Rebel Wilson's Super Fun Night has honorable intentions. The show aims to put truly weird female misfits at the center of a network television show, the only problem is: it doesn't work. The show ends up being less funny than uncomfortable and cruel. It's unfortunately more proof that TV doesn't know how to deal with weird girls.
Super Fun Night, which premieres tonight on ABC, tells the story of Kimmie Boubier (Wilson) a capable but awkward lawyer, who has two equally (if not more) awkward friends. The girls try to cope with their terrible social lives by planning activities every Friday night. In the episode airing tonight—which was not the show's pilot, it should be noted—the women go to a piano bar, and Kimmie signs up to perform to get over her fear of singing in public.
In her profile of Wilson for New York, Lynn Hirschberg wrote that "Wilson imagined Kimmie and her friends as true uncomfortable outsiders, rather than TV’s standard popular beauties who are cosmetically nerdy in order to seem interesting, relatable, or relevant." The main problem with the show, is that instead of humanizing these outcasts, their flaws are the central joke of the show. Bits, which we assume are supposed to be funny, involve Kimmie putting on her mouth guard, skipping inappropriately around her law office, ordering consolation pizzas, and struggling to putting on Spanx. The joke with Kimmie's friend Marika (Lauren Ash) is that she's mannish and threatening. The joke with her friend Helen-Alice (Liza Lapira) is that she's very innocent. We're asked to laugh at them because they are weirdos, not to identify with them.
It doesn't help that the show's main villain is a pretty but super bitchy co-worker of Kimmie's, as if women are either beautiful jerks or unattractive losers. No, the people on the show aren't actually ugly, but the show wants to play up the leads' relative unattractiveness. In Hirschberg's profile Wilson says: "The women from wardrobe are lovely, but they don’t get that I want to dress as Kimmie, and Kimmie does not have the best taste. The girls in the show are at the bottom of the social pole, and it’s hard to communicate that to the network. It’s important they understand that comedy is not about looking good."
The girls on Super Fun Night are definitely new for TV. TV's weird girls are often supporting players. The Big Bang Theory was originally about male nerds and a hot girl. Mayim Bialik's Amy Farrah Fowler didn't show up until later. The offbeat, outcast girls that tend to most frequently succeed on television as leads are a) pretty and b) snarky and/or wry. Long story short: they aren't that weird. Take, for instance, Daria of Daria or Lindsay Weir of Freaks and Geeks. Daria and Lindsay may not have run with the quote-unquote cool crowds, but their looks (yes, we know Daria is a cartoon), alt-fashion, and wit made them cool to viewers.
Still, in a way Super Fun Night seems like Wilson's answer to Fox's New Girl, which stars Zooey Deschanel as Jess, a socially awkward schoolteacher. When that show began in 2011 its main source of humor was Jess's strangeness. She sang to herself, did funny voices, was so awkward with men that she couldn't even say the word "penis." Meanwhile, she was doing all of this with the gorgeous face and perfect body of, well, Zooey Deschanel. Ultimately, the show only started becoming the great show it is today when it toned down Jess's weirdness, making it more organic and based on the reality of Deschanel's own quirky style. In one episode she brilliantly tells off another woman who criticizes her love of girly things. The show also upped the weirdness of her male roommates, making it one bizarre sitcom family. The humor started to arise out of the specific performances, not character descriptions.
That brings us to the biggest, and probably the most easily fixable problem with Super Fun Night. In trying so hard to make her characters truly weird, Wilson has undermined her own weird humor that was so brilliantly on display in Pitch Perfect, the movie that helped catapult her to fame. Instead of trying to make us laugh at unpalatable characters, Wilson should just be her own weird self.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.