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We are three episodes into Wilfred's first season, and it seems like each one has been a step down from the last. Though there are still some laughs to be had, they are becoming rarer, just as the particularly unfunny moments have been coming with more regularity. “Fear” suffered from the same problems the series has had from the beginning: crude humor that's all crass and no cleverness, and an over reliance on broad comedy. Also bringing the episode down was an equally stale plot and guest role.
Jumping back to the events of the pilot episode, “Fear” saw Ryan facing the consequences of letting Wilfred convince him to break into his neighbor's house, steal his stash, and defecate in his boot. Always the teacher, Wilfred informs Ryan he left his wallet by the window to teach him a lesson about confronting his fears. Unlike the first two episodes, the take away for Ryan was rather clichéd this time around. Taking his first steps into happiness – and out of sanity – had been an original spin on the life-changing experience done so often in television and film. Though less funny, Ryan's education on trust and friendship also felt like something unique. But standing up to the bully to put him in his place has played out far too many times; although it actually working was a surprise.
Playing said bully – otherwise known as Ryan's biker neighbor, Spencer – was Ethan Suplee (My Name is Earl). Suplee gained points for playing something more than just a dimwitted, overweight guy, as he's so often done before. Though in retrospect, maybe that's what he should stick with. Spencer produced more double takes than actual laughs. His disturbing enjoyment of watching pornography with someone he's just met (or anyone else for that matter) being a prime example. At least Ryan's facial expressions mimicking my own was endearing. Wilfred also squeezed one of the funnier lines out of the situation: “Just another lazy Sunday watching porn with your drunk, rock-hard neighbor.” Spencer going so far as to include a film starring his transsexual father in their “porn-out” was definitely the most shocking of his creepy personality traits. Safe to say, the show wouldn't lose much besides an off-putting vibe if “Fear” turned out to be the last time we see Spencer.
Making up for Spencer, and making me wish he had gotten the bigger role, was Damon Herriman as Jesse, Spencer's archenemy, who just so happens to work for animal control. Unnecessary coincidence aside, Herriman gave a hilarious performance, as he has on fellow FX series Justified. His one-eared visage, combined with his already brilliant comedic delivery, proved to be more memorable, as well as funnier, than the main guest star, even with less screen time to do it in. Also spouting the best line of the night with, “This coming from the guy who took advantage of my mom. My sweet, innocent mom, while she was on Ecstasy.”
Back on the negative side was something I've discussed before, and in fact, specifically stated the show should avoid. The writing's dependency on physical and frat humor, especially when it comes to the character of Wilfred, is one of its major drawbacks. A well timed pratfall can be as funny as a witty piece of dialogue, but gags like that should always be on the smaller side of the ratio. Wilfred's obsession with the laser pointer seemed like a rehash of his overzealous reaction at the beach in the last episode, while not adding anything more. The Play-Doh poop joke at the end only served to remind they've closed out each episode with a bit of toilet humor, and it hasn't become any funnier. If the writers can find more ways to showcase Gann's delivery and Wood's deer-in-the-headlights reactions, while easing up on the broader jokes, than the series should return to the level it was at with the pilot.
There was certainly more to complain about in “Fear” than there was to praise. The episode didn't even feature any of the classic pop tunes that went so well in the series before. Also absent was Jenna, though as she hasn't been a source of much humor, she wasn't missed. The next installments will likely decide if Wilfred can make it as a series, or if it hasn't got a leg to stand on. It would be a shame for it to burn out so quickly, but it's in danger of that if they can't keep the comedy on an even keel, and find more for Wilfred to do than cause Ryan trouble.