Wilfred Season 1 & 2

Given the recent broadcast on BBC3 of HBO's Americanised version, this DVD release of the Aussie original is a timely opportunity to compare and contrast the two. Compared to its slick glamorous American counterpart, the Australian Wilfred is definitely the rough country cousin. Two series of eight episodes each were broadcast in 2007 and 2010. No further series have been made in Australia because Jason Gann (Wilfred himself) has been busy with the American version. The original Australian story is much simpler than the US remake - 30-something slacker Adam (Mick Hucknall-lookalike Adam Zwar) is invited back to Sarah's (Cindy Waddingham) house after a date. There he encounters her protective pet dog Wilfred who Adam sees as a dope-smoking world-weary man in a dog suit (Jason Gann). However only Adam sees this - to everyone else Wilfred is just a dog. Adam and Sarah instantly become a couple and from this point on Wilfred becomes the devil on Adam's shoulder as he tries to drive a wedge between him and Sarah. Not a great deal else happens. Adam and Wilfred have numerous conversations about the meaning of life and both get into trouble of various sorts. For Season Two, Adam and Sarah are living together in a new house, Adam Zwar has treated himself to a toupée and we meet some of Sarah, Adam and Wilfred's relatives as the series expands into the wider world.

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Conceived by Jason Gann and Adam Zwar and developed from a 7-minute short film, Wilfred is a surreal, offbeat, potty-mouthed, finely-crafted gem. Unlike the glossy American version which goes to great pains to suggest the protagonist has mental health issues, the Aussie original's core premise is very simple. Adam sees Wilfred as a man in a dog suit. End of. In later episodes of the first season, the narrative point of view shifts beyond Adam's experience and we see Wilfred alone in scenes with other characters but it's only ever Adam who sees him as human. In the second season the envelope is pushed further and Wilfred interacts with other animals played by people in suits including, believe it or not, a cockatoo. Adam even gets to chat to Wilfred's dad. It all works brilliantly though because everyone plays it dead straight and there's a vein of filthy jet-black humour mixed with Aussie earthiness running through both seasons that mitigates any possible twee-ness. If you really want to rationalise it, then you could consider Wilfred to be a subjective personification of Adam's anxieties but it's better to forget all that and just go with it. The biggest strength of the series is, by a very long chalk, Jason Gann. His characterisation is absolutely note-perfect and his chemistry with Adam Zwar is superb. Wilfred is essentially a one-joke show and it works that one joke extremely well but as you get towards the end of season two, the joke does start wearing thin to breaking point. I can understand why Jason Gann seized the opportunity to 're-imagine' Wilfred for a different audience in the USA as the well of inspiration appeared to be running dry in Australia. But having said that it's still far superior to and more original than most of the shite 'comedy' shows the BBC inflicts on us these days.

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The DVDs

Please note: Although we've reviewed them as one, Wilfred Season 1 and Wilfred Season 2 are individual, separate DVD releases. Pricedemon links: Wilfred Season 1 | Wilfred Season 2

Each season consists of eight 24-minute episodes which are generously split across two discs which results in excellent picture quality. Although shot on 16mm and cropped to 1.85:1 widescreen the image quality is surprisingly good. The director (Tony Rogers) employs a deliberate realistic 'indie' aesthetic in an attempt, I presume, to counterbalance the fantastic elements. The camera is static, takes are long, performances are low-key, the lighting is very natural and the colour palette is fairly monochromatic and desaturated. The stereo soundtrack is clear and if you're familiar with Aussie slang you'll have no trouble understanding anything and even learn a few new phrases - "rootin' a few deadies" is particularly disgusting. All Season One episodes have post-credit codas so stay tuned. These are absent from Season Two episodes.

Notwithstanding the absence of any subtitles or commentaries, the extras are not too bad. Every episode has its own image gallery of production stills. Season One also has a few out-takes and a couple of short behind-the-scenes montage pieces with commentary by Jason Gann lasting 3m 21s and 4m 27s. Season Two has a 27-minute making-of documentary, a compilation reel called Wilfred Bites lasting 6m 41s and a blooper reel.

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Summary

The past ten years has seen a new wave of Australian comedy hit both these and American shores. Kath and Kim and Summer Heights High in particular have enjoyed cult success and the US version of Wilfred has already enjoyed a run on BBC3. But if you like that then treat yourself and get this. It's brilliant and is superior in every way to the remake.

Overall

TDF SILVER

9

out of 10

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