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Wilfred: Acceptance

By Matt Meier · July 19, 2011

"Happiness can exist only in acceptance." – George Orwell

Last week, I dealt with my own acceptance when it came to Wilfred: accepting that the show may not be quite as intellectual/philosophical as I initially anticipated.  That’s not to say I had lost faith in the show’s ability to still provide intelligently crafted jokes and dialogue; simply that Wilfred may not divulge as thematically deep as one would perhaps expect of a show that opens each episode with quotes from Mark Twain, Thomas Fuller, Mahatma Gandhi, and George Orwell.  So this week, all I asked was that the show at least return to its namesake and not meander around vaguely sketched secondary characters that detract from the show’s humor far more than they enhance it.  Well, to my very pleasant surprise, “Acceptance” did exactly that, and even forced me to reevaluate my expectations once again.

The episode features the return of Kristen (Dorian Brown), Ryan’s unaffectionate and demanding sister.  Some time has passed since Ryan shut her out of his life in the season premiere, but Kristen wants to extend an olive branch and work things out, leaving bags of food on the porch as a sign of goodwill.  Ryan, now in a much better place than the time of his failed suicide attempt, accepts her gesture and opts to spend some more time with her.  This of course leaves Wilfred without his typical bipedal companion/babysitter; so, fearing what trouble the meddlesome mutt might cause if left unattended for too long, Ryan sends Wilfred to spend the day in doggie daycare.  Wilfred arrives at the daycare in child-like form, wearing a red baseball hat and backpack and instantly befriending an oversized teddy bear, and Ryan surrenders him to the supervision of Darryl (played by the always-entertaining Ed Helms).  But when Ryan picks him up, we start to suspect that Darryl’s “puppy love” may extend to more inappropriate levels, levels that involve large helpings of peanut butter.

The vulgarity of the episode (i.e. the “dog molester” subplot) may have turned some people off, but I believe this very quality, along with a refreshing sense of authenticity within the dialogue that had been lacking over the last two episodes, directly qualifies “Acceptance” as the funniest episode since the premiere.  Similar to shows like South Park that use vulgarity as a source of thematic insight, “Acceptance” demonstrates Wilfred’s capability to address substantial human themes through the crassness of a man in a dog suit and all the smaller puns that may accompany that.  Last week’s episode on fear did not fail because it involved a boring theme: it failed because it addressed a truly great theme in a rather ordinary fashion through a character who essentially had no business being in the show.  This week, however, the show returned to its roots and allowed Wilfred to be the foul-mouthed voice of reason.  When Wilfred tries rubbing his ass on the floor mat of Ryan’s car, Ryan sprays him with a squirt gun in a futile attempt to train him, to which Wilfred replies, “Ryan, I’ve been doing this for years.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  That’s pretty good, I just came up with that, you should write that down.”  Even though the dog molesting subplot provides a few very good laughs, it’s the episodes ability to rely on Wilfred once again for both laughs and insight – not to mention doing so in a way that distinguishes itself from other comedies – that truly sets this show apart.

It’s also worth mentioning that this is the only episode of the season written by Jason Gann, co-creator of the original Australian version and the actor in the dog suit himself. Gann clearly has an unparalleled understanding of the show’s canine-related comedy, so much so you almost wonder if that costume is his normal attire, and he has to remind himself from time to time that he is in fact human.  In any case, this episode felt so refreshing compared to the last two that one can’t help but wonder why the creators kept Gann hidden in the dog house for so long.  Whatever their reasoning may be, “Acceptance” proves that this is truly Jason Gann’s show; and if Wilfred is to survive the long haul, they need to accept that fact and let the dog out to play much more often.