A Dog With An Attitude: The Hit New Summer FX Series “Wilfred”

Marissa Glover

The uproarious new summer television series “Wilfred” on FX combines hilarity and insanity to create one of the most hysterical shows on TV. Based on an Australian television series of the same name and adapted for American viewers by David Zuckerman, “Wilfred” is about a man named Ryan who is struggling to succeed among the harsh strains of the real world. Fed up with life, he decides he wants to end it all, only to find an unusual and rather crude friend in the most unlikely of places: his neighbor’s dog.

But this dog is different; while everyone else sees Wilfred as just another dog, Ryan sees him as an Australian man dressed in a ratty, moth-eaten dog suit, who enjoys everything amoral– from destroying vacuums to engaging in daily illegal drug use. In fact, not only does Wilfred engage in such activities, he is constantly pressuring Ryan to do so as well, giving him advice that walks the line between liberating and self-destructive.

The series opens up with Ryan trying to commit suicide for a third/fourth time. Not only does he fail miserably, his predicament is made even more complicated when the next morning his attractive next door neighbor shows up with a peculiar man dressed in a dog suit. He quickly learns that he is the only one who sees Wilfred as a human, and that everyone else sees him only as a mere canine. With this realization, Ryan must virtually tote around a devil on his shoulder, in the disguise of a household pet.

Throughout the series, not only does Wilfred offer potentially dangerous advice, he also manages to terrorize anything or anyone that gets in the way of what he wants. In a way Wilfred seems to symbolize everything that Ryan wishes he could do and say. Wilfred does as he pleases and lives for the moment. He encourages Ryan to trust his instincts and act on them; in the episode entitled “Anger,” where Ryan must help his bossy, combative sister plan a party to please her boss, Wilfred does everything he can to make Ryan let out his anger, and snap on his sister. He even tries to electrocute his sister and her boss by knocking them into a pool and then subsequently pushing a huge table of lights in with them– only to be thwarted by Ryan literally pulling the plug. The influence that Wilfred has had on Ryan finally makes itself known at the end of the episode when Ryan’s sister is screaming at him for ruining her party despite the fact that he just saved her life, and he snaps on her.

Wilfred, while he is not necessarily the best influence, and while he does not give perhaps the most prudent advice or suggestions, shows Ryan to live for the moment and be ruled only by his own instincts. He is teaching Ryan to get in touch with his “animal” side, and have fun experiencing life like he does. His influence, though demonic, also proves liberating in the end: when Ryan snaps on his sister, she reveals a sad truth about their past that ends up fixing at least part of their broken relationship. Overall, the first season of “Wilfred” was a big hit with fans and entertainment critics alike, with a mix of innovative humor and moral messages. Fans should be eagerly awaiting Season 2, scheduled to premiere on FX in spring of 2012.