Wilfred Season 3 Premiere Review: Burying Secrets

By Tim Surette

Jun 21, 2013

Wilfred S03E01/S03E02: "Uncertainty"/"Comfort"

Even for a comedy about a guy who sees his neighbor's dog as a cantankerous Australian man in a dog suit, Wilfred is a weird little show. It would be enough for Wilfred to run with its strange concept (I repeat, man sees dog as man in a dog suit), but Wilfred has managed to be entirely weird even if you ignore the whole man-dog-suit thing. And that's what makes Wilfred a special series. 

But what makes Wilfred even specialer is that, hiding behind the wincey doggy cum jokes, there's a really smart and mysterious show that pops up every once in a while and goes way beyond filling 20-something minutes with gags. Last year's mind-humping Season 2 premiere, "Progress," just made our list of the 20 best episodes of the 2012-2013 TV season, both of its season finales have featured brain-busters of the type usually reserved for a Christopher Nolan film (the non-Batman variety), and the show's fascinating but irregular examination of Ryan's mental health usually represents the show at its best. But as I've said in the pastWilfred can't seem to find a way to sustain those types of episodes, and it often retreats into being just a weird little sitcom. There's nothing wrong with that (the show is still funny), but I'm not sure there's another series out there that teases so much promise just a few times a season. You definitely don't need to agree with me on this; these bursts of brilliance are what *I* want the show to always be, and I realize that's a difficult task for any series, let alone a comedy.

Tonight's Season 3 debut featured back-to-back episodes and indicated that Wilfred's pattern of inconsistency isn't going anywhere. The real premiere, "Uncertainty," was a fun tug-of-war surrounding the question of whether Wilfred is real or not, falling in line with the show's tendency for serving up brain-wringers in its opening and closing chapters. "Comfort" reverted a bit, going back to Wilfred's, ahem, comfort zone by placing an obstacle between Ryan and Wilfred and letting the two sort it out while paying little attention to the question of Wilfred's authenticity. So, nothing really new there.

But what I really noticed in the two episodes was the effort that went into approaching the fringes of bizarre canine-related humor. Discovering that Wilfred had been cloned was a stroke of genius, and Jason Gann gave Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany a run for her money with his performance in the role of Stinky, the ascot-wearing Wilfred doppleganger who lived the high life as the heir of a late—and super rich—owner. Likewise, the mailman shindig in "Comfort" was an equally inspired descent into hilarious madness. (Do mail carriers really get together to remember their fallen foes and party with confiscated mail?) And let's give a round of applause to the guest-stars, because The Office's Angela Kinsey and Happy Endings' Zachary Knighton were perfectly cast as Stinky's caretaker and a boozy mailman, respectively.

Though Season 2 achieved occasional success with the Ryan-Amanda romance and Ryan's new job as counsel for a pharmaceutical company, I think we can all agree that neither storyline (especially the latter) really paid off in the end because they lost traction along the way. Two episodes in, Season 3 hasn't given us any hint of that sort of storytelling, and that's probably a good thing. Wilfred will be better off if it once again narrows its focus to Wilfred and Ryan while expanding its silly universe with stories about dog clones and mailman parties. 



NOTES

– Season 3 marks a showrunner change, as David Zuckerman stepped down to make way for writers Reed Agnew and Eli Jorné. Zuckerman is still on board as an executive producer, though. 

Wilfred might be setting up the Wilfred-Ryan relationship to be more adversarial this season. Wilfred was a particularly bad dog in "Uncertainty," where the final scene showed him burying the drawing Ryan thought he burned. Dogs bury bones to find them later. I'm assuming Wilfred is doing the same thing with the drawing because he doesn't want to make the truth go away, but he also wants Ryan to stop obsessing over the question of whether Wilfred is real. Or maybe it's just an easy way for the writers to tell us they won't be discussing that question right now, but they'll dig it up later. 

– Wilfred is all-in on the Matt Damon-Ben Affleck feud with his Affleck dartboard.

– The idea that Wilfred got Anne Frank busted and that the "well-dressed German men" saved him is so, so wrong. And so, so funny. 

– "Wait, you like to scream hateful shit at cuckoo birds, too?" Seeing Stinky and Wilfred go nuts on that clock was amazing.

– Randall Einhorn directs every episode of Wilfred, and he's been making great choices visually. The mirrored stairway after the clone talk, the tight focus during discussions of reality, they're all really working. 


What'd you think of the premiere? 

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  • klotensen Jun 22, 2013

    Wouldn't it be great if some time in the future either Matt Damon or Ben Affleck(or BOTH!) make a cameo in this show?
    I loved the baby pic of Stinker!

  • Jossjunkie Jun 25, 2013

    Yes that baby/puppy pic was the best!

  • current Jun 22, 2013

    I liked seeing Ryan's mother's pussy last series. Here's hoping she gets rejuvenated with a new one that we get to see in this run;)

  • KamSolusar Jun 22, 2013

    I'm glad we got to see Bear again. I've really missed that guy and hope the show will give him more room this season to show us his amazing talents.

  • Left4Ed Jun 21, 2013

    I'm guessing that like Ryan's sanity, the show likes to go through its ups and downs. Which is a good thing, because even the downs are at least still worth the 22 minutes plus commercials. Nothing makes me laugh like Wilfred, even when Robin Williams isn't cackling above a helpless Ryan.

    Like Wilfred giving Bear a blumpkin. That almost topped Wilfred digging up Kristen's baby's placenta. Almost. If Ryan really is insane and imagining all of Wilfred's exploits, that man is seriously twisted in the head.

    As for "Comfort", I think the idea of religion and the belief of an invisible man helping you out plays nicely with Ryan and his invisible dog friend that helps him through life.

  • WavSlave Jun 21, 2013

    I've always sort of been on the fence about this show. It's definitely one of FX's better, fearless (to use their own word) comedies, not the sort of dreck that they're increasingly likely to make with these bizarre -- and misguided, IMO -- "10/90" deals. Please stop that now, FX!

    It's as though there's some sort of dark, serious psychodrama moving just beneath its comedic surface. While the episodes that delve into the darkness are definitely the more interesting ones, they also sort of disturb me and leave me feeling more turned off than on. I genuinely hope that they're able to continually peel away the layers of Ryan's mind and let us more or less know just what's really going on in there before the show inevitably gets cancelled between seasons. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad it's back. It's a shame Louie wasn't right there alongside it.

    Bonus treat: The Sunny/Philly gang doing a few black-and-white promos for their upcoming debut on FXX. I love how they often make interesting, almost seemingly high-brow ads for their decidedly low-brow show. Good stuff.

  • torontogirl98 Jun 21, 2013

    I love how this show straddles the line between what is acceptable and not quite acceptable to laugh at, that Anne Frank joke was just too funny! I love how Wilfred always has such fantastic guest stars that really add something special to the show

  • Whedonrules Jun 21, 2013

    Wilfred and Stinky will make me laugh all day today. Loved it when Stinky was fooling Ryan simply by speaking like Wilfred. Jason Gann is awesome and Elijah Wood a perfect straight man. WAKE UP EMMYS! That may have been the funniest episode of 'Orphan Black' of the season:) Angela Kinsey was torturing the dogs - by dressing them up like people - which was funny on so many levels. So very relieved that this excellent comedy is back.

    The Anne Frank joke was so very very wrong yet because Gann is so convincing as a dog you can laugh at it. You may not like that you're laughing but you can't help it. Ditto the 'rape fight' with Stinky that Wilfred wouldn't discuss with Ryan when he got back in the car. So so wrong, but they're dogs so its OK to laugh. Welcome back.

  • JohnCouto Jun 21, 2013

    I am SO SO Happy this show is back!