Review: ‘Wilfred’ – ‘Service’

Senior Television Writer
08.16.12 8 Comments

I last reviewed “Wilfred” after the season’s third episode, though I also wrote up a brief synopsis of the Comic-Con panel I moderated. My plan was to swoop back in to write up a post about the episode screened at that panel, but I lost track of the airing schedule as episodes piled up on my DVR during press tour and the catch-up period that took place after.

But I’ve now seen all but one of the episodes that have aired since early July, and I have some thoughts on the season as a whole and tonight’s episode coming up just as soon as we go to an organic fruit stand I believe is built on an energy vortex…

First of all, I want to start with the Comic-Con episode, “Avoidance,” which was one of the funniest/most horrifying things I’d seen in quite some time. Of course, the version both I and the Comic-Con crowd saw was much more explicit (including a close-up money shot) than what they were allowed to air on TV, but the whole dance montage was among the more amusing bits the show had done even before Ryan began massaging Wilfred’s leg. The chemistry between Elijah Wood and Jason Gann remains the series’ best asset, and seeing them move together through two different choreographed dance numbers was a treat.

Beyond that, I’ve enjoyed the way this second season has gone back and forth on the value that Wilfred adds to Ryan’s life, and at the way the writers have understood what having Wilfred in the middle of the show adds to some familiar sitcom tropes. The dinner party episode from a few weeks back features several devices that have long since outlived their usefulness, like the unnecessary lie that makes everything much worse, and yet when the trope is adjacent to a guy in a dog suit causing trouble while blaming it on his alcoholic stuffed love toy, it no longer feels so tired.

Last week’s episode was terrific in the way it returned to the question of Ryan’s sanity. David Zuckerman said at Comic-Con that the explanation of what Wilfred is and why Ryan sees him is not really the point of the series, but there’s a clear mental health issue here that Wilfred helps Ryan recognize before he gets in too deep with Amanda. (I’ll miss Allison Mack, though.) And we got that sad revelation at the end of a strange, very funny game sequence featuring the welcome return of Dwight Yoakam as Bruce.

Tonight’s episode continued the mental health theme by bringing back Mary Steenburgen as Ryan and Kristen’s mom. We know from last season that mom has had her own talking animal companion for quite some time, and while the Rhea Perlman cat died before this episode began, it again brought home the reality that while Wilfred is fun for us to watch, he represents some very dark things about Ryan.

As a result, this was a less overtly comic episode, and what humor there was was damn dark, from Jeremy shooting himself in the face(*) to the running gag about why Wilfred kept having blood on his mouth. But I liked Kristen talking Ryan into delivering the baby (the show understandably didn’t feel the need to devote time to the birth itself) and Ryan painting with his mom at the end. Establishing a foundation for the human lead makes the jokes involving the dog lead work even better.

(*) Zuckerman said at Comic-Con that they realized the workplace setting wasn’t as fruitful for stories as they had hoped, and they decided to wrap it up sooner than planned. Having your main guest character commit suicide is a pretty direct way to get out of that arena. 

Not sure when my next write-up will be. As before, it’ll depend on my schedule and how much I have to say about a given episode. But I’m quite pleased with what I’ve seen lately.

What did everybody else think, of both “Service” and season 2 to this point?

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