Film and TV

Wilfred: "Respect"

"Respect," our latest foray into the lives a man and his...anthropomorphic dog buddy starts off strong, with a higher concentration of laughs in the first half than any of the previous installments (I was especially fond of Wilfred's attempting to encourage Ryan by admiring his ability to watch an entire season the The Wire in one sitting).

But the show soon falls into the familiar pattern of Wilfred escalating his antagonism of his erstwhile caretaker, to Ryan's increasing agitation, in order to teach some obtuse lesson that really isn't.

Thing is, the pattern's fairly effective. Possibly the most annoying thing about Wilfred, however, is the fact that Ryan does nothing but smoke pot, drink beer and eat pizza, and he's still built like a fashion model. Forget talking dogs, that shit is totally unbelievable.

So is Wilfred just a talking manifestation of Ryan's repressed desires, or what? The dog's comments about his inability to respect himself (and his constant needling of Ryan for things he can't have - cheese, illegal prescription meds) smacks of innate unfulfilled desires. Indeed, just about everything Wilfred has helped Ryan, uh, "accomplish" since the series began, from victimizing his neighbor to quitting his job, represents an act we can easily see as something all of us would like to do at some point.

Though it's possible I'm over-analyzing. Must be the weed.

Ryan, feeling inadequate after meeting Jenna's obnoxiously charitable friend and realizing taking care of Wilfred is his "sole reason for getting out of bed," decides to take Wilfred and volunteer at a hospice. They meet some initial resistance from Lisa, the manager (Parks and Recreation's Rashida Jones) and Ruby, a Haitian nurse who appears to see through Wilfred's dog exterior into his evil soul, or something. Reactions change when Wilfred accidentally passes out on the bed of a woman who dies, leading everyone to believe he's one of those pets who can sense when people are about to die.

This goes about as well as you'd expect, with Wilfred ready to go to increasingly terrible lengths to maintain his adored station, up to and possibly including murder.

Wilfred is getting darker every week, and I like it. Even Jenna, so sunny and cheerful the first few episodes, shows her evil side after coming to the hospice to do a human interest story on Wilfred's apparent powers. When the suspicious Ruby suspiciously dies (an apparent suicide, though Wilfred was on the roof with her), Jenna ignores Lisa's pleas not to publicize the incident:

Lisa: "You can't publicize this. News about a staff suicide could force us out of business." Jenna: "I know. I feel really, really badly. We're going live!"

From the old man who imagines(?) Ryan to be his ex-wife, demanding that he "toss his salad" to Lisa's explaining Ruby's behavior away by telling Ryan, "Don't mind Ruby. She's been a total bitch since the earthquake took her family," we're getting into some serious cringeworthy territory. I have no idea where Wilfred is going, but I have a feeling we're going to be equal parts amused and horrified when we get there.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar