Fall 2013 Review: Super Fun Night

1 Nov

Super Fun Night every night

Super Fun Night borrows from a set up that pops up over and over again in movies and television and has worked plenty of times before in movies like Old School and Animal House among many others. The main characters are self-aware and self-appointed losers. In this case, they’re three best friends who normally stay at home on Friday night, confident in their friendship but not so much in anything else. Like in any of these shows or movies, the losers are our heroes, and the story is about how they break out of their shells and show their worth to the rest of non-loser society.

Rebel Wilson plays the group’s nominal leader Kimmie, a lawyer who just got a promotion at her firm. The aggressive Marika and the diminutive Heather-Alice back her up. Kimmie has a crush on British lawyer Richard Royce who seems to genuinely like her in spite of her constantly embarrassing herself at work, as we see in several flashback cutaways.

Like in many of these types of shows and movies, there’s a clear antagonist, who is a conventional winner and was always a winner. Someone who’s great at everything, who is used to treating losers like dirt and getting away with it, but who is personally despicable by the viewer. More than winning, these characters are obsessed with making sure the losers know their place. The winners will always be winners and the losers will always be losers, and the loser best give up all hope of ever becoming a winner. These television shows and movies often take place in high school and if they don’t it’s like high school all over again with their sense of clear social strata. The British lawyer, Richard, just happens to also be in a position of power, as son of the head of the firm, thus making him an object of interest for Kendall. Kimmie likes him for him, Kendall likes him because his daddy is important.

The pilot is a first battle between our villain Kendall (by the way, even the names tell you who are the winners and who are the losers – given Kendall, Kimmie, Marika, and Heather-Alice, I’d bet you could pick out the villain) and Kimmie for Richard, and luckily for her, Richard seems much more on her page, personality-wise. Unfortunately, apparently just getting along better and having compatible personalities isn’t enough; Kimmie has to defeat, or at least equal, her rival in a karaoke sing-off to prove her worth.

I thought Super Fun Night would be like The Crazy Ones, a sitcom whose value depending almost entirely on your opinion of its polarizing and screen-hogging star, in this case Rebel Wilson. Your opinion about Wilson will have a large impact on how you feel about the show, indisputably, but it’s not dominated by her personality the way The Crazy Ones is by Robin Williams. She’s still the dominant force of the show, and if you don’t like her you probably won’t like the show, but it doesn’t scream Rebel Wilson just starring in a sketch show.

Super Fun Night’s sense of humor is well over the top and not in a good way. Most of the over-the-topness is through cringe-worthy moments where Kimmie embarrasses herself. It’s hard to watch at times. It aims for British awkward comedy combined with American physical comedy and neither work. Cringe comedy is difficult, Peep Show and the original British The Office are two of the most successful examples. In this show, unlike those, we’re unapologetically supposed to be rooting for the main character who is the cause of all the cringe-worthiness. Was I rooting for her? I was, relatively, but only because of a kind of cheat, as the villain was so obviously terrible that there’s really no other option. Given a real choice, I doubt I would root for her. Maybe this is malecentric but I feel bad for the guy who they’re competing over. Rebel Wilson’s clearly well-meaning but doing frustratingly stupid things time and again.

We get it. Kimmie makes a fool of herself a lot at work by accident with all manner of physical pratfall or her kind of disgusting habits. That point is hammered home again and again. Some of them are innocent accidents, some are poor social judgments that she really should know better than to make, and some fall in the middle. I generally keep these reviews link free, but Vulture penned an article that happened to hit the nail right on the head. In order for a show like this to work, you have to really have to buy in to the losers – you have to make them your own. Here, you don’t want to. I want to root for the underdog but they just turn me off here. People can be losers and behave like somewhat normal humans.

Will I watch it again? No.  The set up is a common one but Super Fun Night got it wrong, and Wilson’s brand of self-deflating physical humor is too much.

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