, Wilson’s character is outgoing, good at her job, is briefly worried about singing karaoke but overcomes that, and likes a workmate who seems to like her back. Being a self-confident winner despite her XXL size works fine for comedy in tiny doses, but week in week out? Comedy and role models don’t mix.

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10 Comments

  • urinal cake says:

    Ah but Elaine and Liz were ‘good looking’ so they needed those character deficiencies to balance their characters out. Rebel can get away with her self-conscious clutz but ultimately normal, confident character as long as she can write enough characters and wacky scenarios. Like Boston Legal.

    It’s a shame because there’s some real acting talent here and as I said before the premise has promise.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    If it was an hour drama like Boston Legal, then maybe this would work – or if they focused on a string of wacky legal cases, or if they had a strong will-they-or-won’t-they romance angle, or had anything going on here beyond “every Friday night we’re going to do… something!” It wouldn’t be surprising if by week six they just go to the same bar every Friday and meet a bunch of nutty characters there.

    Wilson is hardly ugly by any stretch, and her constant “oh, did I really just say that somewhat slutty thing” act works (to the extent that it does) because she is fairly traditionally attractive, especially here. She’s Hollywood’s idea of a fat woman, hence her success in Hollywood to date.

  • urinal cake says:

    It worked for Cheers! Ultimately the problem is writing. The premise of socially awkward/lapsed friends trying to get themselves out of a rut by going out makes a good episode but a whole series would be difficult even for a good writer.

    I don’t really think Wilson ‘works’ with men and women because she’s ‘Hollywood fat’ and when she says something suggestive people are thinking, ‘Oh that makes me randy!’ I think for whatever reason people do find her acting funny and she seems likeable.

  • Tony Tea says:

    Tony Squires, television critic. No, that sentence does not make sense even when I write it down

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    The trouble is that she has one joke, though it’s a good one: she’s the fat chick who says inappropriately sexual stuff. She doesn’t have to be a sex object for that to work – she’s just not so fat (or so ugly) that what she says is repellent.

    SFN seems to be doing okay in the US ratings, which should give them enough breathing space to frantically try out any number of scenarios as they try to find one that clicks.

  • billy C says:

    He wrote a tv column in the 90s for the SMH long before he was on tv.

  • Baudolino says:

    “Ironically, the one thing that seems to be dragging in all the praise – having Wilson playing a strong, independent woman despite her size – is the thing that seems certain to kill the comedy. Elaine on Seinfeld was a bundle of neuroses, and 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon was a slobby sexless nerd. In contrast, Wilson’s character is outgoing, good at her job, is briefly worried about singing karaoke but overcomes that, and likes a workmate who seems to like her back. Being a self-confident winner despite her XXL size works fine for comedy in tiny doses, but week in week out? Comedy and role models don’t mix.”

    That’s a fallacy. Leslie Knope – a smart, assured, super-motivated, highly competent politician (and a positively represented politician, no less!), who achieves almost every goal she sets for herself and is firmly established as a role model for both the characters that inhabit Pawnee and the show’s audience – is about as persuasive as a one-woman/one-character counter-argument can get.

    Leslie couldn’t fit the archetype you dismiss as incompatible with comedy any more perfectly, and yet Leslie has been one of the most consistently well-written, well-rounded, and most of all hilarious characters on television since Parks and Rec first aired in 2009.

  • urinal cake says:

    1. Agreed.
    2. I’d say it is more due to the fact that she doesn’t come off as desperate and hoary and delivers her lines with some charm and naivety that people can relate to on some level.
    3. At this stage it’s certainly not a prime time sitcom but hey something something Josh Thomas.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    We’re not as up with P&R as we’d like to be – only so many hours in the day, etc – but isn’t Knope to some extent surrounded by actually funny characters? Some of whom oppose her do-gooder antics? Isn’t much of the comedy from her dealing with others rather than effortlessly achieving her goals?

    Perhaps what we should have said was this: it’s fine for Wilson to play whatever character she likes as long as there’s some conflict between her and the world she inhabits. At this stage all we’ve seen is one bitchy co-worker who everyone is opposed to – if everyone’s on Wilson’s side and thinks she’s great, where are the laughs going to come from?

  • Tony Tea says:

    That makes even less sense.