After watching both series of the Australian comedy Wilfred (to the point that Jason Gaan was appearing in my nightmares dressed in that dog-suit) it’s maddening to wrap one’s head around. The central premise sounds like the thing of nightmares. Typical nice-guy Adam (Adam Zwar) starts living with new girlfriend Sarah (Cindy Waddington) only to find himself seeing her dog Wilfred (Jason Gaan) as a fully-grown Australian man. A lazy, emotionally needy, subtly manipulative man in a dog-suit who’s hell-bent on driving a wedge between Adam and Sarah.
In practise though Wilfred makes perfect sense, many comedians argue that a dog is like your drunk best mate this just takes it to its logical outcome. Having the leading man suffering from hallucinations that merely warrant wacky consequences rather than a trip to bedlam has actually been tried and failed before. Wonderfalls, Ghost Town and Teen Angel are prime examples (even if only one of them is prime quality), but Wilfred succeeds by eschewing all notions of trying to improve its leading man. Knowing that turning Adam into a functional human being would be its death knell the show seeks only to introduce this trope then mine as many jokes from it as possible.
To its credit the jokes are plentiful. The opening moments of season two see’s Wilfred chasing down a midget in a possum suit while providing his own sports commentary. Right then and there the show nails its core comedic value, watching someone go about the habits and behaviours of a dog with the blokey attitudes of a blokey bloke. Season one is content to simply see Gaan humping a giant teddy bear. When that won’t do the trick in the bear is dressed in fetish gear and Wilfred puts it through role-play. These are little additions that seem irrelevant (or worrying) on paper but truly elevate Wilfred’s unique humour from amusing to laugh out loud.
Make no mistake though, Wilfred is dark, League of Gentlemen dark. The series features death, rampant doggy-lust and a liberal use of the C-Word as the source of much of its humour. Shot in a drab grey more indicative of a kitchen-sink drama than Australian comedy but it suits the tone of the series. Surprisingly though Wilfred is also a very affecting, while you can see yourself sympathising with Adam a great deal Wilfred is naturally the star. Jason Gaan plays the entire role with the energy and confusion of a petulant child rather than a creature of malice.
It’s not all good news though as outside of its title characters the protagonists of Wilfred are pretty flat. Through both seasons it’s pretty hard to get over the fact that Adam employs varying degrees of leeching, practically living off Sarah and more than willing to use and abuse Wilfred to serve his own ends. Sarah on the other hand is little more than the token female but compensates by getting laughs in when needed. Foul-mouthed and a little too easy to influence it’s clear to see where Wilfred gets his bad habits from.
It should be clear that Wilfred’s humour is not for everyone. For fans of League of Gentlemen, Mongrels and Psychoville though it’s well-worth a look in. Be warned though if any of you live away from home and still have a soft spot for the family pet you’ll be surprised at how Jason Gaan’s performance can make you miss them all the more.
None for season two but season one has a selection of crew montages providing a behind the scenes look at the series.