It's rather amusing going from one series that takes no risks ("Last Man Standing") to writing about a series whose core idea is a risk to the point where the series still never would have made it to network television. With cable taking more risks, the series made its debut on FX (then moved to FXX - I'm curious what FXXX may offer if another channel ever made a debut...)
Based on the Australian series of the same name, "Wilfred" feels a little like if "Family Guy" (the show was adapted for the US by "Family Guy" writer David Zuckerman) re-imagined by Tim Burton - Stewie and Brian all grown up. The series stars Elijah Wood as Ryan, a mild-mannered guy living in the suburbs who has grown depressed about his life, believing that he's gotten nowhere. In the middle of trying to attempt suicide, he's asked to watch his beautiful neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann)'s dog, Wilfred.
The only problem with that is that Wilfred is not actually a dog (well, in the traditional sense), but a guy dressed up as a dog in a dog suit that looks to be older and more worn than he is. Wilfred is played by Jason Gann, who played the character in the original series.
Described as "part Labrador Retriever and part Russell Crowe on a bender" by Zuckerman, Gann does a great job as Ryan's polar opposite, a stoner pooch who delights in bad behavior but manages to - almost if by accident at times - make Ryan realize some things about his life. The series is really about a troubled guy trying to find himself, only his guide on the journey happens to be a large talking dog who likes to get wasted and occasionally delights in playing mind games.
The series does walk the line between being bitter and sharply funny and does so pretty well. It's a series that can move between Ryan's sometimes sad exploration of his own sanity and self and Wilfred explaining why he's just humped yet another inanimate object or scratching something into Ryan's door.
Still, the question that hangs over the series remains: is Wilfred real, or just a figment of Ryan's imagination? The series does a really nice job pushing out little hints as to what Wilfred really is, but starts to become a little more aggressive in its pursuit of the answers in the third season, including a childhood drawing that may provide some answers. Some of the highlights of this season include the opener, "Uncertainty" (Ryan sets off to find Wilfred's original owner), "Sincerity" (to try to impress a girl, Ryan takes Wilfred to a class to try the impossible task of teaching Wilfred manners), "Stagnation" (Wilfred finds love in an unexpected place) and the finale, "Regrets", where Jenna forbids Ryan from seeing Wilfred.
Wilfred doesn't always work, but it throws enough at the wall that sticks and takes some enjoyable risks (again, not that long ago I can't imagine this would have wound up on TV in this country, much less ran for four seasons.) It's not always perfect, but it's memorable, it sticks. It's funny, it's moving, it's occasionally flawed in the most enjoyable ways. I can only hope that cable continues to take these sorts of risks.
27 20/Jun/13 Uncertainty
28 20/Jun/13 Comfort
29 27/Jun/13 Suspicion
30 27/Jun/13 Sincerity
31 11/Jul/13 Shame
32 18/Jul/13 Delusion
33 25/Jul/13 Intuition
34 01/Aug/13 Perspective
35 08/Aug/13 Confrontation
36 15/Aug/13 Distance
37 22/Aug/13 Stagnation
38 29/Aug/13 Heroism
39 05/Sep/13 Regrets
Video: "Wilfred" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The show is actually filmed with DSLRs - it's the first series to do so and the result is a clean, crisp appearance that translates well on this DVD presentation. Sharpness and detail are very pleasing and the picture remained free of artifacting and other concerns. Colors remained - as intended - on the cooler side. No smearing or other flaws are seen.
Audio: Basic, dialogue-driven 2.0 audio.
Extras: Zip, zero. This is the kind of series that deserves a commentary or two, but we don't get anything here. Not even the usual promotional interviews.
Final Thoughts: "Wilfred" is a cult series that delights, balancing some heartfelt moments and exploration with dark, occasionally twisted laughs. The performances from Wood and Gaan remain terrific and the series has done a pretty remarkable job keeping the core concept involving. The DVD set provides solid audio/video, but nothing in terms of extras. Highly recommended.