Monday, November 28, 2011

In the Company of Wilfred

"Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination."
- Mark Twain

This year saw the end of Friday Night Lights and the short-lived remake of the V series, and while there were a number of new shows and sitcoms that premiered this fall, I was more or less looking for something different from the slew of supernatural-horror-fantasy and crime procedural shows on U.S. television. November sweeps was fast approaching and the shows that were currently airing were one by one starting to prep viewers for their yearly mid-season break. There was nothing on television and I didn't feel like starting any Asian dramas just yet, and if it was just a matter of reality t.v. it was rather easier to get my fix from History, Bio and National Geographic than resort to watching another talent contest.

Then came Wilfred, a show about a man, a dog (sort of) and that tenuous divide between reality and insanity. Imagine countless afternoons spent with a furry companion who smokes weed, plays devil's advocate and attracts trouble like nobody's business, and you'll more or less have an idea of what's going through the main character's head... or not.
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Depressed, out-of-work lawyer, Ryan Newman (Elijah Wood) was doggone desperate to bid the world goodbye when his next-door neighbor (Fiona Gubelmann) showed up at his porch to ask if he would be kind enough to watch her dog for a few hours. Tired from staying alive up all night and perhaps unable to bring himself to yet again revise the suicide letter stewing in his laptop, Ryan finds himself in the company of his neighbor’s pet, Wilfred (Jason Gann)---who, in his eyes, just happens to be a scruffy, foul-mouthed Aussie in a dog suit urging him to “throw the ball”.

Is he a figment of his imagination, a psychological manifestation of his id or merely an effect of the sleeping pills that he tried to overdose on the night before but failed to do him in?

Before having the chance to make sense of his predicament, he ends up interacting with the object in question---hanging out like childhood buddies, smoking pot in his basement and watching Matt Damon movies; including getting into ridiculous situations and barely getting out of them with some luck and assistance from his canine colleague. In the course of the series, Wilfred gets him to blow off a job interview, steal the neighborhood thug’s weed, kidnap a ginormous teddy bear from doggy day care and even consider paying the cost of repairs for a minor traffic accident by having a sexual escapade with a cougar-wabbit. Yes, a cougar-wabbit.

Whether or not the dog is a blessing in disguise or the devil incarnate, Ryan's misadventures with Wilfred has no doubt given him a new lease on life---one that's irresolutely pursued with a dash of madness and reckless abandon. A life that bored viewers like me would like to see unfold. 

Re-imagined by series co-creator Jason Gann for U.S. television, this version of Wilfred takes on a darker comedic tone, tackling existentialist themes more common to cable network sitcoms than those produced by the "big three" networks. The humor utilized can be a bit crass---it's not laugh-out-loud funny but it does have an ironic edge to it complemented by enough references that would no doubt make sense to a pet owner. Each episode is prefaced by a word that serves as a theme and though at times the situations that Wilfred and Ryan get into seem randomly thrown in along with the list of guest stars that appear in it, at the end of the day, you just can't shake this nagging feeling of concern over Ryan's mental well-being.

Jason Gann does a remarkable job playing Wilfred. He's funny and affable despite being shady and a bit vulgar. He grows on you like a bad habit and often commands the show with his doggy antics as expected of the title character. Also, major props goes to Elijah Wood for his unpretentious, everyman portrayal of Ryan Newman, without which this incredulous storyline would not have worked. There's enough honesty and vulnerability infused into those weary robin's egg blue eyes that just makes the whole thing plausible; the former child star has the acting chops to make viewers sympathize, if not empathize, with such a disturbed character.

The end of season one has brought about a number of questions regarding the direction of the show. For some, it served as sufficient reason to tune in next season to build on a theory about Ryan's true condition, for others, the events of the last episode served as an indication of what really lies behind the cannabis smoke that triggered Wilfred's inception. Whatever the case may be, I hope they get a chance to wrap this up nicely. I'd hate to hear about it being canceled without getting a conclusive ending.


  1. now im curious. i will definitely watch this one.

  2. My sister loved this show. Let me know what you think when you're done watching. :p

  3. i watched the first episode and it's great and fun. i saw the original aussie show way back last year when i accidentally changed channel of a dude wearing a dog suit and a lady humping. i thought it was weird and changed channel after that. hehe.. im downloading the following episodes. thanks by the way.

  4. It's great to hear that you liked the first episode. I think the US version doesn't have a whole lot in common with the original Aussie series except for the man in a dog suit smoking pot.

    We have a hideous of number of dogs at home so my sister gets a kick out of imagining what they might be thinking dahil kay Wilfred. Haha, baliw. Anyway, the last episode is really a cliffhanger... don't know how they'll be able to sort that one out so we're all looking forward to the next season.

  5. i miss smoking pot. haha.. americans are very bad on doing remakes. so making this different from the aussie version might help me avoid from comparing the two. the dog is aussie, although i have an idea why its aussie. hehe.. busy sched really slows my tv viewings these days, but in time, i'll be able to finish it. i like this show a lot. number 1 on my watchlist.

    as for the dog's thought process, i think they are thinking when's the next meal is going to come and when's the next time they can get laid. i think Wilfred is an exception. haha.. he smokes pot in the first place.

  6. just finished the first season. it really hangs the viewers when the title popped up in the end. it's nice to know that next month, second season comes. in wilfred's facebook page, Robin Williams is among the guy to watch. can't wait for June to come. thanks once again. i really had fun watching this show. if there is anything i want right now, it's weed.

  7. Ach, sorry for the late reply. Been having trouble with our internet connection again. Those punks are at it again, stealing phone cables. We haven't had a stable connection for a month now and every time the PLDT manages to fix it, I find my sisters hogging the desktop. Don't really have time to surf in the office, so yeah, I'm kinda off cyberspace for a while.

    I'm sure you never had trouble obtaining pot when you were in the country. I guess out there, you really do need a prescription for it. Must suck to be you. Was never really into that stuff but I had friends taking up Fine Arts in college and they never seemed to run out of it. Halatang may suki. Lol x)

    My sister and I are looking forward to season 2 as well. I really have no idea how they'll explain Ryan's predicament this time around---especially considering how much time he spent in his

    As for the dog's thought process, I'm quite sure that they only think about getting laid when it's mating season and a female dog is in heat. The rest of the time, they just wait for food and maybe observe and anticipate their master's movement.

  8. stealing phone cables.. tsk, tsk, tsk. at least no one gets electrocuted. how can i forget the one computer where everyone divides time to use it. here, no one is talking anymore, everyone has its own laptop. one goes out of their respective rooms to pee or eat.

    i tried one pot here called Kronic. it's synthetic and im sure that it's the kind of pot wilfred is using. it's very strong and i only had one time using it and didnt like it that much. i prefer organic. haha..

    i watched the first episode of Wilfred the aussie version. it's different. as for the US version, it's going to be interesting. it's funny though that no matter what Ryan does, everything turns to disaster. so it will be a much disastrous second season perhaps.

  9. Haha, I bet even the guys from PLDT are exasperated by now. It's taken them quite a while to get things running. Actually, we have about a few laptops and a desktop at home, it's just that the internet is connected to only one PC. My sisters insisted on getting wifi but I refused to get our plan upgraded and I didn't want them leeching off the connection in fear of slowing down utorrent.

    Haha, organic. Homegrown from Sagada. :p

    I watched snippets of the original version of Wilfred but I kinda liked the US version better since it was the first one I saw. I'm actually quite glad that it's not an exact remake. I've always had trouble watching US remakes, it takes a while for the second series to diverge from the original so I tend to just stick to one.