And so we do have a workplace sitcom. This was one of Wilfred’s possible destinations after the first-season finale, and it was one that had a great deal of potential. When the only recurring characters were Jenna, Drew, and Ryan’s annoying sister, Wilfred’s most common structure was “somehow Ryan comes across a weird guest star.” This wasn’t bad, but it stretched the limits of plausibility at times, and I’m sure it strained the show’s writers to come up with some new reason to get Ryan talking to strangers.
However, if you have a wider range of recurring characters, you have more room to create comic situations. For example, last week, what we knew about Wilfred’s relationship with Drew was flipped into Wilfred liking Drew (or at least, having been brainwashed by him). Comedic misunderstandings/recharacterizations ensued, before the show reverted to normal by the end, although with a few slight changes, like Ryan’s focus on a new love interest. Unbalance relationships to derive humor—a comedic rule true through time. But if you only have a few characters, options are limited before you repeat yourself (The Simpsons is the most obvious here; how many times has Marge taken a new job?)
The addition of an office adds a bunch of new characters as well as new power dynamics. The office has a love interest for Ryan, his boss, the janitor, and a few co-workers. Of course, the first thing that needs to be done to upset the conventional office relationships is for Ryan to bring in Wilfred, the core premise of “Dignity.”
That the conceit of “Dignity” is predictable isn’t necessarily a bad thing because, well, it’s Wilfred in an office. He excitedly rolls around on his back, shouting about his balls being exposed, as everyone else thinks he wants belly-rubs. He delightedly goes into office descriptions and gossip to his pigeon friends, in boring (but accurate) fashion. But all is not well, as Wilfred’s office popularity quickly diminishes, and he starts stressing out about work alongside Ryan, and engaging in more and more desperate attempts to regain his fans.
Meanwhile, Ryan is forced to deal with his boss walking all over him, and potentially ruining his social life (it’s also a metaphor his domineering father, off-screen still but exerting influence on Ryan). Theoretically, Wilfred’s situation should build the comedy, and Ryan’s the drama, but in practice, they tend to take place in exactly the same spaces at the same times. So, it’s awkward while being funny, and takes stabs at meaning. In other words, it’s a solid Wilfred episode.
But there’s also a good chance that it’s an important Wilfred episode, one which we’ll look back on as the introduction of the office and new forms of character dynamism. It could also be a one-off, but that doesn’t seem plausible. It’s too helpful for the show to use the office to add different characters and dimensions.
- “Well I’ve got a belly-rub on line two!” I laughed hardest at Ryan’s boss saying this.
- “Talk about dumb, that guy...aww shit!”
- I liked that when Ryan walked in to demand more time on his work, it sure as hell looked like the boss was getting oral sex. And then the show moved away for a quick scene. We had to wait. Then then, release.