Why Was Rebel Wilson’s ‘Super Fun Night’ Such a Disappointing Failure?

On paper, everything about Super Fun Night is appealing to me. It’s a female-created (Rebel Wilson), female-fronted (Wilson, Lauren Ash, Liza Lapira) sitcom. Conan O’Brien serves as executive producer. It has episodes written by Michael Showalter and one directed by Ken Marino. It has fine guest stars (Paul Rust, Ashley Tisdale, Molly Shannon). Most importantly, the show is about three women who are weird losers, and that’s what we need more of on television. On paper, Super Fun Night looks like it should have been my favorite new show of the season. In reality, Super Fun Night was a sitcom that I only watched reluctantly, often bored and sometimes even angry, and one that I couldn’t wait to see end. What happened between paper and execution?

Super Fun Night should have been successful. The first time the show went into production (for CBS, starring Jenny Slate and Edi Patterson), Rebel Wilson was coasting by on her Bridesmaids star power. When CBS decided not to pick it up and ABC took over, it was likely because of Wilson’s success in the massive hit Pitch Perfect. Everyone loved her on film, so surely they’d love her on a week-to-week basis, too. Plus, Super Fun Night was about a trio of seemingly relatable characters, characters that are rarely seen on television — especially on network sitcoms — as main characters rather than sidekicks.

These women aren’t just slightly clumsy or charmingly awkward or the sort of women who take off their glasses and immediately get the guy. These women are created entirely out of their weirdness, so strange that they are practically incapable of basic social interaction and alienate most of the people around them. This weirdness is the biggest draw of the show. If you’ve ever been a weird kid or someone branded as a loser, especially during your adolescence, then you tend to naturally gravitate toward weirdos on your television set. It’s an attempt to find people who are similar than you, even if they are fictional, because these characters fulfull that basic need to feel less lonely. At first, Super Fun Night seemed to say: Here you go, weirdos, here is a show where we celebrate the fact that we’re losers instead of condemning it. Here are people similar to you who aren’t stuck on the fringes — they’re the main focus.

But it turned out that Super Fun Night didn’t know how to succeed with that approach. It didn’t know how to celebrate its characters and instead turned them into punchlines for jokes with shitty setups that we’ve seen a million times before. Kimmie (Wilson) decides that she wants to step outside of her comfort zone and try new things, but her character quickly devolves into nothing but nonstop fat jokes and “comically” ill-fitting outfits. Her desire to be adventurous becomes a desire to date her attractive boss, and most of her storylines end up revolving entirely around him. Helen-Alice (Lapira) begins her first relationship during the first season, and while there’s a lot of interesting and funny material to explore there, the show decides that her boyfriend is allergic to virtually everything, including his own girlfriend, and that’s that.

Then there’s Marika (Ash), who is struggling with her sexuality and has a hard time admitting to her friends — and herself — that she’s a lesbian. It’s heavy stuff, and I’m not saying an ABC sitcom with “fun” in the title should have gotten incredibly dramatic with Marika’s journey, but it definitely could have done more with the story, instead of just making jokes about how Marika loves sports and wears pants! When Marika comes out to her friends, they are fully supportive, unsurprised, and treat it as no big deal. It sounds nice, but Super Fun Night is uncomfortable with this sincerity, so the friends quickly start listing off stereotypes. It’s so boringly uncreative.

That’s the entire problem with the first (and hopefully only) season of Super Fun Night: it created a handful of interesting and original characters but stuck them in a boring and uncreative world. While I have no doubt that Wilson will do better in the future, Super Fun Night is nothing more than a freshman attempt at sitcom writing that needed to go through a couple more drafts before being put on the air. It’s as if Wilson and co. knew the basics of script writing but just plugged in character names instead of trying something new. Super Fun Night attempted to be a strange show lovingly dedicated to strange people. Instead, it was unforgivably normal and destined to be forgotten.