Why it's important for 'Wilfred' to exist: 'Louie' season premiere review

On Thursday night, FX introduced a comedy hour consisting of two shows: Wilfred, a new sitcom starring Elijah Wood, and the second-season premiere of Louie, Louie C.K.’s achingly funny series.

Wilfred has received mixed reviews — among TV critics, it’s probably the summer’s most divisive sitcom this side of Ice Loves Coco (I’m kidding, Ice-T!). Wilfred is an American version of an Australian sitcom co-created by Jason Gann, the man who plays the title character. Gann’s Wilfred is a guy in a dog costume — at least, that’s what he looks like to us and to Wood’s Ryan. To everyone else in the show, Wilfred is just a regular, frisky dog. No, he’s more than that: The canine is a snarky jerk who likes to sit around taking hits off a bong, urging Ryan to join him. Ryan does; the entire show plays to a slack, stoner rhythm.

Ryan, lonely and horny, accepts the ambivalent friendship of Wilfred, who actually belongs to Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), an attractive neighbor and, like everyone else, simply sees Wilfred as a lovable hound. Wood does a lot of the sort of pop-eyed, soulful staring he did on the big screen as Frodo, to lesser effect here. Each episode is titled after a state of mind that becomes the theme of the half hour — “Happiness,” “Trust,” “Fear,” etc. But the dog-costume sight gag becomes tiresome quickly, as does the idea of a dog making constant getting high jokes. Gann plays it insufferably laid-back — this is one of those performers who thinks gesturing with intentional vagueness toward a joke (doggy sex; bong hits), and then repeating the gesture a lot, is intrinsically funny. It doesn’t work for me; I find this style irritating.

But Elijah Wood is a much bigger star than Louis C.K., so it makes sense for FX to program Wilfred before Louie. Louie‘s first season ratings weren’t great, so if Wilfred’s lead-in draws more people to Louie, I say: Long live the man in the dog suit. Because Louie‘s episode on Thursday night verged on great. Louie C.K. continues to turn his life (as a divorced dad with two kids) into vivid, surprising, alert art.  Writing, directing, editing, and starring in this low-budget look at a lonely, single stand-up comic, C.K. manages to be both aggressive and disarming about the frustrations of being a parent and a single guy. It’s by no means original, at this point, to state ambivalent feelings about one’s kids (if someone else hadn’t already written Go the F— to Sleep, Louis might have), but C.K. is probably the only comedian around right now who can make that commingled feeling of love-frustration-rage that a parent experiences work as raucous comedy.

Last night’s episode would have been terrific if it had just been about Louie making meals for his kids intercut with stand-up bits about divorce, parenthood, and friendship. The scene in which he tries to explain to one daughter why the concept of “It’s not fair” doesn’t work in real life might have been, in the hands of a less confident craftsman, mean or clumsy or mawkish; instead, it was exhilaratingly loving. Combine that with the scenes between Louie and the across-the-hall neighbors he’d never met plus a choice fart joke, and you had one choice half hour.

Before the fall arrives, with its cascade of expensive new network sitcoms, Louie is a kind of hot, moist blessing. And most of those network sitcoms won’t be one-tenth as funny as Louie. Or Wilfred, for that matter.

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (117 total) Add your comment
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  • kim in kentucky

    Wilfred was interesting …..

    But will keep watching for now, esp since it comes on right before Louie.

    • Mitch was the killer

      Eh, I have always thought that networks should reair the original series, there is no need to remake a show using American actors. I just hope they don’t remake my favorites The InBetweeners and Outnumbered

      • bhm1304

        The imbeciles at MTV, you know the network that did that godawful version of “Skins”, are currently in production of an American version of “The InBetweeners”. Why are they even trying?

      • Barb

        Wilfred was really fun, intersting and new. Louis CK is a just an ugly bald Sienfeld. Who needs his crappy unfunny attitude? Dont we get enough of that stupidity in real life. Louis is not funny.

      • Bob

        Hollywood has run out of original ideas (e.g., remake of “War Games” in the works).

      • Myk

        Just an ugly, bald Seinfeld? You have watched both of their comedy acts, right? They aren’t similar at all…

      • Sammy G

        Louie is just not funny. He is hard to watch.

      • Joe S

        I agree. Give Americans some credit that we can appreciate shows that are made overseas. They should’ve just shown the original “The Killing” instead of remaking it. Same with a ton of other series.

    • Carlos

      I am hoping this show will get canceled. It looks stupid with a man dressed in a dog custome. I didn’t watch this series.

      • Daviar

        If you didn’t watch it, then how can you have a valid opinion?

      • Esperanza

        I aree with daviar! what sort of imbecile gives an opinion on something he hasn’t even bothered to view?
        you are as they say in Australia a “Wanker” Carlos.

      • dan

        If you didn’t watch it, no one cares about your opinion.

      • BigRonTN

        You don’t have to eat poop to know it tastes bad but, against my better judgement I watched an episode of Louie and it played off like a film school student project. Louis C.K. belongs on the stage not in front of the camera.

    • James B

      I am Australian and have watched our first two seasons! It has Been changed to suit your market but our serious was as funny as!

  • dogsbrekky

    SAw Wilfred lat night for the 1t time….. found it to be hilarious….. I then read it was Australian (duhh winning, I’m Australian, no wonder I relate to the humor)

    • Scott P

      People still say “winning”? Weren’t we all done with that like 2 months ago?

      • jj

        why do people get paid to post these stupid dating site spam things on comment boards? does anyone actually go to these sites? even if they were weird creepy people who were somehow interested in this crap, wouldn’t it probably just be something you click on and get a virus or spyware or something? stupid stupid stupid.

      • Xanadu West

        People still place an unneeded “like” arbitrarily in the middle of a sentence? Weren’t we done with Valley Girl-speak twenty years ago?

  • MCS

    I missed the U.S one but I am skeptical. Half the humor of the original Australian version was how rude and crass the dog could be – he would drop C-Bomb’s often. Considering FX is a network that doesn’t even let the F word pass…

  • Fif

    I love Elijah Wood so I’ll watch anything he’s in – he is fabulous!

    • Samwise Gamgee


      • janetlaw

        Thirded – loves me some hobbit!

  • Breigner41

    Wow, glad youre pullin out all the stops for some stoner comedy when you wouldnt give the FX gem “Terriers” the time of day. Just because it has a semi famous actor, you guys root for it. This only reinforces the fact that EW has become more about generalizing with the bandwagon than truly having opinions.

    • TimW (No, not that one)

      Not sure what you mean by “pulling out the stops” when Ken ends his review by saying “It doesn’t work for me; I find this style irritating.” If I may translate: he didn’t like it. His point that most fall sitcoms won’t be as good is that major network sitcoms are all terrible, especially now that Charlie Sheen won’t be on Two and a Half Men anymore. (Kidding about the last part.) He also said Terriers was “an over-looked gem” of “triumphant storytelling.” I thought I remembered something like that, so I spent 3 seconds on Google to refresh my memory. So seriously man, relax. Ken Tucker is the MAN….even though I loved Wilfred. :-)

    • rabble rabble

      yeah yeah yeah rabble rabble rabble

    • jfletch314

      Your right about Terriers….it was one of the best shows I have seen……and louis is very funny

      • Stormy

        While we’re at it, why no review of Suits? USA has the best summer shows and EW keeps right on ignoring them. I call “FOUL”!

      • sean

        for a great review that explains why “suits” is just like every other show in USA Network, check this out: http://tv.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/arts/television/suits-on-usa-review.html

    • AltDave

      Wrong! When TERRIERS was on EW was pimping for them all over the place, don’t know what you were reading.

    • svinny

      Terriers was not a good show at all, I would call it mediocre at best. I am a big fan of donal logue, but that role was not right for him. And his co-star from season 1 Trueblood was aweful. Bad writing, and poor acting. It won’t be missed.

      • jj

        you’re one of the only one who thinks that way. i have rarely seen a comment from someone who watched that show and didn’t enjoy it. i only happened to see it because i was looking for Archer on demand and was like “hmm what’s this terriers show?” watched the first ep and was hooked throughout. But i didn’t see any promotion or articles for the show until AFTER it was about to be cancelled. and with a serialized show like that it was just way too little too late. especially bc there are a lot of fools out there who are actually turned OFF when they hear tv critics praise a show as being clever, thought provoking and character driven. They think that those things equate being unenjoyable. And the truth is that good tv can (and should be, imo) all of the above.

      • ron

        I agree, I watch almost all good TV, and still appreciate the old(wire etc) but terriers sucked.

      • Donna

        Yeah, I’m not surprised at all. Way too many Americans have crappy tastes and that’s why crappy shows survive and wonderfully written and acted shows like Terriers never stand a chance. Terriers and Louie were/are awesome.

  • jul

    Wilfred was a bit of a disappointment in my opinion (thought it’d be much funnier; not sure how they will keep it interesting enough for a series), but Louis was an amazing surprise. Loved it–not at all what I expected (and I am a fan of Louis CK). It was kinda like Seinfeld, with a heart. And a soul.

    • Roger

      It is just a matter of time before Louis CK is exposed for his real world pedophile exploits. When the facts come out out, everyone will wonder why they thought he was funny.

      • jfletch314

        Takes one to know one there Roger old boy!

      • blanche

        Let me guess, Roger. You’re typing this from the basement of Westboro Baptist Church.

      • Vince

        And it took no time for Roger to be exposed as a troll, who was never funny or amusing or anything of any value…

      • Bobby

        Look at all the shills, out in force, paid to pump up BS show. LOL at these losers.

  • Lauren

    Louie was great, I was happy to see it back. Wilfred made me laugh some but it mostly made me cringe. My husband thought it was hilarious but then again, as a 26-yr-old male who owns a PS3, he is probably their direct target audience for that show.

  • CH

    LOUIE is brilliant. Last night’s ep just has me looking forward to the rest of the season.

    • Pat Killingham

      brilliant? ummmm ok, would you please help out a Nigerian friend of mine. He will mail you a check, and all you ahve to do is deposit it, and you make money, then invest it in basement property in Florida.

      • Psalm

        Louie found it’s way onto my memory stick in a maigcal way i cannot explain and I should say straight out that I am not a fan of the let’s say the worst things we can possibly think of and really hurt some people, cos that’s hilarious! school of comedy, but to me the show was missing something elemental It had no soul, so to speak, and never seemed interested in redeeming anyone in the slightest, which is s big a flaw as writing characters that are only pure and good and virtuous.

    • LOL

      LOUIE might be the best show on TV.

      • JulieB

        I agree with both Lauren and CH. Louie is BRILLIANT and so real. What an oasis in a sea of mediocrity.

      • VinceP

        I don’t know about “Louie” being the best show on television, but it’s certainly the best COMEDY show on television. Louis CK is pure comedic genius. The show is what “Seinfeld” would have been had it taken place in the Negative Zone!

      • Hasan

        Instead of watching Lost the other night, I wtehcad the first episode of Louie. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it enough to discard the rule of three. I felt that it was sometimes funny but then would go a little too far so that it couldn’t reconcile the genuine humanity (which was certainly there) with the absurdist streak.

    • Caitlin

      Re: Louie.It’s like I’m watching an eneltriy different show to the one Brett, Nelly, Sophie and David are. I love it I think it’s hilarious, sad and full of heart.To me the Louie character feels eneltriy full of actual humanity real humanity rather than tv humanity. As people we do behave badly, don’t always treat people who we love well and think badly of those we care about. That kind of complexity doesn’t often get shown on TV. All that and I find it super funny.

  • Snsetblaze

    I’ve been waiting to see Wilfred b/c I love Elijah Wood – and I totally forgot it was on. I’m going to see if the pilot is being rerun.

  • vj

    I found Wilfred very interesting and will defintely be back. I didn’t laugh out loud much, but I did enjoy it. Louie is just a fantastic show. I even loved Louis CK’s HBO show, and was bummed when it wasn’t renewed. His sense of humor and observations are so on point.

  • Wilfred was GREAT

    LOVED Wilfred, hated Louis.

    I will watch, at least DVR, Wilfred,
    but fk that Louis guy.

    Do we really need another old, bald, grumpy, nasty POS giving us his stupid views of the world? Someone should put bald ginger man out of his misery.

    • zarleyt

      Good question. Do we really need a grumpy, nasty POS giving us his stupid views of the world (On Ew.com)? Apparently the answer to your question is: YES.

      • Response

        Look, its another shill, paid to promote this worthless POS Louie. Go away shill, the show will fail no matter what you say. Lets hope they find someone funny versus just a grumpy pervert like your POS buddy Louie.

      • zarleyt

        Wow! Someone has a lot of hate in them. Release it please. I feel sorry for the people that know you.

        I’m not a shill, and I wasn’t paid for any kind of promotion. I’m just someone who is entertained by Louis C. K. I know his style of comedy isn’t for everyone. I enjoy it. The end.

      • Response

        eat it shill. Louie is not funny, if you like it, it shows how stupid you are. I only have hate for lame shows and lame people like Louie.

        I loved Wilfred, I thought it was great, but Louie sucks, he will fade soon, posers always do.

      • LOL

        Louie owns you emotionally.

      • mrtetk

        You idiots support a douchebag who thinks it is funny to drive cars drunk out of your mind? Did you see him on Leno? Did you see him talking about how funny he thinks it is to drink and drive? He is an idiot and if you support drunk driving, you are an idiot too.

  • Scott P

    So happy that Louis is back. We loved the first season so much, that my wife and I actually watched it while it was broadcast and not on the DVR. Couldn’t even tell you the last show we did that for.

    • Roberto

      Hi, I just stumbled on this blog schneairg for a source of guanciale in montreal, but it piqued my interest none the less. Although you mention your hours of operation, I don’t see the name of your restaurant anywhere. My parents live in ON and next time we visit them, I’d be interested in checking out your fine establishment, but what is it called? That’s all! Thanks : )-Candace

  • s,

    I must not be the target audience for Louis as I found it kind of boring, but Wilfred cracked me up. I especially liked the sister as I have a friend who is a delivery nurse and I kept imagining her as the sister (although my friend actually likes her job).

  • Frank R

    You could not be more wrong about Jason Gann in a dog suit getting tiresome. Great cast. Great writing. Great show. Now go fetch.

    • Alex

      I have to agree about Wilfred. Like a guilty pleasure, I kept smiling/laughing and almost felt like a school boy about it but this isn’t just cheap laughs and sight gags. Through the crassness I found the message compelling. I will check this out and hope that the intellectual angst and under current I think is there continues.

      • Dave

        Havent seen the US version of Wilfred but my favourite part of the original was when Wilfred had the fight with the Pit Bull (or was it a british bull dog?). Hilarious. Wilfred is a lover, not a fighter, despite his disreputable appearance.

    • Elvesjoy

      Louie found it’s way onto my memory stick in a macgial way i cannot explain and I should say straight out that I am not a fan of the let’s say the worst things we can possibly think of and really hurt some people, cos that’s hilarious! school of comedy, but to me the show was missing something elemental It had no soul, so to speak, and never seemed interested in redeeming anyone in the slightest, which is s big a flaw as writing characters that are only pure and good and virtuous.

  • Bus Driver

    I tuned in for Wilfred, and stayed for Louie. While I LOLed on more than one occasion, I think Wilfred will grow tiresome very quickly – how many dog-humping-something sight gags can you really do? But Louie was like a slow burn (in a good way). That’s the show that I’m laughing about today (maybe because I also have a 5-year-old, and frankly she’s just not very good at anything. LOL.) Louie is getting added to my DVR.

    • Daviar

      What’s good about Wilfred is not the leg humping or other dog references. It’s about the life lessons he’s giving to the E. Wood character. If you’re expecting typical sit-com repartee ala Two & a Half Men…Wilfred ain’t gonna deliver that for you.

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