Quirky 'Wilfred' worth throwing a bone?

Jun 26 2011 - 2:21pm

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FX
Elijah Wood as Ryan and Jason Gann as Wilfred in the new comedy “Wilfred.”
FX
Elijah Wood as Ryan and Jason Gann as Wilfred in the new comedy “Wilfred.”

In describing the new FX comedy "Wilfred," the words "offbeat" and "trippy" somehow just don't suffice. Quite simply, this is the weirdest TV show of the summer.

"Wilfred" stars Elijah Wood ("Lord of the Rings") as Ryan, a glum ex-lawyer who has hit rock bottom. When we first met him in last Thursday's pilot episode, he's sweating over the third revision of a suicide note and about to gulp down a milkshake laced with pills.

Clearly, this isn't your standard sitcom setup, but brace yourself. Things are about to get truly surreal. Ryan's suicide plans are derailed when his attractive new neighbor (Fiona Gubelmann) stops by and asks him to babysit her pooch, Wilfred.

Turns out that Wilfred is just a normal dog to the rest of the world, but appears to Ryan as a crass, paunchy, pot-smoking dude (Jason Gann) clad in a cheap dog suit. Even stranger: Wilfred is a blabbermouth with an Aussie accent who spews philosophical tidbits on everything from life and love to the fine art of leg-humping.

Told you it was weird. But it's also hilarious -- and even a bit insightful. Adapted from an Australian cult hit, "Wilfred" quickly develops into a dark buddy comedy as the mangy fur ball becomes Ryan's wing man and quasi-therapist. Along the way, Ryan slowly emerges from his funk and begins to view life differently through those big, soulful eyes.

Half the fun of watching "Wilfred" is trying to figure out if the title canine is really man's best friend or just an unruly cur. At times Wilfred seems to be Ryan's biggest cheerleader, encouraging him to shed his doubts and fears. But occasionally he comes off as a scheming saboteur who goads Ryan into doing bad things, such as breaking into a home to steal marijuana plants.

Is the dog really pulling the strings, or are we witnessing Ryan's self-destructive tendencies in the scruffy form of Wilfred?

Clearly, the show represents a substantial risk for FX -- and for Wood. Just as the world is divided between dog and cat people, some viewers will delight in the edgy humor, while others undoubtedly will want to slap an extra-tight muzzle on "Wilfred."

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