Review: FX's 'Wilfred' a surreal, clever buddy comedy
Can an Australian man in a dog suit fix Elijah Wood?
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating B
When you're 5, an imaginary friend can be a fantastic thing. When you're 30, it should be disturbing. But FX's strange, twisted, at times hilarious new comedy "Wilfred" (which debuts tonight at 10) suggests that for some adults, imaginary friends are the best kind of all.
We first meet Ryan (Elijah Wood) as he's at the end of his rope - or wants to create the illusion that he is. He's working on the third draft of his suicide note, but he insists on mixing up the vial of pills into a smoothie that includes a vitamin supplement, so at least a part of him still has a foot in the land of the living. The suicide attempt doesn't work out, and then his pretty new neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) turns up on his doorstep asking if he can do her a favor and babysit her dog Wilfred...
...only to Ryan, Wilfred isn't a dog, but rather a rough-looking Australian man in a dog suit who swaggers into Ryan's house, asks if he has any DVD's - "I like Matt Damon," he says, deadpan - and proceeds to take over Ryan's life. Though he frequently seems menacing, his goal apparently is to teach Ryan how to act like a man by first teaching him how to act like a dog.
Wilfred's played by Jason Gann, who co-created and starred in the original Australian version of the series. He's been playing the character for years and wears him like a second skin. What's brilliant about Wilfred is that he's both a man and a dog in equal measure. He has many of the same fears and fixations as an actual canine (he is, unsurprisingly, obsessed with rear ends of all species and sizes), but can express them eloquently and/or angrily. He digs holes when he's nervous, but uses a shovel. Not long after Jenna leaves for work, he convinces himself she's never coming home, and when Ryan tries to reassure him, Wilfred gets indignant and asks, "Are you talking down to me?"
Whether as a child star or a hobbit, Wood's on-screen persona has always been defined by those wide, ridiculously blue eyes of his. Here, he and they are put to good use responding with horror and confusion to Wilfred's shenanigans. Though Ryan's usually in disbelief at what he's seeing - and what no one else is (like the attractive women who are only mildly put out by Wilfred pawing at or licking them) - the chemistry between Wood and Gann helps sell this bizarre relationship as something real, and solid footing for the future.
"Wilfred" exists in an interesting middle ground on the FX comedy continuum. It's not nearly as laugh-out-loud funny as "Always Sunny" and the second season of "The League." (The first episode is by far the funniest, and after that the novelty of Wilfred himself goes away just enough that it's more clever than hilarious.) And while it's dark, it's certainly not as serious as "Louie" often gets. But it fits the channel's larger brand (in both comedy and drama) about men existing on the edges of acceptable human behavior. Ryan's a miserable, depressed person, and he needs something to knock him out of his rut. And if that means becoming best friends with the human-looking dog next door - and frequently inhaling from Wilfred's bong - then who's to say that's a bad thing?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
News From Our Partners
- 'Before Midnight' L.A. Premiere: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy Celebrate 18 Years Together (PHOTOS) Josh Hutcherson in 'Ape': 'Hunger Games' Star Lines Up Role in Psychological Thriller 'Man of Steel' Trailer: Kneel Before General Zod
- Cannes Film Festival: Cannes, Day Seven: J.C. Chandor makes good, Nicolas Winding Refn goes bad, and Claire Denis gets ugly Interview: Katie Aselton on going from mumblecore to thriller—and directing her own nude scenes TV Roundtable: Boobies, pee-pees, codependence, and grounding the shenanigans with heart
- Please Watch New 'Arrested Development' In Order & Not At Once From 'Idol' Contestants To Judges? From 'Unfabulous' To 'American Horror Story'
- New 'Man of Steel' Trailer: Watch Now! 'The Hangover': Retracing The Success Of A Few Crazy Nights 'Fast & Furious 6': How Michelle Rodriguez Came Back From The Dead
- The Telefile - Critics' Choice Television Awards 2013: Nominees Announced The Telefile - TV on DVD: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 The Telefile - Veep: The Episode's Best Insults
- In Pictures: The Cars of Fast & Furious Digital Multiplex: Warm Bodies and Aftershock Discover the Best-Reviewed Films in Summer Movie Scorecard 2013
- Rihanna Working on Eighth Album [Pic] One Direction to Release Fourth Book This Summer Beyonce Reveals Battle With Tonsillitis + 'Grown Woman' Choreography in Mrs. Carter Show Tour Videos
- Xbox One Games Can Be Played By Multiple Users on One Console 'American Horror Story: Coven' Adds Emma Roberts 'Fast 6′ vs. 'Hangover 3′: Who Will Win the Memorial Day Weekend Box Office?
If picked up, would be first regular TV job in decades for the 'Soap' and 'SNL' alumWednesday, May 22, 2013
A Showtime leftover doesn't really fit at NBCWednesday, May 22, 2013
Will's gift takes an increasing toll; can the bad Dr. Lecter help him?Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Cathy and her family prepare for the end as the Showtime dramedy concludes on a strong noteTuesday, May 21, 2013