TV review: ‘Super Fun Night’ and Rebel Wilson are still weighed down

We’ve come a long way, maybe, since Camryn Manheim made her famous “this is for all the fat girls” acceptance speech at the 1998 Emmys after winning for her portrayal of Ellenor Frutt in “The Practice.”

Since then, Brooke Elliott won critical praise for “Drop Dead Diva,” Melissa McCarthy picked up an Emmy as the female lead in “Mike & Molly” and Lena Dunham, though plus-sized only by Hollywood standards, has done everything but play ping-pong in the nude on “Girls” to help HBO viewers reconsider their absurdly conditioned views on the female form. (Oh wait, she did that too.)

So the timing is perfect for cinematic scene-stealer du jour Rebel Wilson to bring on the curves in ABC’s new “Super Fun Night.”

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Unfortunately, though Wilson remains gorgeously fearless in her willingness to go all in, neither the network nor Wilson (she is an executive producer) know quite what to do with that. Beyond, you know, making sure everyone realizes that we shouldn’t have such narrow preconceptions based on appearance.

Except that’s precisely what “Super Fun Night” does. Having ditched the original (and terrible) pilot, the show premieres with its (slightly less terrible) second episode, in which we meet Kimmie Boubier (Wilson), a pretty and sweet young woman apparently still damaged from abuse suffered at the hands of adolescent mean girls.

Never mind that she’s a junior attorney, smart and ambitious enough to have just received a major promotion, Kimmie is a self-defined loser, part of a semi-agoraphobic trio — neurotic Helen-Alice (Liza Lapira) and socially klutzy Marika (Lauren Ash) — who have recently taken a vow to move their traditionally apartment-bound Super Fun Nights into the wider world.

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Furthering the “Glee"-inspired notion that life never ventures much past high school, “Super Fun Night” gives Kimmie an “impossible” office crush — Richard (Kevin Bishop), the handsome British lawyer and boss’ son — and a thin-girl nemesis (Kate Jenkinson). Both of whom wind up at the karaoke piano bar Kimmie and her friends have chosen as their maiden voyage into adult social life. Karaoke also figured into the premiere of “Trophy Wife”; is it really on so much of an upswing?

There Kimmie hopes to get over her fear of speaking in public (how did she manage to get through law school?), which means we get to see Wilson do a fine cover of “I’d Do Anything for Love” before it devolves into a pretty silly sing-off with Jenkinson’s character.

Nuance is not Wilson’s thing, nor does it have to be. It is still a thrill to see a female comedian really throw her weight around.

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But the writers seem determined to stuff her into a conceit as restrictive as the Spanx she also feels obligated to wear. Having stripped Wilson of her signature Aussie accent for no good reason, the basic story line trots her back about 10 years, to the dark ages before geeks ruled the earth and McCarthy was a franchise.

It’s a shame, because there’s no reason Kimmie and her friends can’t be anxious, insecure and still full-grown modern women. Wilson’s attraction is her often seemingly oblivious dismissal of the ridiculous restrictions on femininity. There is no need to bind her or her costars (who all do a great job with what little they are given) to bland sermons on self-love or timid speculation that handsome men might be attracted to larger gals.

Fifteen years after Manheim’s speech, the TV audience is ready to see the full figure unleashed.



‘Super Fun Night’

Where: ABC

When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday


Rating: TV-PG-DL (may be unsuitable for young children with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)