Wilfred, the weirdly wonderful comedy on the FX channel has just begun its second season. What a breath of fresh air in the mostly stale world of television humor. It stars Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) and Jason Gann, an Aussie bloke who’s also the co-creator and star of the popular Australian series on which this show is based. Wood plays Ryan, a suicidal, depressed attorney who befriends the neighbor’s dog (Gann). To everyone else, including his owner, the dog is a regular canine. But to Ryan (and the audience) he’s a man in a cheap dog suit. The big surprise is that it works and that it makes us laugh out loud. The writers know dogs, and dog people. Here’s why it’s must-see TV:
> It plays off our tendency to anthropomorphize dogs … in a big way. This dog talks and digs holes with a shovel, and uses a bong to demonstrate the principles of clicker training.
> The writers have the imagination to show stuffing a Kong as a lascivious act.
> Likewise, they mostly skip the obvious poop and pee jokes and go with more revelatory (and funnier) routines involving lasers, separation anxiety and canine therapy.
> It goes against the grain. Show biz dogs tend to be sweet, cuddly pups, but Wilfred is a crude, surly, beer-swilling sort who’s nonetheless loveable. Sort of like your brother-in-law.
> The show proves that deep down, dogs are existentialists and that their reason for being is to show us humans how to overcome fears and embrace life.
> It celebrates just hanging out with your dog — sure, it’s in the basement with smokes and a six-pack, but life is great.