Is Rebel Wilson ready?
That’s the question I had after reading Vulture’s profile on her, in service of promoting her upcoming sitcom Super Fun Night. I really like Wilson and I want her show to succeed, not only for Wilson’s sake but also because I am a huge fan of Liza Lapira, who co-stars and really f*cking ought to be a star by now. (Lainey: as I wrote last month, Lapira should be Rachel in Crazy Rich Asians!) Despite a so-so job hosting the MTV Movie Awards (and, um, maybe being a bit difficult behind the scenes), I have liked Wilson in everything I’ve seen her in, and I want to like her new show.
Overall, this is a really flattering piece, portraying Wilson as dedicated to her character and her show, thoughtful and deliberate in her choices, and also committed to finishing what she starts—she graduated from law school even as her television career in Australia took off. She comes across as likeable, especially in regards to her body image, and a lot of the piece deals with her weight and how she “doesn’t look like everyone else in Hollywood”. It’s a little like Adele—at what point do we just stop talking about that and focus on the talent?—but part of what I like about Wilson is that she’s body-positive, and still, I also want to hear more about stuff like law school and meeting Conan O’Brien.
The piece does raise some questions though. There’s a recurring theme of Rebel vs. The Network; Super Fun Night is on ABC, and they basically got hosed. If Super Fun Night fails it will be entirely the network’s fault, at least according to this article. All Wilson wants to do is tell us jokes about dolphins raping humans, and the stupid network got in the way. And that’s where my questions begin. How did the pitch on that dolphin joke go? Did ABC shoot it down and that was it? Or did Wilson try to reframe it, refining the setup for something that worked for both sides, and it was still rejected? I want to know more about Wilson’s relationship with ABC. They’re heavily invested in the show, so it’s not like they’re trying to torpedo her, but it is a major network owned by Disney—some material might require a lot of massaging.
At points, Wilson seems frustrated, but it also sounds like, dolphin joke aside, she’s pretty much getting what she wants. Is it just a case of culture shock, of struggling with the differences between Australian and American TV? I started to think Wilson might have been better off on a network like FX, with its proven track record of giving creators a lot of free rein (albeit for less money than they’d make on a major network), because as long as she stayed on budget they’d stay out of her hair. She has a strong instinct for what’s funny, but is she having a hard time breaking that down for the network? Is that where the friction is coming from?
I hope Rebel Wilson is ready. What I’ve seen of Super Fun Night is solid, but that undercurrent of conflict with the network worries me. Mindy Kaling has received a lot of support from Fox to work out the kinks on The Mindy Project, and I hope ABC supports Wilson in the same way. But I’m concerned about things like her frustration with receiving notes on episodes. That’s part of making a network comedy—which is why most of the best comedies aren’t on networks these days—so it’s something she’ll just have to get used to. I hope she does. For her sake, and ours, and Liza Lapira’s. Television will be a more interesting place with Rebel Wilson (and Lapira) in the landscape.
Click here to read the full piece on Rebel Wilson in New York Magazine.