Stars: Elijah Wood, Jason Gann, Fiona Gubelmann, Dorian Brown, Dwight Yoakam
Writers: Reed Agnew & Eli Jorne, series created by Jason Gann & Adam Zwar, adapted for American television by David Zuckerman
Director: Randall Einhorn.
Network: FX, Thursdays @ 10 PM
Airdate: August 25, 2011
WILFRED viewers may have questions along the lines of, “What the hell is really going on here?” For awhile, “Doubt” seems like it’s going to answer some of these, but it turns out, like so many other things about Wilfred the character (Jason Gann), to be simply a gotcha. However, as it’s a smart, funny gotcha that is totally in keeping with everything else about the show, it works.
Ryan (Elijah Wood) is trying to get his life in order. To Wilfred’s horror, Ryan stops smoking pot, cleans up the basement and even begins working on his resume. Then Ryan finds himself stalked by a strange fellow named Bruce (Dwight Yoakam) who says he sees and hears Wilfred the way that Ryan does.
Bruce claims that Wilfred ruined his life and insists that he’ll do the same to Ryan. Sure enough, it seems that’s exactly what Wilfred is doing. Bruce convinces Ryan to dump Wilfred in the wilderness. When Ryan and Wilfred are in the middle of nowhere, Bruce shows up with a gun. There is a massive tussle and Ryan winds up shooting Bruce to save Wilfred. Oops, the gun shoots blanks.
It turns out that Wilfred and Bruce are engaged in a very strange game (if Bruce indeed exists). Wilfred is happy that, when push came to shove, Ryan chose him. When Ryan asks how Wilfred met Bruce, Wilfred starts recounting the plots of various Matt Damon movies.
The notion that someone else can see Wilfred the way Ryan sees him is very intriguing. Of course, having the dynamic explained would probably destroy the show, so we don’t expect it to go there, but there’s a bizarre internal logic here that works perfectly well with the show’s dynamic.
Yoakam manages to come across as both ordinary and eccentric, a neat trick, so that we, like Ryan, aren’t sure what to think. If Wilfred is in any way serious about helping Ryan, though, the talkative canine should start by getting the human to be less credulous and panicky. This is a half-hour comedy, a form that’s known for being formulaic, but on WILFRED, it goes something like, Wilfred convinces Ryan to do something stupid, Ryan acquiesces, then freaks out and over-reacts in the opposite direction, causing Wilfred to make a course correction that allows Ryan to see what he did wrong within the specifics of the situation. However, Ryan never seems to get the big picture. Sometimes it’s funny and sometimes by the time we’re done parsing whether Ryan’s paralyzing self-doubt is amusing or just sad and whether it’s holding him back or keeping him out of worse trouble, we feel like Ryan, unsure exactly what we’re supposed to get out of it all. Still, there is something reliably humorous about the interaction between Wood and Gann, and the tag scenes with Ryan deciding he’s had enough are usually spot-on, as is the case here.
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