It’s finally here! The premiere of FX’s newest show, Wilfred, an adaptation of an Aussie original, is finally here – and it did not disappoint! I’ll be honest. I was a little nervous about it. I watched about three and a half episodes of the original TV series a few weeks ago for comparison’s sake, and while it was pretty funny, I wasn’t sure how it would do once adapted – even starring Elijah Wood’s blue, blue eyes. I was thinking it was going to be like The Office, where the first episodes basically mirrored each other. And I was meh about it. But, I’ll tell you what… some of the jokes may have been reused (and they were still pretty LOL-worthy), but this was SO MUCH BETTER. For one, there was actually a discernable story line! Oh, praise be! So good, so darkly funny. Let’s just dig in, shall we?
The episode opens with Ryan, our blue-eyed, self-deploring protag, rather joyfully finishing his third draft of the suicide note. He’s planning to off himself tonight with the pills he apparently got from his doctor sister. He seems pretty proud of this note, which right off the bat is inappropriately amusing. Problem is, the pills don’t work, no matter how many he takes. He stays up all night trying to kill himself (and writes a fourth draft of the suicide note) so that come morning when his neighbor, Jenna, comes knocking, he looks like a strung-out, Vitamin-C-deficient drug addict.
After offering him orange juice and/or medical attention (ha!), she asks him to watch her dog for the day. Ryan agrees, but only because he’s distracted by the fact that there is a MAN DRESSED AS A DOG standing in front of his house. Oh, that? That’s Jenna’s dog, Wilfred. And yep, Ryan is the only person who seems him as a man in a dog suit. Um, what? Jenna goes off to work, leaving Ryan (and viewers) seriously wondering if he’s gone off the deep end.
Wilfred walks into Ryan’s house and makes himself comfortable on the couch (but not without turning in a circle before settling in, just like a dog). Ryan’s sister calls to make sure that he’s going to show up at the job she got him at the hospital, and goes into a darkly hysterical tirade about how nobody is ever happy (I’ll put some of the choice quotes below). Meanwhile, Wilfred asks for some water, and Ryan looks so desperately confused trying to decide if he should give him a glass or a bowl, I have to laugh out loud. This is one of the funniest things about this show – the subtle, but somehow wrong reminders that Wilfred actually IS a dog. Like digging holes in the backyard with a shovel, wanting to play fetch, being overprotective of his owner, and shitting in people’s shoes… but we’ll get to that later. On the other hand, now, Ryan and Wilfred share hits off a makeshift bottle bong, Ryan passes out, and ends up missing work. But you know what? It’s totally okay, because Ryan’s got Wilfred to teach him about life and the importance of overcoming one’s fears. Alright!
That’s actually the main point of this episode, aptly titled “Fear”. I know. Crazy, right? That this show, in which two characters just had a serious conversation about “lingering particles” of human feces, would have a “lesson.” But it really worked. Wilfred and Ryan spend the day together, essentially arguing over Ryan’s inability to stick up for himself and lead the life that he wants to lead. At one point, Wilfred says “Aren’t you tired of doing what everyone else wants you to do? Maybe it’s time you quit playing ball with them, and just play ball with me” — and produces a tennis ball out of nowhere. See? Reminder.
But it isn’t just about the funny punchline. It really is about the lesson. It’s like that James Franco movie The Ape where the main character learns an important life lesson from a hallucinated animal. But while that movie was an overt manifestation of a psychosis (800-pound gorilla in the room. Get it?), that Ryan sees Wilfred as a man in a dog suit, for whatever still-mysterious reasons, deals with the dark subject matter, but slathers it in humorous doggie-slobber. I liked that movie, but I feel like this actually works better BECAUSE of the humor. But I digress.
After some initial resistance on Ryan’s part, between his unwillingness to accept that a dog is giving him advice, and flat-out admitting that he doesn’t deserve to have the life he wants, Wilfred finally breaks through to him by “accidentally” throwing his tennis ball into their annoying motorcycle-owning neighbor Spencer’s backyard (OMG, it’s Ethan Suplee!). Wilfred gives Ryan a sentimental sob story about how a little old lady gave him the ball in the pound, and it made him loveable and gave him self-worth. So Ryan goes to retrieve the ball, making Wilfred promise to leave him alone after that.
But while there, Wilfred breaks into the house to steal some cannabis, and encourages Ryan to release his inner animal. Specifically, Ryan can do this by crapping in Spencer’s boot. What Wilfred’s been spouting all day must make a lot of sense, obviously, because Ryan does it (“Primo coiler; one of the best I’ve seen!”) – and he’s never felt more alive. Gross. He takes the newfound inner strength and tells his sister and his boss that they can both suck it because he doesn’t need their charity job. ‘Cause Ryan’s got a new outlook on life, you guys. AND a new friend to keep him company. Unfortunately, his new friend returns to the scene of the break-in to deposit Ryan’s wallet with photo ID. Oh, Wilfred. Come ‘ere, you silly dog. Good boy!
- “Hope they find my body before the smell becomes a problem for you.”
- “You think I’m happy?!” “No, I would never…” “You think I enjoy pulling out babies 24/7? I mean, my God, I have to EAT with these hands!”
- “I had to do so much slicing and dicing down there, it looked like a goddamn Benihana!”
- “Put your lipstick back in its case, Romeo. You’re not her type.”
- “I’m not just saying possum ass is delicious – it is.”
- “I’m not an animal.” “Then be a man! For once in your life, be a man and shit in that boot.”
So, what did you think of the episode? Was it what you were expecting? Better? Worse? Are you planning on sticking around for the rest of the season? Based on this episode alone, I know I am. Ryan is such a mess. Wilfred is a riot. And the jokes are just the right level of smart and disgusting. Well done, FX. Perfect. I can’t wait until next week.