In the US: Thursdays, 10pm, FX
In the UK: Acquired by BBC3
Odds on, when you see a dog and it barks at you, you see something like this:
So spare a thought for poor Elijah Wood’s character in FX’s new show, Wilfred. When he sees his next door neighbour’s dog, Wilfred, he sees this:
Yes, a slightly menacing, crude, dope-smoking, Australian man in an unconvincing dog suit. Is it because he’s mad, because he tried to overdose on drugs or because he has an over-active imagination? Who knows, but Wilfred is about to become his new best friend – and help him to get to know his neighbour a whole lot better. At least, that’s what he thinks.
Here’s a trailer, followed by the original Australian short movie (and subsequent TV show) this is based on.
Wilfred is a half-hour, live-action comedy about “Ryan,” a young man struggling unsuccessfully to make his way in the world until he forms a unique friendship with “Wilfred,” his neighbor’s canine pet. Everyone else sees Wilfred as just a dog, but Ryan sees a crude and somewhat surly, yet irrepressibly brave and honest, Australian bloke in a cheap dog suit. While leading him through a series of comedic and existential adventures, Wilfred the dog shows Ryan the man how to overcome his fears and joyfully embrace the unpredictability and insanity of the world around him.
Wilfred is based on the critically-acclaimed Australian series of the same title and was adapted for FX by David Zuckerman (Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill). Zuckerman also serves as Executive Producer along with Rich Frank, Paul Frank and Jeff Kwatinetz of Prospect Park and Joe Connor and Ken Connor of Renegade, producers of the Australian version of the series. Jason Gann serves as Co-Executive Producer. Co-Executive Producer Randall Einhorn directed the pilot plus nine additional episodes of Wilfred’s first season and Victor Nelli, Jr. directed three. Wilfred is produced by FX Productions. The Australian version of Wilfred was written by Jason Gann and Adam Zwar, directed by Tony Rogers and produced by Jen Livingston.
Is it any good?
In contrast to the Australian show, which was more about the jealous protectiveness Wilfred the dog has for his owner, this is more a show in which Wilfred acts as the life coach for Ryan (Elijah Wood), a nervous, introvert who hates his job and his life. But as with the original, this is a show of both comedy and quiet menace, Wilfred (Jason Gann) being a subdued, threatening presence, part man, part dog, part wise, part dog, sometimes eloquent, sometimes dog. You never know whether Wilfred is going to be offering sage advice to Ryan about how to lead his life, chasing after a man on a motorbike, humping a soft toy or betraying Ryan for his own purposes.
While the first episode is very good, really messing with your head and offering no explanations at all for why Ryan sees Wilfred as a dog, the second episode is a little cruder and stupider, with Ryan acting like a complete moron for no good reason. Nevertheless, Gann’s Wilfred holds the episode together.
As comedies go, this is dark – maybe even too dark for many. It’s also surprisingly rude. Wood’s Ryan is a little too fey and ineffectual to root for, so you’ll find yourself watching for Gann’s superb performance instead. It’s also very testosterone laden in its attitudes, although the female cast (Fiona Gubelmann as the next door neighbour and Dorian Brown as Ryan’s sister) do actually get some characterisation and aren’t parading around in tight outfits/naked the whole time.
So one to watch closely, I reckon, rather than an immediate slam dunk.