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Featured TV on DVD Review: Wilfred: Season One

June 21st, 2012

Wilfred: Season One- Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Wilfred began as an Australian show also called Wilfred. It ran for a couple of seasons earning a trio of Australian Film Institute wins, plus a handful of AFI and other nominations. Last year, the American version made its way onto TV, but it wasn't able to do as well winning awards (Elijah Wood did earn a Satellite Awards nomination). Is it worth checking out? And is the DVD / Blu-ray worth picking up? Or is something lost in the translation?

The Show

The series begins with Ryan Newman trying to commit suicide. It's taking a bit longer than he would like, because he's having trouble getting his suicide note just right. He is finally satisfied, so he drinks his health shake, full of pills, waves to his next door neighbor (Fiona Gubelmann), and lies down to die. It doesn't quite work out. His other neighbor comes home on his motorcycle and revs it a couple times, which gets his neighbor's boyfriend, Wilfred, riled up. Great, she has a boyfriend. Another reason for Ryan to kill himself. However, his suicide is not going as planned and nothing he does is working, not even downing half a bottle of NyQuil. In fact, the next morning he is still alive, although looking a little ragged after pulling an all-nighter. That's when his day takes a really weird turn. His neighbor, Jenna, comes over and introduces herself and asks a favor, could Wilfred stay in his yard while the exterminators deal with her house. Wilfred isn't her boyfriend, he's her pet dog. But Ryan sees Wilfred as a man (Jason Gann) and when Wilfred speaks, he hears the same voice he did the night before. (Wilfred has an Australian accent, so it's easy to recognize.)

That day, Ryan smokes a bong with Wilfred, instead of going into work for his first day on the job. It's not a job he wants, but his sister, Kristen (Dorian Brown), went out of her way to get him a chance and she is furious when he blows it by not showing up to work. However, after a day out with Wilfred, he realizes he doesn't want to be a lawyer and he's tired of doing what everyone tells him to do and he's going to be his own man. Or at least he's going to do what Wilfred tells / manipulates him into doing. To call the relationship between Ryan and Wilfred dysfunctional is an understatement.

This is a bizarre show. There's no way around that. I think that's why it started out with just over 2.5 million viewers but ended with just under 1 million. While the show is funny, it has a sense of humor that will alienate some. For one thing, Wilfred is not sympathetic, to put it mildly. He's a dog and he does what dogs do. This includes a lot of bodily functions. (There's a giant stuffed teddy bear that is at the center of a lot of this. Poor bear.) Wilfred also has little concern about the consequences for his actions for those around him. Sure, often he's helping Ryan become more assertive and to be more open to life's experiences, but Wilfred only does this when it also helps him.

So the titular character is a selfish ass much of the time, while the humor is heavy on the stoner comedy / bodily function scale of things. But overall, the show still works. This is in large part due to the chemistry between Elijah Wood and Jason Gann. This is especially important, because the vast majority of the time, they are the only two people on screen. In fact, that brings me to my biggest complaint with Wilfred so far: The supporting characters are sadly underwritten. Granted, as the season goes on, Fiona Gubelmann and Dorian Brown do get more to do, but we see a lot of guest star of the week characters that have very little lasting impact on the plot. It is a high-concept show and I'm a little worried this will put a rather hard limit on how long the show can last before the concept runs out of steam. But for now, it is a fun run.

The Extras

The only extra on disc one is a featurette of the show at Comic-Con 2011. Over on disc two, you'll find 16 minutes of deleted scenes. There is also a 1-minute montage called Wilfred and Bear: A Love Affair. I'll let you guess what that is. Maryjane Mashup is a similar 1-minute long montage. Again, it is pretty easy to guess what it is about. Finally there's a 10-minute interview session with Jason Gann. This isn't a bad selection of extras, but a few audio commentary tracks would have been nice.

The technical specs for the show are good, but not great. The film is shot in high definition, but using consumer level cameras, so you can't expect the same level of detail as a much more expensive camera could deliver. There are also a few times where aliasing creeps up, or contrast is a little off, but nothing too serious. The audio is exactly what you would expect from a show like this. That is to say, the dialogue is very clear, but there's not a lot of activity in the surround sound speakers.

The Blu-ray is a mere 20% or $5 more than the DVD, which is great for this type of release.

The Verdict

Wilfred is an odd show and one that has a limited target audience. In many ways, this makes it perfect for a cable channel. Season One does have some flaws, but it is certainly worth checking out, while the Blu-ray is the better deal over the DVD if you are looking to purchase.

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