“Everything I need to know about someone I can glean from their asshole. Some people think eyes are the windows into the soul. Couldn’t be more wrong.”
Elijah Wood plays Ryan, an (incompetently) suicidal guy who is having trouble getting a grip, when suddenly an inspirational dog enters his life- or at least an australian asshole in a dog suit that everyone else sees as a dog. Wilfred is a pot-smoking, swearing, tough-love kind of canine/guy, and he makes it his personal mission to make Ryan less of a total pussy. Adventures ensue. Wilfred is an American adaptation of James Mann’s Australian series, both of which star Mann as the titular pup. The American version is set amidst the American suburbs, and is shot with the same kind of sharp, narrow-depth-of-field DSLR look that Louie is known for. It’s a beautiful show, and filled with fun actors peeking in and out.
I was able to take a look at the first three episodes of of Wilfred and I have to say that while the show still needs a little work to find itself, it’s a perfect fit for FX- a network that embraces odd comedy and has brought you Louie and Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The pilot definitely works as a pilot should- essentially as it’s own short film that simultaneously sets up an entire series. We dive into the story amidst Ryan’s attempts to kill himself with a boatload of pills, and after that doesn’t work, we get a wide look at his lack of drive and inspiration. There’s a sister, a cute neighbor, and then Wilfred the dog (who has a habit of just showing up). Right away you get the hint that this show is a buddy comedy, with one of the buddys being a particularly large asshole who will be as much an antagonist for the other as a friend. There’s stoner humor, sarcasm, titty bars, and plenty of “oh yeah, this guy is actually a dog” gags (lots of leg-humping and laser-pointer chasing) but the creators seems aware that they can’t run the concept into the ground right from the start. By the end of the pilot there’s a clearly defined relationship between Ryan and Wilfred, with plenty of hints that a love triangle will develop with Wilfred’s cute owner, and that trouble will come from some neighbors. Also, much more weed will be smoked.
The other two episodes let you get to know the surrounding characters a little bit, but only start to scratch the surface of who Ryan and Wilfred really are. Both episodes have tidy little conflicts that keep Ryan involved with different neighbors, but they don’t venture far beyond the neighborhood.
After three episodes I’m already hoping for the show to dig a little deeper into Elijah Wood’s character, and nail down whatever is demotivating him a bit more. His discomfort with life is still a bit nebulous, and though Wilfred is already starting to depussify him, I’m eager for a larger sense of what makes him a pussy in the first place. The humor is in the first three episodes is pretty consistently funny, even though it swings wildly between different kinds of gags and kinds of jokes. There’s nothing wrong with this but, at the moment, it seems like it’s going for more of a linear, character-building comedy show instead of the collection of stand-alone short films that is Louie. Regardless, that show seems to be the model, with occasional flashes of trippy humor peeking in. As the show strikes out from the more absurdist Australian show, and escapes mimicking other popular shows on the network, I have no doubt it will find its voice and become a worthy addition to the FX stable. Elijah Wood is no stranger to this kind of awkward looser character, and he seems to be having fun. He centers the show well amidst all of Wilfred’s crazy bullshit, which itself is played wonderfully by James Gann with an aggressively straight-faced dickishness. Like a dog or a small animal, Wilfred stares right at you while he causes trouble, just daring you to give him the attention he’s looking for.
Will you stare at the show long enough for it to cause a little mayhem? Give it a look and find out for yourself- it premieres on Thursday, June 23rd on FX, and will be followed by another 7 episodes in this season. Louie is also back soon, so be prepared for cable to get funny again.
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