Wilfred is an odd show. At times it’s a sweet look at friendship and depression, at other times it’s just plain creepy. Elijah Wood stars as Ryan, a young man whose neighbor’s dog, Wilfred, appears to him in the form of a man in a dog suit. Wilfred is played by the series creator, Jason Gann, who also starred in an Australian version of the series that aired in 2007 and 2010 (it also aired on IFC in 2010). Ryan and Wilfred hang out in Ryan’s basement, smoking dope and coping with life. Ryan is clinically depressed and comes from a messed up family. No doubt the issues he has with his domineering father and mentally-ill mom are the root of his delusions.
Season two picks up where the cliffhanger of season one left off. Ryan made the discovery that the basement where he and Wilfred have been hanging out has actually been a coat closet all along. He’s checked himself into a psychiatric hospital to recover. As season two begins, Ryan’s doctor (played by Robin Williams) has arranged a visit between Ryan and Wilfred. Ryan is confident that he’ll finally see Wilfred as a real dog. He doesn’t.
The rest of season two tracks one question that Ryan must answer before he thinks he can regain his sanity: Who is Wilfred, and why does Ryan have this relationship with him? Wilfred hints that he has the answer, but he refuses to give it to Ryan, insisting that the guy has to figure it out himself. Wilfred acts as Ryan’s spirit guide, posing questions and putting Ryan in situations that will help him figure out his life. Unfortunately for Ryan, Wilfred also abuses Ryan and sets him up to fail, supposedly in the name of growth… and comedy. Let’s not forget that this show is a comedy.
Wilfred airs on FX, a network known for taking risks and this is one show that is definitely a challenge for viewers. Maybe the show plays better if your in the right state of mind, I don’t know, I don’t partake. However, the darkness of Wilfred is right in line with FX’s other exceptional comedy, Louie. Another quality that both shows share is the confidence in not having to be funny. There are times when Wilfred is dramatic and quite sad. The show definitely doesn’t follow the TV rules of trying to get a laugh every minute. Instead, it focuses squarely on Ryan and his struggles to maintain his sanity. The trouble is if he ever does become “sane” he’ll lose his best friend.
Besides the excellent work of Wood and Gunn, the Wilfred cast includes Fiona Gubelmann as Jenna, Ryan’s lovely neighbor and Wilfred’s owner and Dorian Brown as Ryan’s sister, Kristen. The show has an excellent roster of guest stars, making this one of the best cast shows on cable. Chris Klein is recurring as Drew, Jenna’s boyfriend, Steven Weber plays Ryan’s boss at a medical firm, Rob Riggle is one of Ryan’s co-workers, and Allison Mack appears as a love interest. The wonderful Mary Steenburgen also returns as Ryan’s mother, Catherine.
The Blu-ray release includes an exclusive short film, as well as deleted scenes, a blooper real and a “Wilfred/Ryan” mash-up.