Last night premiered a new television show called Wilfred which features a frustrated and suicidal Elijah Wood as Ryan who finds wisdom in the snarky words of his hot neighbor’s pot-smoking, slacker dog (Jason Gann in a matted dog suit).
The premise sounds almost like a depressing stoner comedy, which to a certain extent, it is. But there’s some weird insight and some enjoyably black humor to be found in Wilfred. The pilot begins with Ryan’s failed suicide attempt, having perfecting his note via a fourth draft. The pills he takes, however, don’t seem to work. Even at ending his life, Ryan fails. Here enters Wilfred, dragged on a leash by his hot-but-bland neighbor who asks him to take care of her dog for the day. Ryan spends much of the next half hour watching a dog smoke pot and quote philosophy and iconic movies.
With an almost balance, the show flips from scatological references to heartfelt carpe diem advice. Throw in the occasional awkward hump or lick that Wilfred is fond of giving ladies, and here you have him. An Australian talking dog. While some of the jokes felt cheap (such as Wilfred motor boating a waitress while Ryan watches in horror), I’m not how the writers could trail too far from the fact that Wilfred is a dog. Sure, he talks and drinks heavily, but he also likes to urinate in public and bark at people and chase cars. One wonders whether or not Wilfred is merely a figment of Ryan’s imagination or just a wino in a scraggly dog costume.
The tone set in the premiere episode is perfect: funny, inappropriate, and insightful. The show, despite the ability to raise difficult questions, is simple. While yes, we can see that maybe Ryan is suffering from some mental disease and suffers hallucinations and perhaps Ryan has emasculated himself to the point that he might as well be neutered, but… those topics aren’t heavily broached upon. They’re merely implied. Instead, the plot involves Ryan getting to work on time and retrieving a lost ball from a neighbor’s lawn. It has less a plot than a segment of Hannah Montana. But even the most ridiculous events hold some sort of grave mood. Which makes the show compulsively watchable.
If you like shows where talking dogs smoke pot, then this is the show for you. I, for one, will continue watching it on-and-off. If you have any particular preconceptions about what such a show might be like, they’re probably right on the money. This show succeeds in telling a weird, sweet story. Of a man and his not-really-best-friend-because-he’s-actually-a-dog.