There’s a divide in our comedy culture.
We’ve progressed from slapstick to dry humor to a brand of funny that takes a certain intellectual prowess to really discern.
For a long time Americans have watched TV shows where the punchlines were upfront and accessible with shows like Friends, Two and A Half Men or Home Improvement.
Now, it’s a little harder to find shows with a laughtrack guiding viewers to the chuckle. The comedy today is darker, quirkier and less apparent, thanks to shows like Arrested Development, The Office and 30 Rock.
Elijah Wood’s new comedy series on FX Wilfred takes part in this new wave of smart humor. The pilot episode introduces us to Ryan (Wood), a miserable young man whose desire to please everyone but himself has launched him into a severe depression.
After a failed suicide attempt, he’s on the brink of just succumbing to society’s demands and continuing on with his anguished existence. That’s when his bubbly blonde neighbor asks him to watch her dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann), and everything changes.
Ryan sees a man dressed in a dog costume, while the rest of the world just sees a canine. As the episode progresses, we see Wilfred try to inspire Ryan to escape this funk he created for himself. But man’s best friend acts more like man’s crude life coach.
There are moments of comedic relief, as we toggle back and forth between Wilfred’s insight and his canine tendencies. And Wood does a great job at portraying his forlorn character, but so far, there’s something undeveloped.
The show does touch on an idea many people struggle with—the battle between pursuing what we want or attaining society’s version of stability.
Or as the beginning of the episode reminds us, “Sanity and happiness are an impossible connection – Mark Twain.”
But the brand of dark comedy is missing the funny. There is definitely room for development, and it could swing one way or the other. And since it’s just the kickoff episode, as viewers we might better appreciate the hilarity if we get a chance to watch the chemistry between Wilfred and Ryan as it evolves.
So far, Wilfred dances that fine line between intellectual comedy and simply not being funny at all. It has the potential to grow, but is currently lacking an internal laugh track.