Australia’s favourite anarchic mutt, Wilfred, is on his way back. Production on the second series is currently nearing completion, and as TV Tonight learned whilst visiting the shoot, the SBS talking dog is more cynical than ever.
Wilfred is already a cult favourite after just one series on SBS. The creation of Jason Gann and Adam Zwar, it began life as a film in TropFest 2002 and aired as a fully-fledged TV series in 2007 under Renegade Productions (RocKwiz, Ned Kelly Uncovered), but it’s taken some time to return before the cameras.
“We did the first series and the ratings were ok as far as SBS is concerned, but the DVD sales just kept on going,” says actor-writer Adam Zwar. “It’s their third biggest-selling DVD behind Food Safari and First Australians.
“So that was the impetus for the network to get behind it again.
“It ran at 10:00 after the news, so it was a bit tough. This time they really want to make it 9:00.”
In the intervening period, both did The Wedge and a feature film, Rats and Cats, while Gann also made Mark Loves Sharon. It was enough time for Zwar to gauge audience enthusiasm for the comedy.
“You do get the cultural elite saying how much they like it and reading things into it,” he says. “But I’m most energised by how many tradies, bikies and surfies come up to me and say how much they love it. It’s a genuine kind of rapport that they have for us. And they’re always very polite. With The Wedge fans we had all sorts, and a lot of Wedge haters as well. So we’ve seen it all.”
For series three they return to the project with director Tony Rogers and actress Cindy Waddingham, who plays Wilfred‘s owner, Sarah. Zwar met both while filming an ad for health insurance.
Guests for this series include Kestie Morassi, David Field, Victoria Thane, Kim Gyngell, Jess Gower, Josh Lawson, Kate Jenkinson, Ditch Davey, Michael Carmen and Andy McPhee.
Zwar says the dynamic of the relationship between Wilfred, Sarah and Adam is what keeps the stories going. The dog is devoted to Sarah, and ferociously jealous of her new boyfriend Adam, whose presence ‘ruins’ an otherwise happy house.
“It’s the whole notion of a family construct, whether you’re related or not,” says Zwar. “Once you find the rhythm and the rules, it becomes quite easy to write, in a way. You know that ‘this has to happen by that page.’
“We live in hope that Wilfred and Adam can get on. But of course that would be too awful for fans to contemplate.”
As television’s most unsociable mutt, there isn’t much that Wilfred acually enjoys.
“Pot, nachos, shitting, rooting, sleeping… he’s a very cynical egg,” says Zwar. “Most of all he loves giving Adam shit. That’s his favourite pastime, but at the same time he would be devastated if Adam left. It’s a classic case of Sarah being the single mother and the little kid giving the new boyfriend shit. He’s always testing him and making his life miserable. But he would be devastated if he left.”
This season Wilfred has bigger storylines and much bigger locations, including scenes shot in Queensland and regional Victoria. One scene will parody a recent Hollywood hit.
“They need to make some quick money and Adam enters Wilfred into dogfighting competitions. He enters him into Bite Club,” says Zwar.
“But the first rule of Bite Club is don’t talk about Bite Club.”
Wilfred was picked up by US cable network IFC which screens independent material. The dog was also seen by audiences at the Sundance Film Festival in Palm Springs. But Zwar says the Americans didn’t take too kindly to the dog’s habit of dropping “the C” word once every episode.
“It took ages for them to start laughing again. So they were laughing, laughing, laughing and then ‘OOOH.'”
When series two airs next March it remains to be seen if SBS will include the ‘C Word’ in its earlier 9pm timeslot.
“It depends if the network takes it or not. If they can’t use it we’ve given them an option,” says Zwar.
“But the fans love it too much.”