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Wilfred attempts to 'Comfort' us with all the 'Uncertainty'

Wilfred (US) poster

Written by : published Thursday 20th June 2013

Wilfred attempts to 'Comfort' us with all the 'Uncertainty' main image

FX has given us the return of the dark-toned comedy drama Wilfred. The full hour, consisting of two episodes, “Uncertainty” and “Comfort” respectively, begs the further question of did Ryan (Elijah Wood) know Wilfred (Jason Gann), from a young age?  What does the dude from Happy Endings have to do with it? Are there clones? Do clones work anymore? Are clones magic? And what about the silly drawing Ryan did when he was a kid? Is he perhaps hiding from the fact that his neighbor got married to that guy from American Pie?

 For those who have forgotten the basis of the FX-series Wilfred, it is the story of a man named Ryan Newman, who is manic depressive and one day tries to off himself.  The next day, he inexplicably can see his neighbor’s dog as a full grown man in a dog suit. The dog, named Wilfred, hangs out at Ryan’s house, smokes weed, steals, performs coitus on a stuffed bear named ‘Bear’ and amongst other things, makes Ryan’s life hell. Or does he? Wilfred at some points seems to be leading an awakening in the manic depressive Ryan, or leading him further down the rabbit hole.

The season two finale (my review here) ended with an explosive shocker compared to typical television tropes; usually tv weddings end with the wedding not going through as planned, thus giving our hero another chance to woo the girl of his dreams. But in this case, Ryan not only helped Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) continue to get hitched whilst dealing with Wilfred’s schemes and ploys, but in the process tries to be happy with Amanda (Allison Mack) who reveals afterwards that she is crazy (she thinks she can hear Wilfred talk too) but that she also stole money from the company.

It left open the idea that season three would introduce Ryan’s father, but it also further dropped hints that Ryan knew of Wilfred before he met Wilfred in the pilot of Wilfred.


"The mistake is thinking there can be an antidote to the uncertainty." David Levithan

Most of the first half of the hour titled “Uncertainty” deals with the drawing and if Ryan knew of the dog Wilfred or not back when he was a kid. And the answer is sadly we do not really know, more leaning towards no.  We also learn Wilfred has a clone, which gives us a hilarious look at the dogs yelling at coo-coo clocks. Beyond that, the episode felt a bit devoid of humor to me, leaning more towards more gross-out humor than I care for.  The pay-off of Angela Kinsey being someone who photographs Wilfred’s clone was also, in retrospect funny, but while viewing didn’t illicit much laughs for me.

 Wilfred and Ryan look on...

This goes into the old adage that I became the person who, when they see or hear something humorous go “Oh, that’s funny”. And that is what most of “Uncertainty” felt like for me. It felt full of moments that I know are funny but it didn’t illicit a response minus a few bits here and there. And for a show like Wilfred, it was a bit surprising, as even for me, the deep and enriched mystery-driven episodes that further the mythos of Wilfred are full of laugh out loud moments. 

 

"Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always." Hippocrates 

 

The second half of the hour, “Comfort” (featuring the always enjoyable Zachary Knighton as a bit hefty mailman dealing with his own pain) offers a bit more comfort in the hilarity department, which is good to know as the first half of the hour-long premiere feels more of a ‘catching everyone up on the mystery of Wilfred’ than trying to aim too high on the comedy-side of things. But in retrospect, this seems to be the way David Zuckerman and company tend to handle Wilfred in the previous two seasons, doing far-out crazy to humble attempts at deepen the mystery and giving the illusion they are going somewhere with it.  But I have long since suspected that the show isn’t really going anywhere necessarily, and instead is just using that to tell these odd enjoyable and quirky stories about a man and his man in a dog suit.

 

Wilfred is of course a show that brings about discussions… (Heartily I welcome and despise them!) I know myself to be a fan like this sometimes, but I know there are some individuals who will instantly hate me for not giving the first half of Wilfred an excellent or fully-glowing recommendation.  There are a few people who, despite writing mostly praise for the show minus a few,  (I believe to be) valid nit-picks towards the show, send venom-filled e-mails, tweets and comments my way.  Yet, Wilfred brings others who are polite and kind and wish to sincerely question the state of television comedy today, amongst the humor of a sociopathic man in a dog suit and his human best friend.  To gauge further, let’s investigate some of these head on.

 

There are arguments on other websites, pointed out to me by those who are fans (like here), that make strong arguments towards the series. The article can be summarized up in saying ‘Wilfred is nothing short of genius.  The whole idea behind the mystery is- well, who cares? The show is super smart and witty and very meta in a way that no television show has been before.’

 

I beg you to please read it though, as the author brings it and makes some wonderful points about television series today and our general thoughts towards them, and that is me trying to summarize something up for those lacking in time (or just plain lazy). With that said though, I think there are some problems with the discussion (nay argument, we are not arguing, but having I believe civil discourse) towards the series and the idea behind what is making Wilfred yay or nay on how it handles certain items.  In particular though, I still feel that while I get that Wilfred is beaming with genius, it feels stifled.

 

In particular, the idea that Wilfred sort of represents it’s own world and reality, one not bound to the rules of our own, while in theory might sound good, and it does, it further goes on to state that the show is filled to the brim with metarealism used to view society as we know it. It also questions the idea that Wilfred in itself is joking at television’s own unique brand of having a story mean something. Something the article considers ‘a fetish’. 

 

I don’t disagree with the ideas presented there, but I also feel that Wilfred walks a fairly dangerous tightrope. One that does tackle those items, and other times, it fails at them spectacularly.

Television, like all things, uses tropes, or has unique ways of doing something, including how the series on it are presented. (see: a fetish).  The idea that Wilfred is really just a show with a unique hook, and that is all it is, and we should just be happy and accept it is not really one I consider valid.  The reason being is that the show does not present itself in such a fashion. In some ways, this is comparing apples to bananas, but the series Psych on USA Network, while is a case of the week show, it knows exactly what it is and never hides the fact.  There are times it tries to be something else but the show quickly goes back to what it knows how to do. What I mean by that is that Psych is a case of the week show featuring the unique hook of a hyper-observant dude and his friend solve crimes under the guise that he is a psychic detective. Oh and the two friends make TONS of tv and film references, in particular to the 1980’s. And let’s be real, the show works. With it running to the last season, they’ve upped their game a bit, but Wilfred makes the mistake of giving the impression to casual viewers of the series will feature some sort of relational logic and rules-engine to operate on, so we know how and why Ryan sees the next door neighbor’s dog as a man in a dog suit.  While the series continues to give us that impression, the series then takes the tone and sets it in a vacuum of ‘That’s not what we are’. And it is here my fault for the show lies… not that it isn’t funny, but the dangerous balancing act it has wavers too much back and forth on what tone the series is trying to present itself as.

 Wilfred doing his 'thang'

 

Let’s be clear, I dig the show, and I will gladly take either side. But perhaps the time in between seasons makes my love of the show sour a bit, as I feel a bit the same as I did last year after I saw the premiere: a bit disappointed.  And again, I believe that is due to the tone the series sets itself with to the viewers. Once the series gets back up and going again, like it does with the second half of the episode, things are good, but anytime there is a major development, the tone is always ‘we’re playing for keeps’ and it messes up the vibe the show has going for itself. And there in lies the ultimate trapping or failure of the series of Wilfred to me, which the full hour seems to encapsulates for me. The tone jumps from one thing to another.

Overall, Wilfred continues to mix and match the tone it has on an ‘as-needed’ basis and as the series of Wilfred continues along, will not stop for a second.  The entire purpose of the show, as previously stated, seems to really just tell some fun quirky stories and to change it up when needed; and really, that’s perfectly fine. While “Uncertainty” left me feeling a bit cold humor-wise, “Comfort”, the second-half of the hour brought me back to the territory that Wilfred usually resides in: comedy-genius.  Let’s hope the rest of the season tends to feature the humor of second episode while mixing the mystery-building of the first half of the hour. If it can do that, which signs point to that it will, Wilfred will continue to have an amazing third season.

About the author goodbadgeeky

goodbadgeeky

Nick ‘Nitro’ Arganbright has an extreme love for a good story, whether it be in film, tv, video games, comic books, music or more and it shows in each article and podcast he produced. The titular podcast he produces is called The Good The Bad & The Geeky with co-hosts Jon Bettin and Nathan ‘DJ Meat’ Haley. The podcast has helped him make a few contacts within in the industry which he hopes to use to entertain and inform readers of his reviews on Examiner.com and The TV King, offering an average joe opinion that is often overlooked in major print and online publications. If you’d like to e-mail him, please do so at [email protected] or you can tweet him on twitter at @goodbadgeeky.

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