“Wilfred” – Man’s Best Friend

Photo Courtesy of SBS Productions

David Zuckerman, the mastermind behind the cult TV show “Family Guy,” brings laughter into our daily lives yet again through his new show, “Wilfred.” A remake of the 2007 Australian comedy of the same name, Zuckerman has deviated from the original series by turning it into a dark comedy rather than a simple comedy with no strong storyline.

The idea of a dog appearing as a human to one person alone is imaginative enough to draw in viewers Ń the pilot episode, which aired on June 23, 2011, had a viewership of 2.55 million. But a show needs much more than one intriguing concept to turn an audience into ardent followers. In this respect, “Wilfred” mostly delivers.

Ryan (Elijah Wood), the main character, is a failed suicide victim who has given up on his life. It is on his fourth failed suicide attempt via drug overdose that he meets Wilfred (Jason Gann) for the first time. His attractive neighbor and owner of Wilfred, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), dumps Wilfred with Ryan when her house is getting fumigated by exterminators and she has to go to work. Ryan, who is infatuated with Jenna, agrees in order to impress her.

To everyone else, including Jenna, Wilfred appears as an adorable, 7-year-old dog. However, Ryan sees him as an Australian man in a dog suit who smokes cigarettes and pot. Though he initially thinks that it might be a hallucination caused by the drugs, his hopes are quelled by Kristen (Dorian Brown), his older domineering sister who works in a hospital. Added to an already depressing life is Spencer (Ethan Suplee), a very intimidating, uncivil and rude neighbor who harasses Ryan with every chance he gets.

Every episode delves deeper into the lives of and interactions between Ryan and Wilfred. Wilfred seemingly tries to teach Ryan to live life with happiness, trust, acceptance and without fear. To the naïve Ryan, Wilfred’s actions seem honest, but he soon realizes that all is not what it seems. Wilfred is in fact manipulative and scheming, and inevitably lands Ryan in trouble. It does seem confusing at times since Wilfred helps Ryan, but does so by making Ryan break into his neighbors house, steal weed, violate city laws and get into fights, among other things. In fact, Wilfred and Ryan smoke pot to pass their time in every episode. All the while, Jenna is apparently nonchalant about Wilfred’s whereabouts.

The cast is relatively new, with the exception of Elijah Wood, whose portrayal as Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy made him a household name. His portrayal as the awkward and depressed yet brave Ryan is done with Žlan. Jason Gann reprises his role as Wilfred from the original Australian series with great ease as he is comfortable with this character. The chemistry between Wood and Gann is very spontaneous and they both do a great job carrying the show on their shoulders. Fiona Gubelmann and Dorian Brown are the only female leads so far; Brown does a convincing job as the older nagging sister, while Gubelmann is merely passable at her role. Ethan Suplee, more famously known for playing Randy in “My Name’s Earl,” is a recurring cast member as the troublesome neighbor. Ed Helms (“The Office,” “The Hangover”  and “The Hangover Part II”), makes an interesting guest appearance in the fourth episode, “Acceptance.”

“Wilfred” is a dark comedy filled with sarcasm, funny punch lines (although some are cringe-worthy) and psychological games. The show also has an underlying theme of philosophy with Wilfred trying to teach Ryan the secret to a happy life, something everyone can relate to in this consumerist world. David Zuckerman has done a brilliant job striking a balance between comedy and life lessons, neither overshadowing the other. Although at times “Wilfred” does get predictable, it is still worth spending half an hour of your time to get lost in the chaotic and entertaining life of Ryan and his best friend Wilfred. What say you?

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars