Wilfred has Gone to the Dogs
- Thursday, July 21, 2011
Wilfred is a new comedy on the FX Channel that was imported from Australia. It should have been left buried Down Under.
The premise of this dark comedy is interesting. Ryan, played by Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood, is a young man who finds his life meaningless and decides it isn't worth continuing.
The pilot opens with him perfecting his suicide note before chasing an abundance of prescription meds with a bottle of NyQuill and lying down to die. But peace doesn't come to Ryan so easily.
Instead of dying Ryan experiences a sugar rush that keeps him up all night. His sister, a doctor who prescribed the medication for him, gave him sugar pills afraid that he might abuse them. Ryan just can't catch a break.
The following morning Ryan is startled to find his attractive neighbor, Jenna, at his front door. She asks if Ryan would dog-sit for her as her house is being fumigated while she is away at work.
While stammering through his reply Ryan notices the dog behind her. Although everyone else sees Wilfred as your typical canine mutt, he appears to Ryan as a grown man in a scruffy dog suit.
At first Ryan thinks this is a joke, then he worries that he is hallucinating, but quickly he accepts that this walking, talking dog is some sort of sign that his life could be different - or at least he's discovered a way score points with Jenna.
The cleverness of the show is seeing a grown man mimic the actions of a dog. The series producer, David Zuckerman, describes Wilfred as being "part Labrador Retriever and part Russell Crowe on a bender." Australian Jason Gann, who is the series co-creator and who also played the same role in the original version, plays the canine side of Wilfred with an understated approach.
If he wasn't in the dog suit, you'd assume he was just the jobless stoner that lived next door. So when he turns around several times before sitting on the couch, or picks up the living room carpet to wipe his backside, it's easy to smile, for those of us who have our own dogs. Unfortunately, that is where the entertainment ends.
Wilfred's influence on Ryan's life is hardly as man's best friend. The man in the dog suit convinces his weak-willed sitter to act out in selfish and boorish behaviors.
Ryan loses his new job after cussing out his boss, breaks into a neighbor's home, defecates in this neighbor's boot along with Wilfred, and goes home to smoke the marijuana they stole from the neighbor's basement. Ryan's life is no better with Wilfred leashed to him.
Each episode has a simple title - Happiness, Trust, Fear, etc. - but instead of having any sort of a moral victory, each storyline skirts depravity and champions animalistic behaviors. Wilfred's dialog is crass with an extreme emphasis on sex.
One episode focuses on whether or not Jenna secretly has a penis and how Ryan can find out. The fourth episode tries to humorously cover the topic of bestiality with a guest appearance of The Office's Ed Helms. It isn't funny, especially if you watch the episode with your wife, or your dog, in the room.
The novelty of watching a man deal with an imaginary friend wears off quickly, and there are a limited number of dog jokes and behaviors to poke fun at. If Wilfred is going fetch American viewers the chemistry between the actors will need to grow and the comedy will need to shift from being quite so dark.
The Australian version of Wilfred lasted two seasons; the American one might need to be put down before that.
Wilfred is rated TV-MA for language and sexual situations. Viewer discretion is advised
*This article first published 7/21/2011
**Watch Wilfred Thursdays on FX
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