Category Archives: FX

Review: Wilfred (US): Episode One

Wilfred recently premiered in Australia on Ten’s digital channel Eleven. It premiered in America last week on FX.

First of all, putting aside for a minute whether it was funny or not, or whether it “worked”, the fact that the US has gone and plucked a concept for a comedy from the lowest rating network in Australia, that most Australians have never heard of, let alone watched is symbolic of one of two things;

One: US comedy is reaching a crescendo, in an age of left-of-centre comedies such as Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and Community not only breaking the mould but experimenting with new styles of comedy.

Or Two: US comedy has reached its nadir: shows like Outsourced are being commissioned (to no success whatsoever) while until Charlie Sheen’s demise, Two and a Half Men was the most popular comedy on TV. With such a dearth of new ideas, creativity and wit, it has turned to comedies in Australia.

But enough theorizing: it’s just fantastic to see a show which is just so bizarre and refreshingly different, in terms of its central conceit, at least.

In many ways, however, it plays out like a typical pilot; it is intent on getting every single story strand and obvious joke out on the table. ┬áSo, it runs through all the different doggy activities if you will, in order to wring every possibly comedic moment out of the show’s concept possible.

We saw leg-humping (including a stuffed toy getting rogered), face licking/kissing, belly scratching, urination, excretion, hole digging, protectiveness, ball-throwing, walking- you name it, it was all shoved into the very first episode in case at any point we missed the fact that Wilfred was a dog.

We also get to meet the supporting cast: there’s the controlling sister Kristen (Dorian Brown), who likely won’t be the source of many comedic moments, the requisite “hot” neighbour Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), who likely won’t have her character developed much more than that, and the angry neighbour, played by Ethan Suplee (and for anyone who has ever watched a decent amount of My Name is Earl, he will always be Randy).

It all comes across as a bit high-concept, which is fine, however in terms of longevity it will struggle after it hits the third or fourth season mark (assuming it gets that far of course!).

But, after all that, does it work as a comedy?

Well, it won’t have you laughing out loud, that’s for sure. But it will take you by surprise, and it is amusing, in a very bizzare way. Maybe I was just smirking at the combination of Frodo trying to grow a half-beard and Jason Gann, presumably the least likely of Australia’s sizeable acting troupe to make it in America- let’s face it, his presence on Mark Loves Sharon and The Wedge didn’t exactly scream “destined for stardom”.

But back to this show. While Jason Gann’s dry, monotonous delivery seemed in keeping with the slow-burning tone of the Australian series, it serves a decidedly different purpose in this one.

He serves as a chilled, yet conniving sage, the antithesis to the hopped-up and paranoid, yet straight-laced lawyer.

Of course, I could get into all the psychological debate about Wilfred and whether he is a manifestation of Wood’s deranged mind or anything else… But I won’t. If you start analyzing it, you will find that nothing makes sense in the show. And when has that ever stopped… oh, I don’t know, every other show on TV?┬áThis show just presents a slightly more warped version of reality.

This seems to be one of those shows where you aren’t looking for a laugh a minute (like many were in Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys), and it doesn’t suffer for that fact – because it looks great, and is totally different to most other comedies you’ll see on the box.

The jokes in this episode aren’t structure in a sitcommy way, yet are set up as various stand-alone pieces- Wilfred rubs his face in a woman’s breasts, for example. It isn’t necessarily funny on paper, but it works in the way that you would never expect to see that imagery on TV, let alone in society. It also provides an hilarious commentary on the social norms allocated to animals, and those to humans. Ridiculous? Yes. Implausible? Yes. But funny.

While it’s not riotously funny, it’s not boring nor is it stupid (well, only briefly is it stupid- they do poo in a boot). It is sure to be an interesting ride, if nothing else.

Wilfred airs Tuesdays at 9:30pm on Eleven.

Advertisements