Is there a greater love than that between a boy and his dog? Or, in this case, a depressed and lonely man-boy named Ryan (Elijah Wood) and a tall, surly Australian in a not-very-realistic dog suit–Wilfred (Jason Gann)–who everyone else perceives as a normal dog? The morning after Ryan attempts suicide, his perky neighbor Jenna asks him to take care of her dog, who steps right into the role of Ryan’s mentor/tormenter. Each episode of the FX sitcom Wilfred revolves around Wilfred teaching Ryan some Zen-like lesson about trust, loyalty, respect, and more–lessons that a dog seems ideally suited to teach, if Wilfred weren’t a pot-smoking, manipulative beast. Wilfred’s lad-mag comedy comes from Gann’s rendition of the Machiavellian hound, who persuades Ryan that a doggie daycare attendant is molesting both him and a giant stuffed teddy bear; that Ryan should woo Jenna by competing with Jenna’s alpha-male boyfriend; or that he should get into a fight with a rage-driven biker to prove dominance. Some episodes push at the ambiguous boundaries around Wilfred’s identity, such as when a mystery man (Dwight Yoakam) informs Ryan that he too sees the man in a dog suit. But while Wilfred drives the plots, the show’s impact depends on Wood; with his vulnerable blue eyes and elfin features, Wood gives this ridiculous premise some genuine heart. In most buddy comedies, one of the friends is metaphorically a dog; Wilfred’s literal interpretation turns the series into a surrealist bromance.


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