One of my biggest problems with Wilfred is this: it’s wildly inconsistent, even within the span of a single episode. The conversations between Ryan and Wilfred continue to be a highlight, but the show’s side characters are, well, just as annoying as Ryan thinks they are.

Crafting a character who annoys other characters requires a lot of care. The writers, the directors, and the actor who plays him or her have to strike a delicate balance: they have to make the audience believe that other characters would find him or her irritating, but they also have to make sure not to irritate the audience. That’s where “Fear” failed. I didn’t find Spencer or Jesse interesting. I spent most of the episode wishing that they’d leave my TV screen. Perhaps due to some bad directing, the actors who played them, Ethan Suplee and Damon Herriman, delivered the kind of performances that might have worked on a multi-camera sitcom or on a cartoonish comedy like 30 Rock. They seemed to operate in a different reality than Ryan and Wilfred, and they just didn’t fit into the show’s world. Moreover, almost every line they delivered felt forced.

Writing was also to blame here. Spencer and Jesse’s dialogue was clunky and reminiscent of subpar sketch comedy. At the risk of sounding like a pretentious dick, it sounded distinctly amateurish, like lines written for an ad hoc high school drama class exercise. Even Gerry Bednob’s Mr. Patel didn’t work, and that’s coming from someone who thought he was hilarious in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. (And seriously, TV writers, Indian people have last names other than Patel. Would it kill you guys to have a Gupta or a Bannerjee every once in a while? And while you’re at it, please retire all jokes about how Indian women wear bindis or how Indian food gives people diarrhea. I’ve heard ten thousand of them already. I don’t need to hear any more.)

I’m not picking on the guest stars just so that I can act like a TV snob. The problem with “Fear” was that it relied heavily on its side characters, and because they didn’t work, a lot of the episode didn’t work. With Jenna mysteriously absent in this episode, the show had no choice but to focus on side characters; an episode can’t just consist of a half-hour of Ryan and Wilfred’s THC-fuelled banter.

And that’s an awkward way of segueing into my next point, which is about plotting. I don’t expect great plotting from a half-hour sitcom about a guy who hallucinates that his neighbour’s dog in a man in a dog suit, but I do expect some sort of explanation for what’s going on. If Jenna’s going to be absent for an entire episode, I need to know why. “Fear” was the third episode of the series; the show needs to establish itself more before putting Wilfred under Ryan’s supervision for several days with zero explanation. The other gigantic plotting issue with this week’s episode concerned the wallet that Wilfred had left behind at Spencer’s house. Presumably, this show adheres to some sort of loose timeline. Why did it take several days for Spencer to confront Ryan about the wallet? Wouldn’t Spencer have reported the break-in to the police, who would have found the wallet over the course of their investigation? As far as I can tell, Wilfred takes place in some version of the real world, and as such, the show must by abide its rules. I’ll accept Ryan having a man in a dog suit as an imaginary friend – that’s the show’s premise, after all – but I won’t accept the contrivance of Spencer discovering the wallet days after any other person would.

Luckily, “Fear” wasn’t a total bust. The show can always fall back on the show’s linchpin, Ryan and Wilfred’s friendship. Elijah Wood and Jason Gann are such a natural, comfortable comic duo that they never fail to entertain me in some way. I especially liked their marijuana-induced conversations at the end of the episode. (Dog sex is always good for a laugh.)

I think that Wilfred is still figuring itself out. As evidenced by Spencer and Jesse, it’s not tonally consistent yet. The jokes need to be a bit funnier, and the plotting needs to be tightened up. I still see some potential in this show. Let’s hope that the next few episodes capitalize on it.

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