Wilfred, one of the weirdest shows on television, is back for its even crazier second season - as Elijah Wood ends up in a mental hospital with Robin WIlliams as his psychiatrist
Wilfred adds extra bite
Elijah Wood would be the first to admit that Middle Earth and hairy-toed hobbits make way more sense than his comedy series Wilfred. If you're new to the party, this half-hour series stars Wood as the angst-ridden Ryan, a young man who's losing his struggle to make his way in the world until he meets Wilfred, his neighbour's dog, sassily played by the Australian actor Jason Gann.
In the show, Ryan embraces demented adventures and taboos as the emotionally troubled Ryan with Wilfred the dog, whose moral compass spins like a top at the best of times.
Their adventures revolve around a simple conceit: the world sees Wilfred as just a dog but Ryan sees a crude and somewhat surly (yet irrepressibly brave and honest), chain-smoking, chronically irresponsible Australian bloke in a cheap dog suit.
The first season ended with a shocking twist as Wilfred, Ryan's only friend in the world, denied knowing him. Worse, when Ryan rushed home from hospital to go to his basement - his safe haven and the site of many of their good times together - he discovered (gasp) that his basement is merely … a closet?
So who's hallucinating now? What the heck is real? Does Ryan really have a boring corporate job? Is that why he's losing his mind? Or is he? Is Wilfred merely a manifestation of Ryan's psychoses? Is he a magical creature or is he just the neighbour's mangy dog?
For viewers, getting their minds blown every week is part of the thrill of watching this bizarre character-driven series - which earns its laughs honestly, with very few jokey moments.
The second season premieres with Progress, an episode that finds Ryan in a mental institution, where he's been for the past four months with none other than the manic guest star Robin Williams as his psychiatrist (in a delightful shout out to his 1997 Oscar-winning role as the shrink to Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting).
"I watch the show," says Williams. "Elijah turned me on to it when we were doing Happy Feet: 'I'm doing this show.' Really? 'It's about me and a dog.' Oh great. How cute. So I watched and I went … Dude! And then I offered to play a cat."
So how does all this darkness and playing the tormented Ryan affect Wood? "Not a whole lot, actually," he says. "If you're referring to the crazier, more mental aspects of the character, not at all. Ryan has that kind of state; it's probably what makes Wilfred manifest. But none of that really rubs off on me. I know that's kind of a boring answer."
Gann, who came to America to write for TV and instead found himself in front of the camera, admits he loves slipping into his ratty dog gear. "I am definitely a lot more free in a dog suit. I'm a lot less self-conscious. I have so much fun that I do things I would never do if I were playing a human... I think Wilfred is part of me - an extension of me, on a bad day."
• Wilfred is broadcast at 9.30pm on Monday on OSN Comedy HD