Wilfred is a wonderfully quirky dark comedy starring Elijah Wood as Ryan, a man on the edge. From the promos, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this new FX series. The scenario is simple; to the world Wilfred is just a dog, but to Ryan he’s a big, obnoxious Australian guy dressed up in a dog suit. Ryan strikes up a strange friendship with the crude but straight-shooting Wilfred, who helps him tap into the animal within and tackle his existential crisis.
The first episode introduces us to Ryan (Wood), a man who is so unhappy with his life that he’s decided to kill himself. He writes four drafts of a farewell note, and then takes a whole bottle of prescription pills that his sister (a high-intensity doctor) has given him for anxiety.
The next morning he wakes up, still very much alive but not looking too good, and someone rings the doorbell. There stands his cute blonde next door neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) with her pet canine Wilfred…only Ryan doesn’t see a dog.
Jenna asks Ryan if he can watch Wilfred for a little bit, and that’s when things get even weirder. Wilfred talks, and he’s an obnoxious guy that says exactly what’s on his mind. The quirky humor gets even edgier as audiences realize that Wilfred looks like a man and talks like a man, but he thinks and acts like a dog. So either Ryan has had a complete mental break with reality, or maybe he’s just seeing things through a radically changed perspective.
In this episode, Wilfred helps Ryan face up to the realities of his life and take the first steps towards happiness. Wilfred asks him if he’s tired of doing what everyone wants him to do, and Ryan realizes he most certainly is. Wilfred asks all the right questions, while peppering in ample gross personal examples and taking any chance he gets to rub his face in some girl’s cleavage or hump her legs. He also has Ryan thinking he’s gone crazy.
The life coaching starts with Ryan’s bossy sister, who has lined up a desk jockey job for him in her hospital. Ryan used to be a lawyer (though we still don’t know too much about his career history), and he doesn’t ever stand up to his sister. When she comes over to rip him a new one for not showing up for work on his first day (thanks to Wilfred), and she tells him that the pills she gave him were just sugar pills, he finally stands up to her and basically tells her to take the job and shove it.
There is a little romantic angle being established between Ryan and his neighbor Jenna. She seems interested in him, and has intrusted him with her dog. On Ryan’s side, he does quiz Wilfred about her, just to be ridiculed and shut down on the topic.
Besides being “true to his nature,” Wilfred is loveable in the same way dog owners love their pets, even when they are rubbing their butts along the carpet or eating their own poop. He’s impulsive, chases cars, wants his own way, threatens, ridicules, and definitely holds a grudge; but he’s also eager to be friends, and curiously insightful. He also has human “guy” traits like smoking, drinking, swearing, and ogling women. And he’s a Matt Damon fanatic.
Aussie Jason Gann brings Wilfred to life in a wonderful way. This TV series is actually based on an Australian series of the same name, and Gann played Wilfred in the original series. So it’s not surprising that he has nailed the role, and does such a believable job as a man-playing-a-dog that you want to rub his ears and scold him at the same time.
It’s an edgy and smart dark comedy, and after just one half-hour episode, I’m hooked. It’s bizarre, but in a good way reminiscent of other quirky and clever comedies like Wonderfalls. And as the pilot opened with a quote from Mark Twain that reads “Sanity and Happiness are an impossible combination,” I knew I was in for something awesome.