Stars: Elijah Wood, Jason Gann, Fiona Gubelmann, Dorian Brown, Eugene Byrd
Jason Gann, series created by Jason Gann & Adam Zwar, adapted for American television by David Zuckerman
Randall Einhorn
FX, Thursdays at 10 PM
Original Airdate:
August 2, 2012

When one of your two main characters is a dog, it stands to reason that he will do doglike things from time to time, even if he talks and stands on two legs and is played by series co-creator Jason Gann, who also wrote the WILFRED episode “Avoidance.” And let’s face it, sometimes dogs do things that people don’t – well, at least not outside of intimate relationships (assuming the person isn’t a sex offender). Yes, folks, in “Avoidance,” WILFRED goes there. It also goes dancing, and strangely, the two are not unrelated.

Wilfred’s owner Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) has been training Wilfred in “doggie dancing” and rewarding him with a churro (a cylindrical pastry). However, Fiona can’t make the big dance contest, so Wilfred begs Ryan (Elijah Wood) to dance with him. Ryan reluctantly consents, but it turns out that he enjoys cutting loose.

At about the same time, Ryan is approached by James (Eugene Byrd), a fellow lawyer who was once his best friend. However, when Ryan and James planned to leave Ryan’s father’s law firm together, James wound up taking a promotion and staying behind. Ryan has never forgiven him or allowed James to explain. Wilfred advises talking things out, but Ryan will have none of it.

During dance practice, Wilfred seems to pull a muscle. Concerned, Ryan tries to help him stretch the leg out. Wilfred climaxes, with the results winding up all over Ryan. (For those who have assimilated the previous sentence and gone on to the next logical thought, which for this reviewer involved Broadcast Standards, at the time, we see only Ryan’s reaction, sans physical results. However, when Ryan is later carded going into a bar, the residue shows up under Luminol.)

Ryan is aghast. He’s even more horrified when Wilfred keeps trying to dance with him and demanding his “treat.” Wilfred seems to not understand why Ryan is upset. Finally, Wilfred gets Ryan to talk things out and Wilfred explains he wants his churro – the first thing a dog learns in dance academy is that dances end with a churro. As for the incident that has so upset Ryan, Wilfred assures his human friend it was nothing personal – Wilfred does that sort of thing everywhere (and goes on to point out the various places in the house where he’s done it).

This misunderstanding cleared up, Ryan agrees to talk things out with James. It turns out that Ryan’s father threatened to ruin James’ legal career if James left the firm. James warns Ryan that his dad still wants Ryan back at the firm and will stop at nothing to get him there. Ryan’s friendship is repaired with James.

Back in the basement, Ryan realizes that it’s the day of the dance competition. Wilfred didn’t remind him – he says Ryan seemed too stressed out about it. However, the two get up and dance, doing magnificently in their own imaginations. Then Ryan gives Wilfred a churro, Wilfred offers to share it and winds up quasi-assaulting Ryan again.

With “Avoidance,” WILFRED once again lands in a zone of making us uncomfortable by doing something that on any other show would be unthinkable. What happens is still sexual assault (however impersonal on Wilfred’s part), but putting it in the context of natural dog behavior (without the meaning it would carry if done by a human) does change the context to a point where it is less offensive than simply monumentally strange.

This is another instance of WILFRED astonishing us with its capacity for weirdness to the extent that we’re ready for anything that comes next, so when Ryan and James make up in standard fashion, we’re okay that Ryan has learned his lesson about hearing the other person’s side of things.

As for the dance sequences, the montage of Ryan and Wilfred running around the neighborhood rehearsing is an okay parody of similar scenes from movies. However, the big finish, with Ryan in a tux and Wilfred in a tux front, both fantasizing that they’ve got a stage and an adoring audience, is so perfectly tailored to what Ryan and Wilfred would think is showstopping that it’s endearing. They’re both so thrilled and energetic and eager that it’s like watching a CALVIN & HOBBES strip come to life.

Once again, WILFRED gets around to making gentle, sane points – listen to the other side of the story, enjoy the moment – via the most insane route imaginable. It may not always be funny, but it is undeniably original.

Related: Exclusive Interview with WILFRED star/co-creator on Season 2 and more


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