It seems that absolutely anything good on TV or at the cinema outside of the US eventually gets picked up on by those unimaginative execs and remade for a Stateside audience. Well, sure enough, you may have seen the Elijah Wood-starring HBO remake of this surreal tale of one man and his dog, though chances are you might not have seen the original, brilliant, Australian series.
Based on an award-winning comedy short by series writers and stars Jason Gann and Adam Zwar, Wilfred follows unemployed sap Adam, who unexpectedly finds himself lucky in love when he meets the attractive Sarah (Cindy Waddingham) at a Powderfinger concert. However, Adam’s luck soon runs out when he meets Sarah’s dog, Wilfred, whom apparently only he can see in his real form: as a human adult dressed in a dog costume.
Wilfred, a foul-mouthed, unnecessarily aggressive pain-in-the-arse with issues, then makes it his ongoing goal to make Adam’s life a misery.
Of course, this revelation prompts Adam to question his sanity along with quite how much he’ll put up with to stay together with Sarah and all sorts of weird and weirder situations ensue as Wilfred effortlessly flits between absurdity, black comedy and slapstick. All the while, nobody else seems able to see what Adam can, making for endless potential for ridiculousness.
Surprisingly, Wilfred’s real strength isn’t in its carefully unpredictable tone; it actually lies in the perfect characterisation of the three leads. Adam is a bit pathetic; a nice guy who is liable to crack under pressure, but he truly loves Sarah, who loves him too, though beneath her dream girl veneer is ultimately, well, a little bit mad, following the death of her previous boyfriend.
Wilfred himself is gruff, but also loves Sarah and has good reasons for his ‘issues’. Obviously (it will be obvious once you’ve seen it), the show is quietly hilarious, but by investing so much in making the characters believable, with real motivations, the audience is actually capable of caring for them, despite the obvious high-concept silliness, which is no mean feat.
Unusually for a sitcom as funny as this, 2010’s second season fully maintains the quality of 2007’s first and even improves on it, with some great insight into Wilfred’s mentality alongside a few brilliantly dark moments ensuring any hint of saccharine is immediately brushed aside.
Ending after a mere 16 episodes, then, this is one of those other rare sitcoms that join the likes of Fawlty Towers, I’m Alan Partridge and The Office in that esteemed ‘two series of perfection’ category.
Released on DVD on Monday 12th March 2012 by Fabulous Films.
Watch a clip…