Stars: Elijah Wood, Jason Gann, Dorian Brown, Fiona Gubelmann, J.P. Manoux, Gibson Bobby Sjobeck
Writer: David Zuckerman
Director: Randall Einhorn
Network: FX, Thursdays @ 10 PM
Airdate: June 23, 2011
Where everyone else sees a big, friendly, ordinary dog, Ryan (Elijah Wood) sees a man in a children’s theatre dog suit (Jason Gann). So goes the premise of FX’s new half-hour comedy WILFRED, adapted from the Australian series of the same name, created by Gann and Jason Zwar, which also starred Gann as the talkative, manipulative canine.
In the opening episode, “Happiness,” Ryan makes multiple attempts at suicide, which succeed only in leaving him feeling lousy. When pretty neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelman) asks Ryan to watch her dog Wilfred for the day, the nonplused Ryan agrees. Wilfred likes to smoke pot, destroy the neighbor’s property (granted, the neighbor is a jerk) and advises Ryan to stop being such a wuss and start acting on his instincts.
The script by David Zuckerman nimbly gets around all sorts of exposition and customary sitcom misunderstanding by having Ryan immediately understand that he’s the only one who experiences Wilfred as a talking person, and accepting this without question. This convention allows the show and us to dive right in.
There is a lot of visual shorthand going on here. The fact that Ryan constantly seems to be wearing a tie, even when he’s at home, tells us a lot about him, as does Wood’s performance. He makes the character smart and sweet, but there’s an uncommon wistfulness about him – he loosens up, but even Wilfred’s determined anarchy cannot totally break through the core of melancholy that Wood gives the character.
Gann is soft-spoken as the now-appealing, now-threatening Wilfred, the sort of character who, were he human, we’d see as a bad influence who puts his own needs ahead of everyone else’s. Of course, since Wilfred is a dog, we can’t really blame him – the normal rules don’t apply. Gann is by turns playful, sly, philosophical and menacing, giving Wilfred a matter-of-fact quality that befits his canine nature. Everyone else in the cast deserves high praise for resolutely treating Gann as a dog and not a man, even when he’s right in their faces (or other hard to ignore areas of the anatomy).
Despite the Saturday morning look of its title character, WILFRED is not for children, or easily offended adults, for that matter. The dog smokes dope, swears graphically and is highly sexual, even doing something with a large stuffed animal during the closing credits that is startling to see on basic cable.
It’s not clear from “Happiness” whether Wilfred will turn out to be a force for good or bad in Ryan’s life. By the end of the episode, Ryan has recovered the will to live, which is very positive, but it turns out that Wilfred is not only mischievous but downright malicious. Presumably future episodes will explain what this is all about.
WILFRED is blessedly original – no one could possibly accuse it of being part of the legion of half-hour comedies copying each other all over the airwaves. It is extremely bright, has terrific leads in Wood and Gann and, for those open to its brand of humor, is frequently hilarious.
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Related Link: The Scoop on WILFRED Season 2
Related Link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 premiere – “Happiness”
Related Link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Trust”
Related Link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Fear”
Related Link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Respect”
Related Link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Acceptance”
Related Link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Conscience”
Related Link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Pride”
Related Link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Anger”
Related Link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Compassion”
Click on link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Isolation”
Click on link: AX’sreview of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Doubt”
Click on link: AX’s review of WILFRED – Season 1 – “Sacrifice”
Article Source:Assignment X
Article: Review -WILFRED – Season 1 – “Happiness” – Series Premiere