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Wolf Like Me

Stan's new genre-bending drama offers an unexpected surprise for a loveless dad and for viewers.

There’s a reason Mary (Isla Fisher) always runs away when honesty is required of her in Wolf Like Me. She has baggage.

Just not the sort that Gary (Josh Gad) -or any other rational, thinking human- would expect to find on a first date.

Stan’s new 6×30 min drama filmed in Adelaide is described as ‘genre-bending’ and to say much more would be something of a spoiler. But when it was heavily hinted at the end of the first episode it was an unexpected surprise.

Up until that point I was settling into another modern relationship drama, about a single dad & daughter looking for their perfect wife / mum (hey Gary, try Bluey for some beaut parenting skills?).

American Gary also has his own cross to bear as he struggles to move on following the death of his Australian wife. But he chose to stay in Adelaide with daughter Emma (Ariel Joy Donoghue), given her strong bond with her mother’s family: aunt Sarah (Emma Lung) and uncle Ray (Anthony Taufa). Emma wants her dad to be happy, but she still has panic attacks, exacerbated by a very nasty car accident with Mary’s vehicle.

When Mary, an advice columnist, drops by their house later to apologise for the collision, so begins a connection with Gary that takes both to dark places. Did fate bring them together? Can they fight it? Could they love themselves enough to love someone else?

The metaphors, dramatised in writer / director Abe Forsythe’s genre twist, fly thick and fast once unveiled, becoming the most interesting thing about an otherwise sweet, small relationship drama.

Jacket-wearing dad Gad and kooky Fisher handle the material sincerely. It’s probably one her most adventurous roles, but was really necessary to have Fisher feign an American accent? Press notes refer to Mary escaping the US to Adelaide as part of her back story, but it does feel very much like a choice to engage US viewers (it will screen on Peacock).

Both also move on pretty unrealistically from a major car accident, flirting over red wines well before any insurance claims are settled. Be warned, there’s a lot of car accidents, but policing is absent.

Daughter Emma is often tasked with adult responses (“You don’t have a life. You’re unhappy.”) which I guess makes her something of an old soul with young eyes. Veteran Robyn Nevin will also appear as a woman with dementia, who can still offer life experience.

Having set up its metaphor / twist Wolf Like Me may also need to up the budget to live up to its bent genre and hopefully spiral into a full-blooded, hellish descent into mythology.

That may help distract from the lingering question around why Australian stories need to be dipped in American syrup,… far greater baggage than that facing Gary and Mary.

Wolf Like Me screens Thursday on Stan.

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