Somwhere along the line, the FX network followed through on their claim of being the funniest network. Okay maybe not exactly the FUNNIEST, but FX has proven to be a great alternative to the cookie cutter network sitcoms and the never ending barrage of scripted reality shows. They offer really quirky, taboo and sometimes really true to life shows that are sorely needed. The happy medium from the overrated and overhyped network shows (“30 Rock”, “Glee”) and the gritty, realistic HBO shows.
Two shows on their Thursday lineup have caught my attention this season, and they both offer something new and unique to the landscape of television.
“Wilfred“, a brand new show (albeit a US adaption of an Australian show), starring Elijah Wood caught me with a really interesting and trippy concept. A man and his dog, but it’s actually his neighbors dog and for some strange reason he sees the dog as a grown man (in a dog costume). While the show is definitley intriguing, it took a few episodes for me to fully get into it. There’s just so many unanswered questions; like if it’s not a drug trip than why is he seeing things this way? If people can’t see Wilfred as a human, are they seeing Ryan talk to him? Why is Wilfred always at Ryan’s house?
Sometimes though, you really do have to suspend reality and just go along with the fantasy. I now think of Wilfred as some sort of weird symbol for Ryan becoming more outspoken and less of a pushover thanks to Wilfred’s constant manipulation. In that respect, the show is a winner. The writing is pretty clever, and very unpredictable. Every episode offers great laughs, and a really dark element attached from straight up attempted murder to suicide. The writers do their best to keep the viewers guessing, which is quite refreshing in a TV show these days.
The acting overall is also really good, Wood plays his character really well, and in just a few episodes you actually see his growth and change. On episode 4 he finally realized Wilfred’s manipulative ways and was able to stand up to him in a very crowd pleasing moment. Jason Gann (the shows co-creator and star of the original Australian edition), who plays the title character, is easily the stand out. He’s able to be hilarious and a little scary at the same time. Sometimes you really despise him, but than other times you really love him, and he does a great job of keeping some DOG characteristics (another kudo to the writers). And just a suggestion, more Chris Klein! He was perfectly cast as Drew the jock-minded alpha male boyfriend of neighbor Jenna, Wilfred’s real owner. It was really interesting to see the dynamic betwen Wilfred and Drew, who Wilfred actually respects and listens to (begrudgingly of course) which is the total opposite of how he treats Ryan.
“Wilfred” is a very interesting, unique, intriguing and plain WEIRD show. And now that I’ve fully warmed up to it, I can give a solid recommendation to give it a chance.
Following “Wilfred” is a show that’s so real, it’s like a hundred times more real than any given Reality Show. Currently in it’s second season, “Louie” is a rather mundane, dry and droll show following comedian Louis C.K.’s life after divorce. This show is so unorthodox and goes so far away from the standard “comedy series” blueprint, it actually just feels like real life. The show isn’t really about anything, and there are times where nothing substantial happens in an episode. It’s just following the life of the normal 40-something dude, raising his children and dating and dreaming (or finding the motivation to dream).
C.K. is a sometimes depressive, very self-deprecating, almost ambitionless comedian… and the beauty of the show is that most people in the world can relate to that. That and the fact that the show isn’t scripted or directed like any other show on television. The show will use a bulk of the air time on a conversation, or a dream, or random moments in a car on a road trip. For simply writing episodes that feel like they’ve been pulled from actual conversations from real people, the show deserves an Emmy. (A side note, the show has a killer theme song!!)
Sometimes the show does suffer a bit from it’s dryness, but than there are fantastically written and acted episodes like a recent one in which Louie reconnects with a comedian he started out with. This comedian (played perfectly by Doug Stanhope, who deserves at least a Emmy nod for this performance) is a total cynic, totally smug and arrogant and through very realistic scenes we find out he’s planned to kill himself. The conversation towards the end of the episode was gold, the awkwardness of trying to tell someone not to kill themselves while knowing full well they will anyway. Genius episode, and a real great indicator of why this show needs more attention.
Both “Wilfred” and “Louie” give television viewers something they really need. Most of us are tired of turning on the television and trying to relate to people with lifestyles we can’t relate to. We at least want to see something totally out the box like “Wilfred” or something that is really down to earth like “Louie”.