Well, Wilfred is definitely a thing that happened. And not surprisingly, given its cuh-raaazy premise, my opinion of the show changed about every five minutes.
First and foremost, a big round of applause for FX for taking a chance on it in the first place. Wilfred is the kind of show that’s either going to be brilliant or fail spectacularly. And even though I haven’t seen enough to make a judgement either way, I’ve seen enough to make me want to see more. The show follows Ryan (played by Elijah Wood), a late-twentysomething who’s reached a point in his life we’re all familiar with. That point where we’re not quite happy with the way things have been going, we’re questioning the decisions we’ve made and trying to decide whether we need to make a change or maybe just end it all. After a botched drug overdose, Ryan meets Jenna, his neighbor who asks if he wouldn’t mind watching her dog while she’s at work. Of course, Ryan doesn’t see a dog. He sees Wilfred.
Wilfred’s a show you have a hard time accepting at face value. From the very beginning you begin looking for something to explain why Ryan’s seeing things the way he is. He took a lot of drugs, so maybe he’s hallucinating. Later in the episode we hear Wilfred quote a line from Dune, a copy of which we saw earlier on Ryan’s nightstand. So maybe that’s it. This is all happening in Ryan’s head. But as one day drags into the next, Wilfred sticks around and Ryan doesn’t drop dead, we begin to suspect the problem may go a lot deeper than we originally thought.
In tonight’s episode, Wilfred and Ryan break into the house of a neighbor who’s constantly making all sorts of racket with his motorcycle, driving up and down the street and generally treating everyone like an a**hole. There’s this weird Fight Club element that plays into the whole show. Wilfred begins picking Ryan apart, pointing out things he doesn’t like about himself and using a chewed-up tennis ball as an object lesson on what Ryan needs to do to man-up and get back in control of his life. And he does it with such a deadpanned, gruff intensity that you either bust out laughing, or stare at your television, wide-eyed and wondering if what you’re watching is one of those rare, brilliant pieces of art you’ll never fully grasp or understand. All you know if that you like it.
My biggest problem with the show doesn’t lie with tonight’s episode. It lies with episode 10, and season 2, and season 5. Where exactly does a show like this go? There are some practical questions I think deserve to be looked at. Wilfred isn’t Ryan’s dog, so can the show justify pairing them together each week? Maybe the thinking’s that, if we’re willing to accept a talking dog, we’ll accept anything else the show throws at us. And if that’s the case, maybe what they’re doing once they’re together won’t matter, either. Eventually, though, it’s going to have to be something more than digging holes in the backyard or humping the attractive waitress’ leg. I guess you have to make those jokes (because he’s humping her leg!), but they’re only going to take you so far. Ryan’s problems finding a job hint at a world beyond the sofa in his apartment, but we’ll have to see how the show does in the coming weeks before knowing whether it does anything worthwhile with it or not. There’s definitely a strong chemistry between Wood and Jason Gann, who plays Wilfred. And we get a lot of scenes of them just hanging out. Sitting on the couch, walking down the street. All this is pretty strong stuff despite the fact that there isn’t much going on, and maybe that’ll carry the show a ways longer yet.
So it’s all very interesting. I don’t know if I’d say FX has got a hit on its hands — I’m sure there are going to be people out there who hate this show — but they do have something very different, and that ain’t nothing. Maybe the whole thing will go nowhere, but I imagine there’s at least 5 or 6 episodes worth of good leg-humping jokes. Going forward, I may not be reviewing this show every week, but I’ll definitely pop in every few episodes to see how things are going.