Television Review – Why I Won’t Wilfred
I know I’m a tad late on this particular gem of comedy put out by the FX channel but don’t worry, I was able to (or forced to) absorb the entire first season in just a measly six hours of my life. So, naturally, I have taken a day to analyze the show and all of its heady intellectual content…..oh right. This is Wilfred.
As you might imagine, the channel who gave Charlie Sheen a television show, and Russel Brand a talk show, as well as the vacuously unfunny “The Leauge” (a show about fantasy football of all things), has brought us a sub-par comedy. Wilfred is the story of Ryan, a depressed former lawyer, who attempts to kill himself. When the attempt fails and Ryan wakes up the next morning, he finds that his neighbors dog appears to be a British man in a dog costume. However, to all other people, Wilfred is no more than your average dog. Ryan and Wilfred then go on to have one sub-par adventure after another. And when I mean the show is sub-par I mean the show has two main jokes sitting in a sea of awkward silence.
The first joke is pretty easy to spot, and by far the most grating on the psyche. Wilfred is a dog. That’s the joke. I don’t know why but some people find it easy to forget that Wilfred is only perceived as a guy in a dog suit by Elijah Wood’s Ryan, and begin to think of Wilfred as a person. So when he does something that a dog would do, like chase a laser pointer or drink from the toilet, we’re supposed to find this riotously hilarious. As you can imagine the joke grows old rather quickly. After the tentative chuckle I allowed after the first instance of this, I sighed through the rest, painfully aware that I was supposed to be laughing. When I first saw the promos for the show, I assumed there would be some of this in the show to give a cutesy flair. I did not expect them to make it the main source of comedy.
The rest of the show is what I like to call, Embarrassment Porn. Embarrassment Porn is the phenomena where the characters of any given story are made, on a constant basis, to endure increasingly embarrassing moments for the sheer schadenfreude of the audience. There is one huge problem with this mode of comedy: most people are not sadists. People can be stimulated by others suffering, but only to a point, and this show crosses that threshold. It is unrelenting in its need to make its protagonist suffer, and if you have any kind of human empathy it stops being funny after a while.
The show is stricken with other flaws as well. Most chiefly, none of the characters are likable. Not one character in the whole show is worth rooting for. Ryan waffles between being a whiny twit who is almost completely unrelatable, and being a conniving bastard, none of which endears him to me. Wilfred is a terrible person…dog…thing? And the stuff he does to Ryan and everyone else around him makes him not so much funny as lamentably sinister. Then there is the never ceasing diatribe coming out of his mouth. Wilfred’s entire repertoire of speech comes to nothing but piss jokes, dick jokes, tit jokes and finally jokes about boinking stuffed animals. All of this gets boring FAST! Combine this two with a boring or horrifyingly terrible supporting cast and you have a cast of people you come to hate rather than laugh at.
Finally the writing of Wilfred is bad. Not abominable (aside from Wilfred’s lines) but still not anywhere near as good as the writers think it is. You get the feeling like the writers believe their going lull you into some sense of false security during the season but it never works. If you’re reasonably intelligent, or you’ve seen even one episode of LOST, you pretty much see every possibility for Wilfred before they present it to you. And the never ending game of “Is Wilfred real?” is utterly flaccid. If he isn’t real then well, we’ve already conceeded that Ryan is probably nuts. If he is real than we don’t have to question anything. Honestly the last few episodes of season one where they play tug of war with this concept was a boring mess, because the writers didn’t realize we’ve already come to either conclusion and anyone who’s ever seen Lost knows that there’s no way they’re telling us right now.
All in all Wilfred is not worth anyone’s time. It operates on the same model that the rest of the shows on FX operates on, that hopefully the audience has ingested enough marijuana to find just about anything funny. If you have to watch something on FX skip this mess and just watch reruns of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Yetti Score: 16/100 Utterly Unwatchable.