Judge Daryl Loomis wears a dog suit for...um...his own reasons.
Wilfred: "He got what he wanted."
I was intrigued after seeing an ad for Wilfred, but I didn't know whether the gimmick would be a one-trick pony or whether there was more to it than a dude in a dog suit. I never actually watched it though, but can now confirm that it's both of those things. Jason Gann has exported the stoned, grumpy pooch from Australia to American shores and, mostly, it's a rousing success.
Facts of the Case
After an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Ryan Newman (Elijah Wood, The Faculty) opens his front door to find his hot neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann, Blades of Glory) standing there waiting to ask if he can watch her dog, Wilfred. Once he agrees, Wilfred bounds through the door, but he's no pooch, he's some guy in a dog suit. Everybody sees him as a dog, so is Ryan crazy or is he the only one who sees the truth?
Over the thirteen episodes of Wilfred, writers Gann and Tony Rogers (who created the original series) weave the ongoing joke through all sorts of iterations of dog behavior and use that to build the overreaching arc of Ryan trying to get with Jenna. The show is episodic, but follows that story throughout the season and never resolves it, keeping the suspense brewing into the following season and letting the smaller plot resolutions suffice for keeping the show moving along.
The heart of the program is the relationship between Ryan and Wilfred, and they're really good together. Gann has the obvious physicality to play a dog as a man, with all the mannerisms and randomness that we find in dogs all the time. The bigger surprise, though, is Elijah Wood. He doesn't have a lot of comedy experience, and he doesn't drive the laughs in the show—that's Gann's job—but he shows a lot of talent as the exasperated straight man. He and Gann play off each other really well and their relationship makes the juxtaposition with how the rest of the characters interact with Wilfred that much funnier.
Each episode begins with a quote that reveals its basic theme, and also the title of the installment, Fear, Acceptance, Pride, etc., but they are all connected in a basic linearity that works just fine resolving little things while advancing the greater character arcs, but Gann and Wood ground the whole thing with both the ridiculous situation and their growing codependency.
The comedy is dark, ridiculous, and always well-written. While Wilfred's life mostly concerns bong hits and his gross obsession with a giant stuffed animal named Bear, there's a lot of simple humanity and logic that comes from a pretty accurate portrayal of a dog's behavior. His fixation on the bear, on bubbles, and on humping various people and things make the show. What I thought would be the most shallow part of the show, because of Gann's energy and performance, became the most enjoyable part of the show.
Wilfred isn't the best show on television, but it's pretty clever and certainly worth watching. There are a number of good performance, especially from Wood and Gann, and the writing is smarter than I expected it could be. The second season has just begun; I can't wait to see what's next from the gang.
From Fox, Wilfred: The Complete First Season arrives on two discs in a solid, but unspectacular edition. The image transfer is fine, sharp, clear, and consistent throughout the season's run. There is satisfactory detail, though not close to the level of the show in HD. The sound is pretty similar, with fairly minimal use of the surround channels, but a nice and bright, though front-heavy, surround mix. The dialog and music are well-delineated, but it certainly isn't as dynamic as it could have been. Supplemental features are solid, if not all that numerous. It starts off with about 20 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, which add a little color, but nothing terribly important. The set continues with a pair of compilations, one about the duo getting high and the other about Wilfred's love affair with Bear. Finally, two short bits of interviews, one from 2011's Comic-Con, are fine for what they are.
I had reservedly high hopes for Wilfred, and the show more than delivered on all of them. The show isn't just a simple sight gag, though Gann plays it to the hilt; it displays enough life and depth to grow throughout multiple seasons. Because the basis of the humor is always the dog-as-man business, it will continue to face the pitfall of falling into a one-note show, but as of yet, Gann and company balance the absurdity with the romantic stuff and I'm hopeful for how the show will progress.
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