TV Review: FX Comedies ‘Wilfred,’ ‘Louie’ Start New Seasons

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CHICAGOFX has developed a nice comedy niche, taking greater risks than most other networks and seeing them pay off with hits like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The League,” and “Archer.” The network is still relatively new to the comedy game and so their young track record is even more impressive. Naturally, there’s going to be a few speed bumps. One such bump premieres tonight in the uneven “Wilfred,” but it’s paired with the hysterical “Louie,” one of the best shows on TV this season.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

“Louie”

Let’s start with the positive. “Louie” is one of those rare programs that seems to be getting funnier by the episode. The first season started a little rocky but eventually developed a comedic consistency and the new season seems even more promising. The first two episodes of the second season are great, perfectly distilling what works so well about star/writer/creator Louis C.K.’s stand-up act into situation comedy form. The brilliance of shows like “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was that they didn’t work against their creators but took their strengths and amplified them. “Louie” has become an often-brilliant look at the world through the eyes of one of the most unique voices in comedy.

Louie
Louie
Photo credit: FX

One of the things I like about “Louie” is the difficulty one has in trying to simply describe its titular lead. It’s too simple to say that Louis C.K. has a cynical view of the world but even he would admit this his show is not about to have any “very special episodes” with moral messages. And yet there’s something very identifiable and even likable about the guy. He’s not so cynical that he becomes off-putting as so many similar comics do. And he’s not a sad-sack, moaning about not being able to get a date, even though a lot of his comedic adventures could have made him such. I love the balance on “Louie” that keeps him from being a grumpy jerk even though he justifiably could be.

“Louie” works from C.K.’s stand-up and real life and the season premiere focuses on difficulties with his kids. The first two bits — a scene in which his daughter tells him how much more she likes spending time at mom’s and a stand-up routine about the problems planning activities with a five and nine-year-old — are worth watching alone. A visit from the comedian’s pregnant sister fills the second half of the episode.

The premiere is good but the second episode is great. It basically details two separate dates for Louis C.K., one that takes place after a hysterically morbid tragedy and another that seems like an ideal sexual scenario that goes hysterically awry. Not many sitcoms could work decapitation and blueberries into the same episode and make it seem genuine. “Louie” is a great show that’s only getting better.

The first season of “Louie” was also recently released on Blu-ray and DVD from Fox just in time for viewers who get hooked this year to catch up. This is not a technically fascinating show and so the HD transfer doesn’t seem all that necessary but it’s always better to own on Blu-ray whenever given the chance. Special features include Deleted and Extended Scenes, Audio Commentary on Selected Episodes by Louis C.K., and “Fox Movie Channel presents Writer’s Draft.” It was released in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on June 21st, 2011.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 2.5/5.0
Television Rating: 2.5/5.0

“Wilfred”

I wanted to love “Wilfred.” It wasn’t long into the episode that I wanted to just like “Wilfred.” And I almost do. It’s far from a complete disaster but television has always been and will always be about writing and it’s just not strong here. Star Elijah Wood nearly saves the comedy with an engaging, likable performance but repetitive jokes and a lack of characters to care about keep it on the lower tier of FX’s comedy totem pole. With time, it could develop into something interesting but it doesn’t work at the start of its first season, premiering tonight.

Wilfred
Wilfred
Photo credit: FX

Elijah Wood plays Ryan, a man who revises his suicide note several times just so he can get it “just right.” He survives his attempt but, after he comes to, he can see his neighbor’s dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann) as a man dressed in a dog suit. And Wilfred isn’t your average dog-man. He smokes a lot of pot, makes crude jokes, and basically serves as an aggressive life coach for Ryan. Trying to stay in the good graces of Wilfred’s owner, Ryan’s neighbor/crush Jenna (Fiona Gubbelman), our lead keeps the dog-man around. Maybe he can break him out of his funk and get the girl before everyone realizes that poor Ryan is having conversations with man’s best friend.

Too much of the writing in the first few episodes of “Wilfred” is centered on the shocking concept of seeing a man enacting canine behavior. We see Wilfred humping a woman’s leg, chasing after a motorcycle, humping a teddy bear, licking his owner’s face, etc. It’s not funny, in no small part because “Family Guy” has done the dog/man thing already. And you know that fine line between edgy and annoying that “Louie” walks so brilliantly? “Wilfred” is not so lucky. After just a few episodes, I was ready to take Wilfred to the shelter.

“Louie” stars Louis C.K. and the second season premieres on FX on Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 at 9:30pm CST.

“Wilfred” stars Elijah Wood, Jason Gann, Fiona Gubbelman, and Chris Klein. It premieres on FX on Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 at 9pm CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Anonymous's picture

The comparison between

The comparison between Family Guy & Wilfred is just idiotic. Family Guy is a cartoon. You can do so much more crazy stuff on a cartoon, it’s just not comparable to live action TV.

Anonymous's picture

The American version of

The American version of wilfred is just terrible, David Zuckerman has ruined a perfectly funny and original Australian show with his lame sense of humour.

Check out the Australian version to see what this show could (should) of been.

Anonymous's picture

Watch more TV

The show makes you want to cheer on Ryan and causes the audience to be engaged. You can’t introduce every character in one episode so I see your review as asinine. You complained about writing…. Most of the episode was showing you a man in decay ready to end his life Elijah nailed that the only issue I had was w/ his crazy sister and that had nothing to do w/ writing that had to do w/ acting. But if you watch pilots to many tv shows then you know most unknown actors on pilots over act, but adjust(IT Crowd, Scrubs, Glee, Raising Hope, Weeds, and many more had that issue). She will get comfortable and then that will make the show a solid 7 out of 10. Character development is all that is needed. Advice to you: Watch more tv. Or become a critic of something that you know about.

BrianTT's picture

Learn to Read

Too much of the writing in the first few episodes of “Wilfred”…”

I’ve seen more than the first episode. Character development doesn’t happen. Advice to you: Pay attention.

Andrew's picture

Thanks For The Reply!

I’ll have to watch the next few episodes to analyze for myself as the episodes come out or you can mail them to me so I can see them all. So again I can tell you; “you’re wrong.” It’s not the writing, it’s the acting. I like the fact that you replied though. Shows some intestinal fortitude! I’m going to read your column more often.

Andrew
“Bored in Tampa”

BrianTT's picture

Spirited Debate

I always enjoy it. So, Andrew, wouldn’t you agree that the best thing about the show is Wood’s performance? So, I don’t see where the acting is a problem and the premiere definitely has problems outside of one supporting performance (with which I didn’t really have that much of a problem). If anything, Elijah elevates weak writing.

And, while we’re on the subject, there’s a commonly held belief that TV is a writer’s medium. (Theater is an actor’s, Film is director’s). People I’ve interviewed who work in TV echo that feeling constantly. The writer is King — David Chase, Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon, David Kelley, Shawn Ryan, Ryan Murphy, and so on — more so than any other medium.

And, assuming you’re “anonymous” above, I’m stunned that you think the writing for the premieres of “Glee” and “Scrubs” were as weak as that on “Wilfred.” (I’ll give you “Raising Hope,” a show that just got better as its first season progressed.) Yes, those shows got better as the ensemble developed, but they were well-written from episode one. Certainly more so than “Wilfred.” Go watch ‘em again. You’ll see who’s wrong.

Brian
“Fortified in Chicago”

Andrew's picture

:-)

I agree about Wood completely. Got to cheer on the actors from Iowa! When I was listing off those shows I was speaking more in the acting sense then the writing. Glee has had good writing from the start but the acting in the first season I viewed on the weaker side but has improved greatly. Some of the tribute episodes I could do without but that’s more of a personal preference then an issue w/ the show. Scrubs was also talking about acting. Weeds slow start to first season w/ writing but picked up and became addicting. Name a show I’ll analyze it. Here’s a FF(fun fact). Love Whedon. Huge fan. I hope we can do this more often.

Andrew
“Monty Python is funny even when you’re sober.”

Anonymous's picture

I was on the fence with

I was on the fence with Louie at first. But it’s growing on me and I see a lot of potential. Enough that I’ll keep watching to see where it goes.

Anonymous's picture

i like the way you

i like the way you thoroughly reviewed it thumbs up.

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