Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Advanced New Show Review: FX's "Wilfred

Jason Gann stars as "Wilfred"
Credit: FX
My review of FX's new comedy Wilfred is after the jump.

There are comedies out there that strive to be hysterically funny, and there are others that don't only try to be funny, they also intend to have interesting characters. Wilfred is one of the latter class of comedies. The thing about it is that sometimes it's shockingly funny and sometimes it's uncomfortable. Some of the situations in the characters' lives are just ridiculously uncomfortable. There are some scenes in the third episode in particular which are unfunny and uncomfortable. But the thing about those scenes are that they aren't there just to be uncomfortable, they're there to help the characters along their journey. There's a reason why these scenes exist. And that's why I'm giving the thumbs up to Wilfred. Sometimes it's screamingly funny, but when it's not, the show doesn't become grating.

The show centers around Elijah Wood's Ryan who is not in a good place at the beginning of the series. (I don't consider the following a spoiler because every preview for the show has it.) He repeatedly tries to commit suicide and has a very pushy sister who tries to force him into a life that he doesn't want. The problem that's in the root of his character at the beginning of the pilot is that he is a directionless character. He has to go someplace, but where they take him is very unconventional. To give him someplace to go, they have him meet a new friend.

That's where this character goes from unfunny detriment (I personally hate suicide humor) to strong leading man. Elijah Wood is very capable and funny, and he plays off Jason Gann very well. He's not the strongest actor on the show, but he's not supposed to be. He proves especially capable of being a versatile actor on the show. He plays both the comedy and drama very well. I admit that I was unsure about how he would do in a comedy (insert snark about Spy Kids 3), but he ended up doing very well and helped create a character who I want to continue watching. I'm interested in where they take this character.

Ryan is a good leading man, but arguably the best character on the show is Jason Gann's Wilfred. This character results from the perception of Ryan's character. He sees this youngish man in a dog costume instead of a dog. If Wood is the straight man of the series, Gann is the one who gets all of the funny lines. He gets to say all of the horrible and offensively funny (but never too offensive) things. And the perception that we have is that it's OK that he says everything he does because he's a dog. No one can hear all of the shockingly filthy things that are coming out of his mouth. And Gann does a great job delivering those lines. Gann has created a character who I don't hate, which is very rare for a character who is as offensive as Wilfred is. I'm often laughing hysterically at all of the crazy things that Wilfred says.

The strongest aspect of the show is easily the relationship between Ryan and Wilfred. The growing relationship between the two characters is the emotional center of the show. And it's a great foundation on which a series can be built. Gann and Wood work so well together. I can tell that this is where they creative team wants us to care. They want the friendship between the two of them to be more then getting in a girl's pants, and the show does a good job showing that will not become the case in the three episodes that I saw (especially the third one). Honestly, I would watch a show that's just Wilfred and Ryan smoking weed and discussing their lives.

Even with everything that works very well, this show is not perfect. Like I said above, some of the humor doesn't work and just ends up being uncomfortable. The show also tries to force a "will they won't they" relationship between Ryan and Fiona's Gubelmann. Gubelmann is perfectly capable of being funny, but I fear that this is going to be a major issue for the show going through the first season. Once you've seen episode two, you'll know what I mean. (To give a hint, it involves a d***) And then there's Dorian Brown's character. She plays Kristen, Ryan's sister. Essentially she walks on screen and yells at Ryan a few times in the pilot, and then we don't see her beyond that. That's a good thing, because this character is very, very annoying and shrill.

Overall, I really like this show. It has a very quirky sense of humor that works for me most of the time. I'm going to recommend this show for everyone (who can watch the show) give it a shot. It might not end up being for you, but if it is it will be worth it.

Wilfred Premieres Thursday at 10PM on FX.

(For my younger readers, this series is not for you. The series contains strong sexual content, harsh language (though not the worst on TV), and excessive weed smoking. The show runs with a TV-MA rating and a viewer discretion advised tag)

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