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 past, Wilfred 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.
– 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?