October 2, 2013

THE SKED Series Premiere Review: “Super Fun Night”


SUPER FUN NIGHT:  Wednesday 9:30PM on ABC – Change the Channel

ABC’s decision to bury the original pilot for its Rebel Wilson vehicle SUPER FUN NIGHT isn’t unheard-of, but it’s certainly no mark of confidence–the pilot, after all, is what convinced them to order the series in the first place.  (For the record, our thoughts on the original pilot are here.)  It would be nice to say that the new episode chosen for the series premiere is a big improvement, but that’s not the case.  Nevertheless, ABC’s reasons for preferring this half-hour as viewers’s first exposure to Super Fun Night aren’t hard to grasp.

The new premiere episode, written by showrunner John Riggi (the original pilot was by Wilson herself) and directed by Alex Hardcastle, is more what network executives like to call “aspirational.”  While the first pilot almost fetishized how odd and socially inept Kimmie (Wilson) and her friends Marika (Lauren Ash) and Helen-Alice (Liza Lapira) were, with the main plot revolving around their utter inability to get into a hot club, this time they get a bit of a victory.  The basic set-up is the same:  Kimmie and her BFFs are losers who get together for one “super fun” night every week, and at the point where we now meet them, they’re using the night for weekly adventures.  (In the pilot, they just hung out in each other’s apartments until their decision to try and go to that club.)  This week, Helen-Alice stacks the weekly vote so they’ll go to a piano bar, and the central conflict of the episode is whether Kimmie, who’s had stage fright since she was a child, will have the nerve to get up and sing in public.

Of course, she does, and that’s another reason ABC preferred this episode–a lot of Rebel Wilson fans know her best from Pitch Perfect, and here she gives them a big-time rendition of “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”.  She may not win the piano bar award that’s being given out that night, but she’s earning the heart of Richard (Kevin Bishop), who’s not only a nice-guy partner at her law firm, but the son of the firm’s senior partner, and both goodlooking and nerdy after her own heart (although romance doesn’t seem to have occurred to either one of them, let alone sex).  So while Kimmie’s scheming new antagonist Kendall (Kate Jenkinson) may belt herself into first prize at the club, it’s Kimmie who comes out ahead.

This Super Fun Night is a bit easier to take than the off-putting pilot, but it’s still pitched to the broadest possible style of comedy.  Wilson seems to think that fans like her only because she makes unashamed fun of her weight, so she takes every possible chance to be seen in her underwear (two separate sequences in tonight’s episode, and a big chunk of the original pilot) and throws her body around for maximum slapstick.  The smart, funny woman from Pitch Perfect is nowhere to be seen; instead, Wilson seems to be auditioning for a road company of Ugly Betty.  (She doesn’t help herself any by playing the role with a flat American accent.)  Marika and Helen-Alice are similarly over the top, and the three of them combined could almost be doing a version of Sex and the City for 8-year olds if it weren’t for the occasional jokes about “butt-stuff.”  The Richard and Kendall characters appear to be completely beyond Wilson’s comfort zone as a writer, and they’re one-note bland and villainous, respectively.

ABC has given Super Fun Night its prize timeslot after Modern Family, and it’s a pairing that doesn’t seem to make much sense–particularly because other new ABC comedies like Back In the Game, Trophy Wife and even The Goldbergs would fit there better.  Clearly the network is all-in on Rebel Wilson, and to be sure, in the right role, she’s hilarious and hugely likable.  This just isn’t that role, even if it’s one she’s created for herself.  As with Whitney Cummings’s self-created star vehicle, sometimes a performer doesn’t know what’s best for them.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."