Wilfred (US)

We always shudder at the thought of the Americans adapting a work we love.

Kath and Kim, Fawlty Towers, Life on Mars. The road is littered with them.

Shudder no more, the adaptation of Wilfred is faithful, and it has Jason Gann at the centre of its universe without any compromise on his character (ok, maybe there’s one, but more on that later).

The FX adaptation, made in conjunction with Gann and Australian production company Renegade, ‘gets’ the premise: that Wilfred is seen as a walking, talking man-in-dogsuit by one guy, but by everybody else as a four-legged pooch. The two exchange all manner of thoughts on life and the universe as part of a love-hate friendship. The third character is Wilfred‘s female owner, the object of the single guy’s affection.

In the Australian version co-creator Adam Zwar played the live-in boyfriend of Wilfred‘s owner, resented by the jealous Wilfred. In the US version Lord of the Ring’s Elijah Wood plays his neighbour, Ryan.

The first thing you’ll notice is the money on the screen. Handsome shots, aesthetic lighting, middle class suburbia. It’s a world away, literally, from the indie-feel of the SBS series which was more raw, located in the inner burbs of Melbourne.

The series is also sweeter, setting up Ryan as a doey-eyed romantic, longing for neighbour Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), all to the tune of “Raining in my Heart.” But that soon shifts when Jenna asks him to dog-sit Wilfred. Cynical Wilfred strides in and begins making demands.

“Got any DVDs?” he asks. “I like Matt Damon.”

Before long he is menacing Ryan, whom he considers more mouse than man. This ‘Doggie Darko’ has a lot of wisdom for his 7 years.

Wilfred retains the qualities which have made him a cult success in Australia. He is anarchic, irreverent, unshaven, drinks beer, smokes bongs, farts, roots, eats nachos, swears and speaks with an Australian accent. The only omission in its Pacific translation is not dropping the “C-word” that was defiantly dropped once every episode on SBS.

The series also adds a new character, Ryan’s sister ‘Kristen’ (Dorian Brown) who badgers her spineless brother, incapable of keeping his life on track.

The series shifts focus from a trio (as in the Aussie series) to a bro-mance duo, with Jenna as something of a supporting player. But maintaining the dynamic between the two males retains the heart of the show.

Gann is assured and menacing as Wilfred, clearly revelling in the network backing of his character that was borne at TropFest.

Elijah Wood is suitably adorable as Ryan, helping us to believe the conceit of the talking mutt. Man’s best friend has a new best friend. He is more earnest than the understated Zwar, but it still works in a series that makes the most of the canyon between the politically incorrect pooch and Americans who aspire to perfection.

Everyone involved in translating this to US television deserves a big, wet lick.

Wilfred airs 9:30pm Tuesday on ELEVEN

14 Comments:

  1. I really like the US version, I didn’t expect to. It is a little softer than the SBS one, but at least Wilfred is still pretty hardcore. Wish they had continued to use the C-word, it’s such a shocker!

  2. It’s good… But it’s not nearly as good as the original.

    There are too many moments where all the edges just don’t seem to meet neatly. It’s also fairly easy to spot the watering down taking place throughout and even some of Wilfred’s dialogue is Americanised in places (Wilfred would never use the word ‘trash’).

    I laughed, but I laughed harder and longer at the local version.

    I guess we should be thankful it’s not the shipwreck so many other shows became.

  3. Adam of Brisbane

    angelsgal I agree. I’m not really a fan of the whole Wilfred show, but I think the US series may actually be better (still early days I guess)

  4. Its a debut hit in the US:

    “FX scored its highest ratings ever for a comedy show debut Thursday with Wilfred , starring Elijah Wood and Jason Gann as his “dog.” FX said that the half-hour episode drew 2.55 million viewers in its initial screening and that the “multi-telecast” drew 3.8 million. The show was also FX’s highest-rated premiere among the key 18-49-year-old demo.”

    contactmusic.com/news.nsf/story/wilfred-fetches-record-ratings-for-fx_1229240

  5. awesome show, dare i say better than the original aussie version. well done to everyone involved in the remake, hopefully it does well for 11 and fx in the US

  6. Loved it, very funny. Great how one little idea has taken Gann and Zwar so far. Well done! Australia’s first comic export – not counting Prisoner!

  7. Watched the first ep last night. Never seen the original (no idea why I chose to watch the US version first, but anyway :S). And it was freakin’ funny! Loved it. Don’t know if I’ll continue to love it, as lots of my laughter did come from the whole “dog being played by a human” set up. But I’ll definitely keep watching, and be sure to check out the original as well.

  8. Secret Squïrrel

    Looking fwd to this. I agree that less network interference and having Gann on board has prob contributed to this being a better remake than some of the other horror stories that have come out of the US.

  9. I’ve only just started watching the local version, thanks to the Comedy Channel. It was a little bit of a shock at first, one of the first scenes is Wilfred smoking a bong, OMG. But it settles down and while I won’t say I love it, it does have something, which I guess is why the US decided to take it on.

    Good to see Jason Gann as Wilfred, I’d hate to think of what would have happened if the used an American actor took the part, although there are a few I’d love to see playing the part. I wonder if they will have any guest ‘dogs’ on the US show.

  10. The difference between a remake like this one and the others mentioned i.e. Kath and Kim is that going to a cable network the quality is better and there is less interference from network execs.
    I respect that Jason Gann stayed on for this series too.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.