Show of the Day: Wilfred

17 Jul

Wilfred is about a loner experiencing a third-of-life crisis, burned out from a job he never wanted as a lawyer, and on the brink of mental exhaustion, reenergizing himself through a friendship with his attractive female neighbor’s dog, who he sees as a man dressed in a dog costume, and converses, watches TV, and smokes pot with.

There you have it; the central partnership of the show is man and dog, with the dog, who no one else can hear, acting as a kind of id to the man, urging on his baser instincts and wants, sometimes for the best, sometimes less so.  The man is played by Frodo Baggins himself, Elijah Wood, while the dog is played by Jason Gann, the Australian actor who played the dog in the original Australian version (I haven’t seen the original, so I can’t compare the American version to it; I do hear that it’s notably adopted a different and sometimes less dark tone).

The man, Ryan, does have the hots for his neighbor, and the dog, Wilfred’s, owner, Jenna, but while I thought that would be a central plot, it’s more often in the periphery.  Ryan’s crush on Jenna comes up here and there, whenever the show decides to remind you that it’s still a thing, but the show is about Ryan and the dog  (Jenna’s current boyfriend Drew is played by former American Pie co-star Chris Klein AKA the one that gets with Mena Suvari).

The show is occasionally funny, occasionally difficult to watch, and more often than not relatively enjoyable.  It’s not a great show; it doesn’t work on enough levels, and there’s no one element it’s brilliant at, but it’s a good enough show, and I mean that generally as a compliment.  I’m absolutely glad I watched it considering the value, in terms of episode number and length.  The last show I watched was Sons of Anarchy, which I liked overall, and while the two shows could not possibly more different, I’m not sure that four seasons of 13 hour long episodes of Sons was worth my time more than one season of 13 half hours episodes of Wilfred.

One of the strangest sub-levels of the show which is odd is the question of whether Ryan’s special, crazy, or whether seeing the dog is just a sort of magical realism.  What I do like is that to start the show, rather than having Ryan wrestle for a while with the fact that he sees Wilfred as a human-in-dog-suit, he pretty much accepts it almost right off; yes, obviously it’s crazy that he sees a man in a dog suit, but get on with the show, already, that’s the premise, and so Wilfred did.  I also like that for the most part Ryan doesn’t constantly screw up and accidentally acknowledge the fact that he’s talking to the dog all the time, which would make him look crazy to outsiders.

The show veers dark, but rarely too dark; sometimes the quasi dark episodes are the best.  My favorite two episodes were probably the darkest and at the same time most absurd; the absurdity probably keeps the level of darkness from getting too high.  The genuinely strange moments are both the best and the funniest (and yes, in a show where a man sees a dog as a human in a dog suit, there are still relatively stranger parts).  The last couple of episodes move further into the actual matter of why exactly Ryan can see Wilfred, whether he’s crazy, etc, and while if you had told me the show would deal with this topic again I would have said, terrible idea, just let it be, these episodes were actually incredibly bizarre and oddly satisfying.  The second to last in particular involved a man Ryan saw, or thought he saw, who claimed to be a previous best friend of Wilfred’s, and claimed that Wilfred ruined his life.  We have no idea if this person actually exists, existed, or whether he also has the power to see Wilfred, or whether Ryan is totally crazy or hallucinating.  Which is actually true is less important than the surreal nature of the situation.  Another surreal aspect I enjoy is that Wilfred is continually humping a stuffed bear named Bear and it seems like he’s always talking to and recieving answers from Bear, and occasionally other stuffed animals, making me wonder whether, like Ryan sees Wilfred as a human in a dog suit, Wilfred sees the stuffed animals as living and talking.

It’s not a great show, but it’s an interesting show, and it’s a short show, and that’s enough to make it recommended viewing.

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