Wilfred is a wicked little comedy about a man and his dog. Maitiú Mac Seoin takes a closer look at what makes this cult hit work.
Stars: Jason Gann, Fiona Goubelmann, Elijah Wood
Original run: 2011 – present
Let me paint a picture for you: you’re walking along, and you see a man. This man, for some reason, appears to be dressed in a full-size dog suit, complete with a painted nose. You can understand this man and he can understand you, but he is adamant of his canine nature, despite his foul mouth and fondness for drugs.
Now let me finish the picture. The man really IS a dog, nobody else can understand him, and you might just be crazy. This is the world in which Ryan (Elijah Wood) lives. Ryan’s life has fallen to pieces recently and he’s depressed. After one pretty rough night, his neighbour Jenna (Fiona Goubelmann) asks him to dog-sit for her.
Ryan initially dismisses Wilfred’s appearance as a drug-induced hallucination, but it soon becomes clear that Wilfred (Jason Gann) is very real. Wilfred acts like a ballistic missile, tearing right through Ryan’s life and destroying it. It is never explained exactly how Ryan can see Wilfred’s inner nature, but the viewer just has to go with it and trust that everything’s ok.
The show is based on the Australian original, also starring Gann in the titular role, but the US production is better. The acting is well above par, with Elijah Wood easily portraying the depressed Ryan, who doesn’t take too much convincing to change his life and start chasing his dreams as eagerly as Wilfred chases cars. It is Gann who carries the series. His mannerisms are perfect, and his comic timing turns funny lines into pieces of comedic gold. It is a testament to how perfect Gann is for the role that he was chosen to play Wilfred in both series.
The best and most memorable moments stem from conversations with the out-of-control Wilfred and the down-to-earth Ryan. The best example of this is a conversation between the pair that occurs in an old folk’s home, where Ryan is trying to find out if Wilfred is euthanising the patients or not. It is a perfect scene which highlights perfectly the insanity of the show.
Is Ryan some kind of Doctor Dolittle, able to talk to animals and understand them, or is Wilfred just an extension of his personality, doing the things that Ryan can’t? If you want to figure it out, pick up the DVD, both the Australian and US versions are available for your tail-wagging pleasure.