When Wilfred first came out I will admit the concept was intriguing and its star was an admitted familiar face, but I had little idea as to the backstory of the show before it came to air. And frankly I thought it was a minor inconvenience to another show that I watch. But after watching the first season of Wilfred in preparation for its second season, I have got to admit my curiosity is piqued for what's to come.
The show was adapted for American audiences and was based on an Australian television show (and before that, a short film), with Jason Gann reprising his role as Wilfred, a dog who has no reservations in smoking weed and humping a large stuffed bear. He does these activities and more with Ryan (Elijah Wood, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy). Ryan is a guy about to start his first day on the job working at a hospital that his sister Kristen (Dorian Brown) has a residency at. But for whatever reason not only does he not go to work, but decides to kill himself with an overdose of pills (which as it turns out are placebos). While he is waiting to die (in his mind), his neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelman, Blades of Glory) asks if he can watch her dog (enter Gann in dog costume). Wilfred strikes up a conversation with Ryan, and the two bond and while Ryan takes him out on dog-related activities, Wilfred helps Ryan live his life free of his previous apprehensions and eccentricities.
Getting the initial more basic comedic element out of the way first, watching Gann, in a role that he has now become intimate with, makes for some of the show's funnier moments. Initially I did not think that I could laugh as much with some guy in a dog suit doing dog things with human reactions, but it moments when you would not normally expect a 'Wilfred moment,' the ones where he pops up are pleasant surprises, and in things like B storylines (such as in the episode "Acceptance" where Ryan rescues Wilfred from an overly amorous doggie day-care supervisor) they also manage to work because of the bond that has been formed between the two.
Along with the antics of Ryan and Wilfred, seeing how Ryan quietly and incrementally progresses towards regaining his life is an understated but fascinating journey. His existence is one where he seems to please others, and Wilfred wants to help pull him away from that. Wood has an intriguing sense of comic timing that proves to be fun to watch as the season evolves. Even more intriguing is what plays itself out over the course of the last three to four episodes. Without spoiling it, suffice to say that Ryan takes some steps to regain his life for himself, but does not realize the harm that he may be doing to himself and others. These steps are bold for a show with a cursing, weed-smoking dog to be sure, but this boldness is one that gets points and respect by the show's producers and by Gann and Wood, and thankfully the second season is here to check out the payoffs.
Unlike The Killing, which also kicked the payoff can into the next season and hoped that people would focus on the character drama that followed, Wilfred takes the abrasiveness which is rightfully played for laughs and uses the friendship that his human neighbor establishes with him to take bigger steps for the future, a future that should prove to be fascinating.
The Blu-ray Discs:
The 13-episode run of the first season of Wilfred is split over two discs and all episodes use the AVC encode in all its 1.78:1 widescreen glory. The overall results are pretty much as expected, with decent and consistent image detail in the foreground and the background left somewhat unattended. Flesh tones and colors are reproduced accurately and naturally without little in the way of saturation issues, and black levels are deep through most of the season. It was nice to watch on Blu-ray, that's for sure.
Each episode is given a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround track, with the overall results being about as good as one could expect. Dialogue is strong and consistent in the center channel without any bleed-through to the other speakers, and with the nature of the show it is a good thing to have. Subwoofer engagement and directional effects are on the rare side, and channel panning is also absent to boot. The show does not have a lot to do sonically but if called upon I suppose it could do some work; it is just kind of there.
The extras are decent though hardly memorable. The first disc includes a brief snippet of the show's panel at the 2011 Comic-Con (6:32) where the inspirations and origins are covered, along with how the cast got to things. Disc Two has ten deleted scenes (15:38), though many of them are alternate takes. Some of them are worth a laugh or two, but are otherwise forgettable. "Wilfred & Bear: A Love Affair" (1:00) is a compilation reel of the various times Wilfred humps Bear, while "Mary Jane Mashup" (1:00) is the same thing, except for all the marijuana smoking. "Life After Film School" (9:57) is a Fox Movie Channel segment where three film school students interview Gann and ask him about the show, his thoughts on the character and adapting the show for American audiences.
At first I did not know what to think of Wilfred when it first aired; now after pouring over all thirteen episodes I think that this is a gutsy little comedy that the F/X network has on its hands. While technically it is good but not great and from a supplemental perspective is woefully lacking, there are a few jokes here that remain hilarious after a second or third viewing, and as the last third of the season unfolds, you'll want to rewatch it to see how it plays out. Definitely worth filling a spot on your summer television schedule.