A dog has often been called man’s best friend, but FX’ new half-hour comedy Wilfred is also out to prove that a dog can be the best therapist, too.
Wilfred is being touted as a comedy but it is a bit darker than what you may imagine, especially comparing it to some of FX’ other half-hour programs. Elijah Wood is Ryan, a young man who was once a lawyer but some (although admittedly still unknown) thing has gone wrong and he is now so desperate for a new job his sister had to pull a favor at the hospital where she works. But Ryan has no real intention of ever starting to work there; the night before he is scheduled to start his still-mundane-but-in-whole-new-ways life, he writes his third attempt at a suicide note and mixes up a smoothie of little blue pills. No, not those little blue pills: something for anxiety that he is sure will cause an overdose.
Unfortunately Ryan is such a screw-up he can’t even get that right and after a night of rewriting his suicide letter and not sleeping at all, he is still with us but no happier about it. Enter Wilfred (Jason Gann), who is really just his neighbor’s dog but who Ryan suddenly starts to see as a man dressed in a dog suit. If it sounds a bit silly, well, it looks it, too! But the lessons that follow are anything but; Wilfred as a show is quite poetic and extremely insightful, and you don’t have to be a dog lover to see that. You just have to be someone who understands the importance of looking deep inside one’s self to understand why one might need to guidance or a connection– any connection, as it appears to be– so very badly.
Wilfred, with all of his offbeat charm, is suddenly there to teach Ryan how to really live. Because the truth of the matter is that Ryan was just sort of floating through life before with his uncomfortable suits and his willingness to put pleasing his family in front of doing what he really wants to do. It’s a bit ironic, really, that such a lesson would come from an animal that, by taking responsibility for, one ultimately agrees to put first and be sure to fit their lives around the dog’s schedule and needs. But though the pot-smoking, somewhat foul-mouthed Wilfred is certainly an unorthodox therapist and an even more so role model, he might just prove to be exactly what Ryan needs to venture outside his comfort zone.
It is our hope that as the episodes go on, though, the show focuses less on the zaniness that comes from watching a grown man walk around in a dog costume and get Ryan into all kinds of trouble, and instead turn its attention to the why of it all. Why is Ryan seeing this dog as a person? Why is he able to have conversations with this dog? Is he actually communicating with Wilfred at all or is he just debating with himself but projecting a devil’s advocate point of view onto the dog?
Right now Wilfred’s motives seem pure and genuine; he seems to be inclined to help Ryan, even if his actions are confusing and at times controversial. With Wilfred, Ryan’s true resolve is tested in a number of ways, and he is challenged in situations he normally would have shied and slinked away from at all costs. With Wilfred, Ryan is forced to grow up, and man up, as ironic as that may seem.
But with Wilfred, Ryan also comes alive; his eyes seem brighter, and he moves less gingerly. It is almost like Wilfred is unlocking a more childish side to Ryan, but whether this proves to just be temporary insanity or not, it is a side to him that looks damn good on the character, the actor, and the network.
Wilfred premieres on FX on June 23rd at 10pm.
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