WILFRED 1.01 ‘Happiness’

An advance review of FX's new comedy about a suicidal man who befriends a bizarre anthropomorphic dog.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell


Episode Title: "Happiness"

Writer: David Zuckerman

Director: Randall Einhorn

If you're aware of the premise of "Wilfred," then it should go without saying that this is going to be a strange and weird show. In the opening minutes alone, we witness Ryan (Elijah Wood) struggling to write his suicide note before preparing a special milkshake loaded with pills to finally put an end to his misery. Ryan is apparently a failed lawyer who would rather drop dead than go on to become a contract administrator at the hospital where his sister works. Within just a few scenes, we see that Ryan has been beaten down by the world and he's ready to die.

That's when Wilfred shows up.

Jason Gann (the star and creator of the original "Wilfred" on Australian TV) reprises his role as the title character, who only Ryan sees as a man in a cheap dog suit. Everyone else sees an ordinary dog. But if Wilfred exists only in Ryan's delusional mind, then it starts even before Ryan lays eyes on him. Ryan's gorgeous neighbor, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) drops Wilfred off with Ryan while asking him to look after her dog. Ryan doesn't immediately question why he sees Wilfred as a man, but he initially assumes it's a side effect of the pills he took.

From there, Wilfred takes Ryan on lesson of self-discovery, like a post-modern Cat in the Hat… if the Cat was passing around a giant bong. "Wilfred" doesn't really hold up to any rational explanation behind it. You just have to go with it to really enjoy it. But I found it easy to accept Jason Gann as Wilfred. He's very dog; which is to say that his behavior reminds me of a few pets I used to own. And when he speaks, Wilfred seems to be obsessed with the things that drive ordinary dogs wild… Like chasing motorcycles, digging holes… and watching Matt Damon films?!

At one point, Wilfred actually says that he's of one mind with Ryan before quickly backing off that claim while mocking Ryan's suicide note. But Wilfred does seem to be an outlet for Ryan to emerge from his self-imposed isolation. It's when Ryan refuses to act that Wilfred shows off his dark side and threatens to kill him in his sleep. It's hard to tell just how serious Wilfred is at times, since he later manipulates Ryan into breaking into their annoying neighbor's home and stealing his weed stash with the instant classic line "we're gonna need a bigger bong."

Our talking dog friend is also somewhat unreliable as a narrator, as Wilfred tells an elaborate lie at the drop of a hat to win Ryan's sympathy and then gleefully admits he was lying after getting what he wants. Wilfred also seems unnaturally attracted to human women, even as he berates Ryan for being a "s*** wingman."

Just so we're clear, there really is a Wilfred and we see the actual dog at one point. But reality is subjective on this show and even Wilfred admits that he's not sure where this is going to end. One of the more hilarious codas finds Ryan thanking Wilfred for his friendship right before Wilfred does something extremely mean to him.

As for the supporting cast, Gubelmann isn't around long enough to make an impression as Jenna. However, Ryan's sister, Kristen (Dorian Brown) gets a lot of great comedic lines while talking about how much she hates being an obstetrician. Lets just say that after hearing one of her final outbursts, you may never look at a certain Japanese cuisine restaurant quite the same way again.

"Wilfred" is very dark and subversive at times. So far, it's really funny. This could be the best new comedy series of the summer. And frankly, it's better than most of the network comedies during the regular broadcast season. 

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.