June 21, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Premieres Thursday 10PM on FX:  Potential DVR Alert
Is WILFRED more than a one-trick puppy?  We’ll see.  It joins the FX line-up of off-center comedies (Louie, The League, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) with a promising pilot, offering an original spin on a familiar plotline.
Based by David Zuckerman (who hails from the Seth MacFarlane writers’ rooms of Family Guy and American Dad) and Jason Gann, and based on Gann’s Australian series (created with Adam Zwar) of the same name, Wilfred is basically the one about the wimpy loser who’s never taken a stand in his life and his new friend, a wild man who does all the wrong things and yet may have a valuable lesson to teach about living life to its fullest.  (Think any buddy comedy with Vince Vaughn.  Hell, think The Producers.)  Except this time, that wild man is actually a dog.  And the wimp may or may not be hallucinating him.

In the US series, Ryan (Elijah Wood) has failed as a lawyer, disappointed his family, and as the pilot begins, is attempting suicide.  But the pills don’t work; instead, Ryan sees his next-door neighbor’s pet Wilfred (Gann) as an Australian in a dog suit.  Wilfred smokes (weed and cigarettes), drinks beer, lies non-stop, and also has the bad habits of a canine, like rubbing himself on any available woman and digging holes in the yard (albeit with a shovel).  The show doesn’t make any attempt to explain why this is happening; it’s just Ryan’s life. 
The pilot works all this out quite cleverly, and the performers are game.  Gann also played Wilfred in the Australian show; his matter-of-fact attitude sells the central joke.  Wood, a long way from Middle Earth, is quite funny as an ordinary guy who can’t figure out if he’s completely insane or on the road to some kind of psychic renewal (or both).  The other major character is Wilfred’s owner Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), who’s mostly just attractive in the initial episode.

The question for Wilfred is whether it has anyplace to go.  The Australian version ran 2 seasons, but with what seems to be a somewhat different set-up (the equivalent of Wood’s character was the boyfriend of Wilfred’s owner).  They’ve already exhausted a fair number of the obvious guy-in-a-dog-suit jokes, so if every episode in the US is a variation of Ryan doing something outrageous at Wilfred’s behest, the show could get tired quickly.  On the other hand, if the writers can widen the show’s scope a bit and keep pushing their arresting concept forward, this could be a fine summer diversion, and since Wilfred is the lead-in (kennel-mate?) to the brilliant Louie, make for an hour of television worth fetching.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."