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Friday, July 8, 2011

"Fear" the Wilfred

There is a Dog     FX's Wilfred continues with its third episode, "Fear," a direct followup to the first entry. In Episode 1, "Happiness," Wilfred (Jason Gann) convinces Ryan (Elijah Wood) to break into the annoying Spencer's (Ethan Suplee, My Name is Earl, Mallrats), house, poop in his boot, and steal his weed. Wilfred leaves Ryan's wallet at the scene. In "Fear," Spencer comes to confront Ryan, who lies, claiming his house is also broken into, and his wallet stolen. Spencer, none too bright, believes him, and decides they should be best friends, which in Spencer's mind, means watching lots of porn and going to strip clubs. In the end, Ryan must tell Spencer the truth in order to get rid of his constant presence, which is worse than a punch in the face, the result of confessing the real story.

     It is curious that "Fear" airs third instead of second, as "Happiness" flows right into "Fear," and there is no relevance of the second episode to this story. However, it is just nice to get that closure and continuation, so no complaints.

     After "Happiness," it is hard to see where the series is going. Three episodes in, things are a bit clearer, and it's looking good. While still a very strange show, and no effort is being made at this point to explain why Ryan sees Wilfred as a man in a dog costume, and everyone else sees Wilfred as a normal pooch, that's not the issue at hand. Instead, Wilfred is about Ryan discovering himself with the help of an insightful and ornery new chum. Whether Wilfred is real or in Ryan's imagination, he serves that purpose quite capably, and the series manages to make the premise both humorous and seriously emotionally good.

     Wood is slaying the role, which seems perfectly tailored to the type of character the actor usually plays. He's a not-so-confident man, who realizes he must gain acceptance of himself, or make himself better so that he can get to that place. Gann, who had a hand in creating the show, is much less known, but holds his own equally well against the established co-star. He uses many of the same tricks he did in the Australian version, but with more talent to play against. And, of course, a much higher production value.

     "Fear" is a wonderful episode, as not only does it deal with the titular concept, but honesty, trust, friendship, and consequences are touched on with equal insight. Ryan let fear prod him into lying, thinking his best option to handle a scary man is avoid physical confrontation, but it's not. Ryan learns a valuable lesson, that one should deal with problems head on, instead of trying to wiggle around them.

     Of course, Wilfred is a comedy, so viewers will want to laugh, too, which they can do in spades. Suplee is hilarious as the boob-obsessed neighbor, both simple and crude, but wholly inoffensive in his worldview, even if one does not wish to spend too much time with him. As Ryan scrambles to keep his secrets, Wood does the type of physical comedy that few can pull off. A bit where Wilfred is bringing up Spencer's stolen pot to smoke with him is particularly amusing.

     If you are still on the fence about Wilfred, hopefully "Fear" will help you make up your mind. Watch Wilfred Thursdays nights at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

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     To catch up on Wilfred with streaming episodes online, please click here.

Article first published as TV Review: Wilfred - "Fear" on Blogcritics.

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