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Wilfred: The Complete First Season(TV) (2011)
The story of Ryan, a depressed man who believes he is getting nowhere in his life and plans to kill himself. In the middle of his attempted suicide, he is asked to watch his neighbor's dog, Wilfred, but Ryan can only see Wilfred as a real person instead of an animal that everyone else sees. As they begin to bond more and become friends, Wilfred teaches Ryan a life lesson about people, love, and living.
For more about Wilfred: The Complete First Season and the Wilfred: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see Wilfred: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on June 21, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Elijah Wood, Jason Gann, Fiona Gubelmann, Dorian Brown, Chris Klein, Allison Mack
Directors: Randall Einhorn, Victor Nelli Jr.
» See full cast & crew
Wilfred: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
Man’s Best Fiend
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, June 21, 2012
Series co-creator and co-star Jason Gann describes Wilfred as "Donnie Darko meets Russell Crowe on a bender." That gets you at least halfway there. The show, which is based on Gann's Australian TV comedy of the same name, revolves around the old imaginary friend/talking animal conceit of Mr. Ed and the Jimmy Stewart classic Harvey—about the chatty six-foot-tall white rabbit—with some Drop Dead Fred and Family Guy thrown in for good measure. That last references makes sense because Wilfred has been adapted for U.S. television by longtime Family Guy showrunner David Zuckerman, who finally gets to bring his former cartoon project's sense of absurdity into the live-action realm. And oh the absurdity. Wilfred is one of the more ridiculous shows on TV, and I say that in a mostly good way. This is a fully-baked stoner comedy that fits well in the FX channel's sitcom lineup—It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League, Louie, and Archer—and while mind-altering pharmaceutical assistance isn't required to suspend your disbelief over the show's premise, Wilfred certainly encourages it.
The pilot episode is a good litmus test for whether or not you'll like the series. Elijah Wood plays Ryan Newman, an unemployed ex-lawyer in suburban Los Angeles with a nice house, a nice car, and a miserable life. When the show opens, he's printing out the finally perfected fourth draft of his suicide note. He downs a handful of pills, chugs a bottle of NyQuil, goes to bed, and...well, nothing happens. He can't even fall asleep. The next morning, looking haggard but otherwise unharmed, Ryan answers the door and finds his cute next-door neighbor, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), who asks if he wouldn't mind watching her dog Wilfred for the day.
The thing is, Ryan doesn't see a dog—he sees a scruffy Australian man (Jason Gann) in a furry dog suit. Who stands upright. And talks. And smokes weed. Is Ryan dead and stuck in some sort of weird purgatory? Is he having a delayed hallucinatory trip from the pills, which he got from his overbearing obstetrician sister, Kristin (Dorian Brown)? Neither, as it turns out. Worried about her brother, Kristin arrives and informs him that the pills were placebos—which is why he isn't dead—but the show never explains or even really hints at why Wilfred is a normal labrador retriever to everyone else but a foul-mouthed anthropomorphized dog-man to Ryan. If you like your comedy firmly grounded in reality—or if you're already thinking wait, how does a dog light a joint or hold a bong?—this might be hard to swallow. Wilfred only asks its audience that we not question the premise, and in exchange the show delivers surrealist tragi-comedy that's dark, often dirty, and frequently hilarious.
At its core, Wilfred is a buddy show, where "man's best friend" is exactly that. The once-suicidal Ryan starts hanging out with his new canine pal, who's usually a horrible influence. The end of the pilot, for instance, involves Wilfred convincing Ryan to break into his obnoxious neighbor Spencer's (Ethan Suplee) house, steal the guy's pot plants, and—for the coup de grace—take a dump in one of his shoes. Ryan has a season-long unrequited crush on Jenna, and in another episode, Wilfred goads him into sabotaging her relationship with her dumb-jock boyfriend. Wilfred wants to help Ryan get what he wants, except when that conflicts with what Wilfred wants.
He's all id, pleasure-seeking with no thought of consequences. After all, he is a dog—motivated by pure animal instinct—and a lot of the show's humor comes from showing Wilfred doing what dogs naturally do. Piss everywhere. Sniff genitals. Chase motorcycles. Hump stuffed animals. (In this case, a "semen-encrusted" teddy named "Bear," who, over the course of the season, gets stuffed—you might say—in every position imaginable.) But since he appears in human form, and also does human stuff—smoking and drinking and eating junk food—he's basically the ultimate hedonist. If I had to guess, I'd say Wilfred is a manifestation of Ryan's subconscious, driving him to do what he otherwise might not, good or bad. It's a set-up that could get old quick, but the writing is wickedly sharp, with Ryan as the straight man, perpetually one step behind Wilfred and his manic schemes. Of which there are many.
Elijah Wood and Jason Gann have a great on-screen chemistry, which is obviously important since they're together in practically every scene. And although I was initially worried that Fiona Gubelmann's Jenna felt oddly underdeveloped as a character, the storylines in the second half of the season feature her much more prominently. What I didn't expect at all was the number of excellent surprise cameos, from Mary Steenburgen as Ryan's kooky mom and Rashida Jones as a cynical hospice employee, to The Office's Ed Helms as the perverted owner of a doggy daycare.
Each of the thirteen episodes is titled after its central theme—Trust, Acceptance, Respect, etc.—and the overarching narrative of the season gradually charts Ryan's psychological progression from a suicidal man-child loner with emotional baggage galore to a modestly well- adjusted adult. But this is still a guy who smokes weed with a talking dog, so I see plenty of room for growth in season two, which premiers on June 21st.
Wilfred: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Further proof of the continuing democratization of media: Wilfred is shot entirely with the Canon 7D, a prosumer-grade DSLR that you can buy off the shelf for about 1,500 bucks. Does the footage look as great as shows filmed with more expensive digital rigs, like the Red One? Not quite, but close. The 1080p/AVC-encoded episodes all have that distinctive DSLR-cinema look characterized by extremely shallow depth of field, but the quality of the image is generally excellent. Of course, there are the occasional quirks that you get with lots of low-cost digital cinematography—overblown highlights, aliasing on fine parallel lines, sometimes chunky source noise—but the issues are so infrequent and fleeting that you barely notice them. What you do notice is the all-around strong clarity and color reproduction, especially in light of the fact that the show is filmed with such inexpensive equipment. Ten years ago, amateur filmmakers on a budget couldn't even dream of shooting in high definition. Now, with a knowledgable DP, decent lighting, and some sharp lenses, anyone can produce a professional-looking picture. That's progress. Suffice it to say, Wilfred looks wonderful on Blu-ray.
Wilfred: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Each episode of Wilfred features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and as you'd expect from a low-budget dialogue-driven comedy, these are rather spartan, uninvolving mixes that do what they need to do and not much more. Don't get me wrong; there's nothing bad about these tracks. The dialogue is always easily understood, what little music there is in the show sounds fine, and there are no obvious audio-related flubs—no hissing, pops, crackles, or drop-outs. But that's about all there is to say. The rear channels barely get any action beyond extremely quiet ambience, and you can easily imagine the show's audio having a slightly more beefy presence. The discs include optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Wilfred: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Wilfred: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Wilfred has its predecessors—Mr. Ed and Harvey and Drop Dead Fred—but there's nothing quite like it on television right now. The show's crass black humor won't appeal to everyone, but if you're into absurdly over-the-top comedies like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Wilfred is definitely worth checking out. Although Fox's Blu-ray release of season one is light on special features—some commentary tracks would've been appreciated—the 2-disc set packs a lot of comedy bang for your buck. Recommended.
Wilfred: Other Seasons
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Wilfred: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Wilfred: The Complete First Season Blu-ray - April 11, 2012
This summer, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will bring Wilfred: The Complete First Season to Blu-ray. The darkly comedic television series, which premiered on FX last year, focuses on the relationship between depressed lawyer Ryan Newman (Elijah Wood, ...
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