Wilfred: The Complete Original Series (DVD)
Shout! Factory / 2007 / 400 mins / NR
The premise of this Australian-made TV series (later adapted into an American series) initially sounds like a one-note show. The idea of a paranoid man speaking to a talking dog only he can understand sounds all too familiar. What separates WILFRED from being another tired DOCTOR DOOLITTLE knock-off is its surreal and dark humor. Don't let Wilfred's fluffy dog costume fool you. Once you see him javing his way with a teddy bear, you'll know this is far from being a light whimsical program.
When nice guy Adam (Adam Zwar) moves in with his girlfriend Sarah (Cindy Waddingham), he's surprised to discover her dog Wilfred (Jason Gann) is a full-grown man in a dog costume. However, he only appears this way to Adam who can also directly communicate with him. Strange as the scenario is, Adam rolls with it and treats Wilfred like a drinking buddy.
But Wilfred is far from being man's best friend as he is constantly getting Adam in trouble and toying with his psyche. Sometimes he does so to bring Adam into his inner circle and other times it's to take advantage of Adam just because he can. The majority of his hostility is for feeling threatened that his master is being taken advantage of. This causes Adam and Wilfred to often be at each other's throats, but they usually end up meeting each other half-way.
In comparison to the American remake, the original series is a much more tongue-in-cheek atmosphere with its weirdness. Sometimes WILFRED drops the humor completely when it digs into darker territory. The season one finale features a shocking murder with a very morbid aftermath revealing shades of Wilfred that are pure evil. And the second season finale, while not as grim, has a downer ending that's just as messed up.
There are hardly any moments where Adam appears publically embarrassed for talking to a dog. His character has enough problems that adding such running clichés would get old quite quickly. There are a bunch of dog jokes, what with Wilfred being a dog with a voice, but the delivery by Jason Gann makes otherwise routine jokes much funnier than they should be. It should be noted that a handful of these gags involve sex, bodily functions and drugs. Think of it as a CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM meets GARFIELD, but with a touch more raunchiness.
The series does play with some unique elements of Wilfred in an interesting way and this is most evident in the first season. In one episode, a TV dog psychologist visits at the request of Adam. Rather than going for the obvious gags of an inept dog whisperer, Wilfred CAN communicate with the psychologist and actually has a bit of a real session with him. It's a great episode that trades in lack-of-communication gags for real character development that still manages to be a hoot.
The second season on this set, however, is not as strong. It has some great gags here and there, but it does overuse the whole talking animal bit with multiple animal characters introduced. The bit gets a little overblown when in one episode Wilfred meets a seeing-eye dog, his father and a bird which he eats in a very gruesome fashion. As a matter of fact, every episode from the second season features a new animal for Wilfred to interact with. While it does give the title character more to do in episodes where he doesn't quite fit into the A-story, it leaves much less room for dialogue between Adam and Wilfred and leaves a little less to the imagination.
What makes WILFRED so interesting is the mystery of the title character. There is never a definite answer given as to why Adam can see Wilfred as a human in a dog costume. Such questions are never answered and, frankly, they don't need to be. The odd-couple dynamic of a man and his dog is enough for a great off-beat comedy without a contrived exposition. Still, the series does tease with a few clues here and there which makes it all the more fun to watch.
All 16 episodes are collected on 4 discs. There are a few chapter stops on each episode, but they're not selectable from the menu.
The video quality here is decent. It's not a very polished transfer for a widescreen release, but it's passable.
The audio is a standard Dolby 2.0. Once again, it's not awful, but not very spiffy.
There are no subtitles or closed captioning. This could make it difficult for those trying to keep up with the Aussie accents that tend to slur a few words.
Shout! Factory's release is plentiful with extras. Disc 1 features a handful of short behind the scenes clips/outtakes and a lengthy trailer. Disc 2 has two Crew Montage videos that combine behind the scenes clips with audio commentary, akin to the mini-commentaries on the SOUTH PARK DVDs.
Disc 4 contains the bulk of the extras. The Making of Wilfred is a 28-minute documentary focusing on how a handful of scenes are assembled via set footage and on-set interviews. Wilfred Bites is seven minutes worth of original back and forth between Wilfred and Adam, similar to the bits that end each episode. There are about five minutes worth of Outtakes and Bloopers. None of them are real gut-busters, but it's amusing to see what goes wrong on set and just how the long the cast and crew can go in a scene before cracking up.
Each episode features a still gallery of some nice looking photos from each episode.
The packaging also includes an episode booklet with a detailed description for each episode.
There is no denying WILFRED is a weird TV show (even more so than the American version -- which is saying a lot). It has its moments of comedic genius, but it's certainly not for everyone. It's very dark and often mean-spirited. However, if you like your comedy awkward and surreal with a dash of the morbid, WILFRED is a lot of fun.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )