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Talking Dogs: Still Funny
June 22, 2011  | By Eric Gould
 
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There are a few comedy standards you can always count on -- a rubber chicken, the spit take, Bugs Bunny in drag, and, of course, a talking dog. The latest competition for Family Guy's unassuming Labrador Retriever and writer, Brian Griffin, comes from the new FX series Wilfred, premiering this Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.

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Like Brian, Wilfred is a complex intellectual with problems of his own, way beyond the usual concerns of fetching and scratching. An ordinary dog to everyone else, Wilfred appears to his neighbor Ryan, only, as a guy in a dog suit.

Wilfred is brought to us, of course, from Family Guy veteran David Zuckerman. The show originally debuted in Australia in 2008, co-created by Jason Gann, who also stars here as the dog that introduces and encourages Ryan into all sorts of bad behavior.

Zuckerman, writer of the American premiere episode, has been quoted as describing Wilfred as being "a mixed breed dog who is part Labrador Retriever and part Russell Crowe on a bender."

FX is building a strong sensibility in its comedies of urbane, magic realism that often turns dark and surreal. In this case, Ryan's uber-depressed, to the point of bemusedly drafting a goodbye note, mixing up a suicide cocktail in the blender, and serenely laying out in a suit for a quiet exit. It's a failed attempt, though. And he is interrupted in the next attempt by his attractive next door neighbor (Cindy Waddington), who asks him to dog-sit Wilfred.

Presto, from the get-go, Wilfred is coaching Ryan to stand up to his domineering sister, quit a job he hasn't started yet, and hang out with him doing bong hits and going to the park.

We wonder whether Ryan is deluded, hallucinating or has somehow passed onto a plane where he's conjured up this character as a companion. (Elijah Wood plays the twentysomething slacker, in another nice departure from his "Frodo" days of Lord of the RIngs.)

No matter the reality of Ryan's plight, it's funny, and it works. Wilfred is a conflicted, cynical, sarcastic dog who's unpredictable, and he's now running Ryan's life. The real question is whether he lives up to his forefathers -- Rocky & Bullwinkle's Mr. Peabody, Doug from Up, "The Ultimate Talking Dog" and our reigning king, Brian Griffin.

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For the summer, I think, Wilfred will be leader of the pack. Or, as Doug would say, "Squirrel!"

(Wilfred premieres on FX Thursday at 10 p.m. ET, just before Louie, and repeats again at 11 p.m. ET. Louie is also reviewed here this week.)

 

1 Comment

 

Ed Q said:

This show was an utter joy, a demented, twisted joy. My fear is that the novelty will wear off and it will lose some of its hilarity but I'm willing to watch and hope I'm wrong.

Comment posted on June 24, 2011 11:19 AM
 
 
 
 
 
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