Does Wilfred Deserve A Second Look?

Show: Wilfred

Premiered: June 2011

Why Was It Made? If it's been done elsewhere around the globe, it can be done Stateside -- and better, with more scatological humor (or so the saying goes). Wilfred was adapted from an Australian series of the same name (also starring Jason Gann, its creator) at a time when FX had begun to solidify its formidable comedy lineup. Maybe it was developed to make Louie look more light-hearted? Wilfred is far and away the darkest comedy on the network that isn't American Horror Story.

Why Did I Stop Watching? I don't like dogs? No, dogs are great -- costumed or otherwise. I think that, after many episodes of off-putting comedic violence and go-nowhere psychological examination, I'd grown tired of Wilfred's schtick. Jason Gann (Wilfred) and Elijah Wood (Ryan) have fantastic chemistry, that can't be denied, but their storylines felt repetitive and increasingly reliant on "…or is it?" mind-bending act-outs. Maybe I should be out drinking and socializing with my peers instead.

Why Give It Another Shot? I mean, friends come and go, right? The easy answer is there's simply nothing else on right now and nominal harm in watching, but we can do better than that. Okay: the fact that, annoying as the show's emphasis on this can be, its investigation into the mystery of Wilfred's origin/reality is still something I'm interested in seeing. Lost really did a number on me, what can I say!

There's also the matter of Wilfred being hysterically funny from time to time, especially when it loses itself in human-dog juxtapositions. The image of a grown man in a cartoonish dog suit dragging an errant turd never fails to amuse.

What Aspects Of The Latest Episode Would Seem To Invite Further Viewing? Laugh-out-loud, offensive humor (like Wilfred claiming to be Anne Frank's dog, the one whose barking finally alerted the Nazis to her family's hiding space) helps the viewer to forgive a lot of the episode's weaker psychological ruminations. In one scene, Wilfred and his supposed clone, Sparky, enjoy a dog "pleasure" room filled with stuffed giraffes and lines of cocaine. The line: "One way to settle this: rape fight."

Also, Angela Kinsey was a nice choice to play Sparky's caretaker, suggesting more great guest-casting that doesn't emphasize STAR wattage. The show has had great, weird guests (Mary Steenburgen, Steven Weber) pop up in the past two seasons. And I don't think there's any danger of it becoming Wil(fred) & Grace! (GROAN.)

What Aspects Of The Latest Episode Discourage Further Viewing? Even at just twenty-one minutes long, this sitcom moves slowly. Can we keep Wilfred and Ryan from spending multiple five-minute scenes discussing the nature of reality and consciousness? In one episode, they ruminate in the basement…and in a car…. There's only so much time for actual plot in a half-hour of television, and the show misjudges the extent to which we're interested in Wilfred's "nature" (even though we're a little interested).

If you don't like dogs, the show continues to be about a dog, sort of. That would definitely discourage further viewing.

Final Verdict: Wilfred rarely satisfies the way an episode of Louie or Sunny does, but then again, neither of them is airing new episodes right now. Louie might not come back until next summer, at least! So let's be frickin' happy there's any comedy to watch, especially one willing to joke about suicide-by-antifreeze and domesticated animal sex crimes. As Hitfix's Alan Sepinwall has pointed out many times, "Funny forgives a lot." And Wilfred can be very, very funny.

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