Hello, Wilfred viewers, I'm taking over from Todd after the pilot, as he mentioned. I don't have a whole lot to add to his initial impressions of the pilot, except that I totally disagree that tonight's episode was funnier. Still, as exciting as our writers' slight disagreements about sitcoms might be, I have to do a little bit more than slap a different grade on it.
For me, the key to making Wilfred work beyond its high-concept premise is to keep a certain level of narrative tension. Ryan needs to understand that seeing Wilfred as humanish is legitimately insane, but he also needs Wilfred to improve his life to make that insanity palatable. Wilfred, meanwhile, needs to walk the tense line between intelligent philosopher and hilariously dumb animal. If it deviates from this too much, then Wilfred becomes just a sitcom with a talking dog. And a sitcom with a talking dog is probably not a very good sitcom.
What I liked about the pilot was that it did all those things. I agree with Todd that Ryan's sister was a bit of a drag, but otherwise the show was strong all around. Ryan both shit in a boot and broke out of a suicidal funk. Wilfred both dispensed wisdom and fucked a teddy bear nonchalantly. It worked on pretty much every level that I wanted it to work.
On the other hand, tonight's episode was pretty much a pure sitcom plot: two buddies get caught in a web of deception that starts fun and turns mean. If you were excited when every other show had a main character lie to another one in order to maybe make things a little bit better, well, here's another one like that. Wilfred lies and tells Ryan he's a loyal friend in order to play in the ocean (though you wouldn't know that was a lie if you missed the pilot). Ryan lies to Wilfred about going to the movies in order to take him to the vet. Wilfred accidentally tells Ryan that his owner Jenna has a penis, then maintains that lie in order to get revenge on Ryan. They make up by the end. Hooray. There are some funny bits – Wilfred personifying the average dog's response to a vet visit by inventing a conspiracy theory is tops – but other than that it's rarely as funny as the pilot.
The first part of the episode, before the deception becomes the main point, is much stronger because it goes to darker, more interesting places. Specifically, Ryan's asshole. He's upset at the opening of the episode because his ex, whom he broke up with for surprise fingering him, is getting married. This is good stuff, as it tells us about Ryan and his prudishness as well as leading to a direct conversation about how he drives everyone he cares about away. Also, ass jokes.
I'm perfectly willing to cut the show some slack and keep recommending it, as it's entirely normal for a second episode to be weaker than the pilot, and it was hardly terrible. Just predictable in a way that the pilot wasn't.
- “May I take your ax?”
- The thing I was most pleasantly surprised by in the pilot was Elijah Wood's physical comedy. Not sure he's the new Chris Pratt...but not sure he's not.
- “What, I'm supposed to put a ring on that finger?”
- “Everything has to do with everything. Ryan.”
- “Now march over there and give Jenna a reacharound.”
- “And boy are my arms tired. Nah, I'm just kidding.” Just a line and the dick boyfriend already stands out nicely.