Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Please don't let them put Wilfred to sleep

I'm going to ask you guys for a favor. If it is at all within your power, please check out the sitcom WILFRED this Thursday night at 10pm on the FX Network.  I've heard rumblings that the show's low ratings this season have cast doubt on the show's chances for a renewal for a fourth year.  In fact, this week could make all the difference for the show's survival.  If this season truly is the end of the line, then that would be a shame as WILFRED is one of the most unique shows on TV. In fact, it's one of my favorite current shows. (Full disclosure: I'm friends with one of the actors, but I'd be a fan of the show regardless.)

I think of WILFRED as sort of an adult Calvin & Hobbes if Hobbes was a dog - and a Machiavellian sociopath.  Elijah Wood plays Ryan, a former lawyer who starts seeing his neighbor's dog Wilfred (Jason Gann) as a human in a dog suit.  Wilfred has a biting sense of humor and a near omnipotent ability to manipulate a situation to his ends, even when Ryan thinks he's seen through the dog's agenda. Many of Wilfred's schemes involve playing on Ryan's crush on Wilfred's owner Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), with the dog alternately seeming to help Ryan look good in front of Jenna or often putting him in compromising situations for reasons that suit Wilfred's ends.  After another couple of seasons, might have to rename "the Xanatos Gambit" to "The Wilfred Gambit."

In three seasons, the show has only begun to explore the question of what Wilfred is and why only Ryan sees him as a man in a dog suit.  Indeed, the most obvious solution would be that Ryan is having some kind of mental breakdown.  Though several episodes have toyed with that possibility, we can't help but notice that Ryan is aware of how crazy it is that he talks to a dog.  Would a truly crazy person be that self-aware?

To be honest, I don't care so much about the eventual reveal of what Wilfred really is.  I enjoy the ambiguity that exists while we are left in the dark.  If Wilfred is a creation of Ryan's mind, it would mean that Ryan is exceptionally good at manipulating situations AND that he needs Wilfred's machinations to manufacture a justification to act out in this way.  If Ryan created Wilfred, it likely came from some need to take control of his life.  Or perhaps, Ryan needs Wilfred's "manipulations" to "force" him to do something that he can't justify doing on his own.  He does something not because he wants to, but because the dog's scheming forces him to.

A little like Son of Sam. Hmmm.

I've forgotten to mention just how funny the show is, in ways both silly and darkly funny.  The show wrings a lot of humor from the cognitive dissonance of seeing a man in a dog suit act in ways familiar to every dog owner.  This particular sequence always reminds me and my wife of our dog.

And then there are the moments of darker humor, where Wilfred recounts being "rescued" from an attic by some nice German men.

Please, if you want to support a TV show with a voice unlike just about any other show on TV, please sample Wilfred.


  1. I am just finishing the first season now, and I have to say it is brilliant. It is hard to believe how real and dark the show is sometimes and incredibly funny as well. Have you watched the two Australian seasons?

  2. "Wilfred" sounds like a winner. Kinda in the vein of the movie "Ted" which I LA-OVED. "Wilfred" also kinda sounds like the gimmic I used in a spec I wrote many years ago (my first script) which is called "Give It Up for Chimpy." Though in my story everyone saw the Chimpy character the same, it's just their reactions to him, and Chimpy's reactions to them are what spawn many of the comedic moments in the story. Plus my story was a rom-com hybrid...

    Anywho, you've got good taste in what you like, Bitter. I hope "Wilfred" lives on!

  3. A great show! The Australian version was also good but Elijah Wood plays the part brilliantly!