Wilfred (US): reviews

Americans finally get their first look at Wilfred today, and by the sounds of things the critics are liking what they see.

None of these reviews are the big guns*, but they still show reason for optimism.

We’ll get to see it next Tuesday night at 9:30pm on ELEVEN.

Mercury News:
Told you it was weird. But it’s also hilarious — and even a bit insightful. Adapted from an Australian cult hit, “Wilfred” quickly develops into a dark buddy comedy as the mangy fur ball becomes Ryan’s wing man and quasi-therapist. Along the way, Ryan slowly emerges from his funk and begins to view life differently through those big, soulful eyes.

Half the fun of watching “Wilfred” is trying to figure out if the title canine is really man’s best friend or just an unruly cur. At times Wilfred seems to be Ryan’s biggest cheerleader, encouraging him to shed his doubts and fears. But occasionally he comes off as a scheming saboteur who goads Ryan into doing bad things, such as breaking into a home to steal marijuana plants.

Is the dog really pulling the strings, or are we witnessing Ryan’s self-destructive tendencies in the scruffy form of Wilfred?

Houston Chronicle:
Wilfred works on many levels, something that may not become apparent until after you stop laughing. For one thing, there’s the question of why Ryan is the only one who sees Wilfred as a guy in a dog suit. Is his mind playing tricks on him? Yet no one seems to question him speaking to the “dog” because everyone’s used to people speaking to pets as if they could process thoughts beyond “sit,” “stay” and “cookie-wookie.”

Kansas City Star:
In the disorienting first episode, it’s hard to know whether Ryan, shaky and red-eyed after a sleepless night and two possible suicide attempts, is hallucinating when his pretty neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) asks him to keep her dog for a few hours. When Wilfred, cigarette butt hanging from his lips, takes over Ryan’s house, trouble ensues, including an incident of breaking and entering that Ryan is seemingly powerless to resist.

The point isn’t to figure out what’s really happening, producers say, or whether Ryan is mentally ill. The point is to feel as disoriented as he feels and to experience the same discomfort.

As Wilfred puts it: “I’m not going to bite you. Biting’s the easy way out.”

Media Life Magazine:
Throughout the three episodes FX made available for review, Wilfred maintains that he’s disrupting Ryan’s life for Ryan’s own good. This isn’t an original premise either, but Jason Gann, who co-created the Australian original version of the series, keeps us guessing whether Wilfred is really trying to help Ryan or is simply enjoying the chaos.

Gann also alternates convincingly between being a vulgar wise guy — the language and marijuana smoking definitely rule this show out for kids — and being doggily naïve. Though he never strives to be cute, he often is anyway, especially in a scene in which Spencer teases Wilfred with a laser pointer.

Elijah Wood proves to be an adept second banana, which, as comedy experts say, is the harder of the two roles.

Surprisingly, even after the show seems to have run through the obvious jokes, the laughs keep coming. Although the premise may seem only good enough for a sketch, “Wilfred” could be around for dozens of dog years.

* Updated: Hollywood Reporter:
The conceit is a great one. Ryan doesn’t know why he’s seeing Wilfred as an unshaven Australian in a dog suit, but the two of them have an immediate chemistry. Wilfred, it turns out, is part philosopher, part devious dog, part life coach. The two of them smoke a lot of pot at Ryan’s house, since Ryan quit his job and Jenna works all day and leaves Wilfred at home. The series probably could have coasted on all the inherently funny situations that a bong-loving dog who loves Matt Damon movies could get into with a possibly schizophrenic neighbor. But Wilfred goes beyond that – which is why there’s more than a little hilarious genius in this series.

Wood is perfect as Ryan, struggling to find happiness and meaning in a world where his father called the shots, like becoming a lawyer. Ryan is awkward, emotionally shackled, fearful of embracing life. Gann is also superb as Wilfred, who wants to help Ryan grasp the joy in life and seize the day – provided Ryan doesn’t use him to get to Jenna. Oh, sure, Wilfred may sometimes muck up Ryan’s life for no reason, but hey, he’s a dog. A foul-mouthed, often irascible dog who has his own bong, but still.

Based on an Australian series, “Wilfred” feels like a Web short — meant to be viewed in three-minute increments, a la bits on “Funny or Die” — stretched to series length. As is, this understandable cult commodity Down Under has moments of goofy charm, and benefits greatly from Elijah Wood’s vulnerability as the suicidal slacker who finds his own Harvey — in this case, a gruff, pot-smoking, anthropomorphic dog only he sees as a person, played by Aussie co-creator Jason Gann. Paired with “Louie,” the hour finally reinforces how the quest for comedies to rival FX’s dramas still remains elusive.


  1. I was so nervous watching this. Because any Australian knows about the disaster of Kath and Kim. Americans tend to whitewash a lot in adaptions. Not to say that Wilfred hasn’t been whitewashed by the U.S. From dingy country town to upper middle class suburban neighborhood, from unpleasant girlfriend who owns protective dog to friendly chatty neighbor with dog who teaches the main character lessons in life.

    My idea of this turning out well is not for Elijah Wood’s character to become some happy better-off person from learning life lessons from Wilfred, but to be constantly f***ed over and kicked while down by our furry friend. That’s entertainment. Comedy is derived from pain.

    I hope Elijah Wood doesn’t pull a Selma Blair and want to look pretty for T.V instead of doing the stupid things that ridicule him in order to win the audience.

  2. Secret Squïrrel

    @Anthony – it’ll prob be fairly immune from that because not many people saw it on SBS. I think an earlier time-slot and a new channel will mean that there’ll be a lot of first-time viewers.

  3. I hope it goes well in the US but I think it may suffer here in Australia the same way the US Office did with the repeating of several jokes and storylines from the original series.

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