DVD Review: Wilfred - Season's One and Two / Cert: 18 / Director: Tony Rogers / Screenplay: Jason Gann, Adam Zwar / Starring: Jason Gann, Adam Zwar, Cindy Waddingham, Rachel Jessica Tan / Release Date: August 20th
If you've already watched the US remake of Wilfred, starring Elijah Wood, you might not see any need to check out the original Australian version featured in this four-disc boxset. But they're actually very different beasts. Despite bouncing around for your attention and being a bit naughty, the US remake is quite a gentle, good-natured thing really. The original show, on the other hand, is what TV would be like if it hadn't been house-trained.
The set-ups diverge in small but significant ways. In the US version, Ryan and Jenna are neighbours sharing a garden fence through which Wilfred comes lumbering with an axe. In the original, Adam (Adam Zwar) moves in with his new girlfriend Sarah (Cindy Waddingham), and this immediately puts him at odds with her possibly-homicidal dog (Jason Gann). The dog suit thing is also handled very differently. Ryan pops his eyes when he sees Wilfred smoking a bong, and there is a suggestion that he's mentally fragile. With the Australian Wilfred, the dog suit is an absurdist premise that is never commented on or explained, it simply is (there are cats and raccoons in animal suits, too, and a hilarious cockatoo).
The Australian show counterbalances this absurdity with an awkward, stuttering naturalism and deftly underplayed performances. Zwar is wonderfully sympathetic as Adam, a sensitive guy forever racked with guilt and biting his lip, nursing a tragic backstory that he never gets to fully share because it makes everyone's eyes glaze over. Waddingham is just as good as Sarah, who, even without Wilfred, would be a challenging girlfriend, whimsical, aloof and devastatingly observant when she wants to be.
The American Wilfred is essentially a long-eared, mischievous wellness coach. The Australian Wilfred is not remotely as wholesome. He's one-sixteenth dingo, and it shows. He's violent, greedy, stinky, and lecherous, his sexual predations extending beyond the local pooches to cats and even kangaroos. The early episodes centre on his attempts to lead the gullible and eager-to-please Adam into harm's way. Later they work together to see off other intruding males, but there's never much more than an uneasy truce between them.
Given that this is arguably a one-joke show, it's impressive how skilfully the changes are rung by Zwar and Gann, who write as well as star. The second series opens out into a series of very funny road trips – to a ski resort, to Sarah's nudist parents – and there's a classic episode where Wilfred gets a part in a dog food commercial which plays out like a doggy version of Extras. Even if you didn't care for the US Wilfred, you should give this boxset a sniff.
Special Features: Out-takes, Blooper Reel, Trailer, Scene Montage, Behind the Scenes, Making of, Wilfred Bites