Wilfred is a very weird show. Its premise is a very hard pill to swallow but that’s intentional. If you can manage to choke this unusual thing down and keep it down, you’ll find a delightful show but again, you have to get that pill down. The show isn’t interested in coddling those that can’t keep up or find its weirdness alienating. It’s weird, anarchic, and going to some place dark places so strap in or get off.
How absurd is this show? It’s about a man, Ryan, on the verge of committing suicide. When we first see him, he’s on his third draft of his suicide note and waiting for the bottle of prescription pills to kick in. He’s restless and eventually writes the fourth draft. Before he knows it, the morning has arrived and with it, his new neighbor. She rings the doorbell and politely asks him to watch her dog for the day only it’s not a dog he sees. It’s a man in a dog suit. That talks to him. But it’s actually a dog. He thinks he’s crazy but eventually comes to accept the dog as someone he can talk to. And it turns out that the dog, Wilfred, is quite fond of trash talking, smoking, drinking, and trying to hump anything. Basically he’s just another dude but with the added wisdom that comes from being more in tune with nature by virtue of being a dog. Wilfred starts to help Ryan get out of his shell though that involves a lot of drugs, alcohol, and theft. Like I said, this is a dark and weird show.
What helps sell the show is Elijah Wood and Jason Gann. Gann originally co-created the show in Australia and played Wilfred as well. He’s the perfect blend of slacker and motivator, the kind of character Vince Vaughn perfected then tarnished. His Australian accent aids in the process as well. It’s familiar but different, something you’d expect from a talking dog. And unlike a British accent, which for whatever reason makes things sound more profound (as proven by Arrested Development), an Australian accent just makes things sound more fun? I mean this as a compliment but I think Australian accents are like the Californian accents of the world. As for Wood, he’s stuck to the fringes since Lord of the Rings so there has to be something meaty here to draw his attention. His Ryan is on the verge of losing it but is totally willing to just accept a talking dog entering his life. Wood has the chops to carry the weirdness through the show but surprisingly also has the comedic talents as well. His timing and delivery are spot on and no one can look more strung out than him. An odd choice for a leading man, but a very good one.
One thing I haven’t seen as much as I thought I would was how similar the show is to Calvin and Hobbes. They are quite alike, although Calvin was a little sweeter since he existed in the comics pages. But I have no doubt that if Calvin were to grow up and become cynical, something like Wilfred would appear to him as well. Wilfred is filled with just as much anarchy as Hobbes and enjoys the more amusing things in life (although it seems tuna has been replaced with weed). And like how Calvin just accepts who Hobbes is without question, we never really explore what Wilfred may be. He’s definitely a dog to the other people in the world, as Hobbes appears to be a doll to everyone else, but he shows off his ability to read to Ryan. We simply accept him for what he is (a man in a dog suit that’s actually a dog) and go have fun. Why gaze into our navels when there’s a whole world out there to explore?
Yes, it’s an usual show but don’t let that stop you. It’s hilarious and has all the right messages you’d want out of a show (not to mention plenty of dog puns). It’s kinda like having a dog. Sure a dog might shit in your boots or chew up some Italian leather, but they make up for it when they squeak like a chew toy or steal some home grown bud for you. They’re man’s best friend for a reason.