There's a independent female buddy comedy that went straight to DVD called Spring Breakdown that stars Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, and Rachel Dratch as three socially awkward, sheltered women who bonded in college but remained friends ten years after, still spending evenings in with games and make-your-own pizza nights. It is a little-known comedy, but one I personally have gotten a lot of laughs over and really marveled at a different kind of female friendship being explored. So when ABC picked up Rebel Wilson's Super Fun Night, a half-hour comedy about three socially awkward, sheltered friends who spend their own nights in, I was thrilled by the possibilities. The premiere doesn't deliver on all of the potential the premise has to offer, but the thing about a premiere is it's a launchpad for an on-going story, and though this one isn't perfectly paced or hysterically funny, there is definitely a lot about it that provides a unique voice maybe worth giving a bit more time to work out the kinks.
Wilson, along with her on-screen friends Liza Lapira and Lauren Ash, have Friday Night Fun Nights in which they split cake that should serve 10 between them, immediately ingratiating themselves to me. But very quickly in this story they realize life may have more to offer than sitting around in their pajamas with just the three of them, and they vow to take themselves out of their comfort zone by going out more often. The comedy comes from their missteps, but thankfully their friendship is only strengthened in the process. It would have been all too easy for one of them to "take" to the club scene more than the others and leave the others behind, but there is a reason they spent as many years as they did using each other as crutches: they need each other. It's nice to see a strong showing of support and women staying rallied around each other, even if it is with characters to whom many may feel embarrassed to admit they relate.
As a writer, producer, and star of this project, Wilson is most certainly the strongest voice here, and that voice is one eager to poke fun at herself and her awkward moments. She loves lingering on cringe-worthy comments and physical comedy that often has her clothes ripping more than she loves witty one-liners. Those are moments she's made a career out of in supporting roles in big films, but when they are placed in the spotlight for 20-odd minutes at a time, it's a bit too much. Super Fun Night certainly slams the audience into this personality, and it's one that is big and broad and takes some getting used to.
As do Wilson's friends. Ash's character is manish and aggressive in a way that keeps you on edge the whole time watching her, assuming an outside is going to poke fun at her for butch energy. Lapira is understated, as she usually is and kind of blends into the background when facing the two larger personalities. And then there are Wilson's coworker characters who seem to blink in confusion when encountering her yet still can't counter with unique or quirky personalities of their own. The characters aren't fleshed out, and too much emphasis is placed on getting laughs at something, rather than organically with it.
I wanted to like Super Fun Night so much more than I actually did. There is so much about the premise and at least half the cast that is both likeable and interesting. It's more than time that female nerds were explored in a major way on television. But I may want something from the show that it's not capable, let alone intent, on giving me. So for now, I may just have to rewatch Spring Breakdown. Possibly on a loop.
Super Fun Night premieres on ABC on October 2 2013 at 9:30 p.m., but it is worth noting that ABC sees to see both the problems with the pilot and the potential in the characters and the series as a whole, so the episode that will launch the show to the public is actually its second one, not the pilot reviewed here at all.
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