Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wilfred: Season One DVD Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Wilfred is about a young man, “Ryan” (Wood), struggling unsuccessfully to make his way in the world until he forms a unique friendship with “Wilfred” (Gann), his neighbor’s pet dog. Everyone else sees Wilfred as just a dog, but Ryan sees a crude and somewhat surly, yet irrepressibly brave and honest Australian bloke in a cheap dog suit. Series regulars also include Fiona Gubelmann as “Jenna,” Ryan’s beautiful neighbor and Wilfred’s owner, and Dorian Brown as “Kristen,” Ryan’s uptight sister.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

If you’re wondering if this show is what it seems – the answer is yes.  It’s about a lonely guy who is friends with a dog.  Everyone else sees the dog as a dog, except this one guy who can hear him, speak to him and sees him as a grown man.  In one of the features Jason Gann appropriately describes it as “Donne Darko meets Russell Crowe on a bender.”  Wilfred is the American version of an Australian show starring Elijah Wood as the main character Ryan.  Ryan is depressed and his life is spiraling downwards.  He was recently a lawyer but is now unemployed.  The season begins with a suicide attempt.  Ryan’s sister Kristen is a doctor and gives him pills for his anxiety.  Knowing it’s unethical to prescribe medicine to a family member; Kristen actually gives Ryan sugar pills, hoping the placebo effect will help him.

Ryan has a beautiful blonde next door neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) who asks him to watch her dog Wilfred (Jason Gann).  Wilfred appears to be a normal dog to the rest of the world, but Ryan sees him as a grown man in a dog suit who speaks to him.  Ryan immediately thinks he is having a hallucination brought on by the prescription his sister gave him.  He learns that the sugar pills could not be the cause and can come up with no other plausible explanation.  Ryan begins talking with Wilfred and the two become friends.  As he begins spending time with Wilfred, Ryan finally starts feeling good again. Wilfred does all the things a normal dog would do – plays catch, digs in the yard, and fears the vacuum cleaner.  He also does a lot of things a human would do – he also plays mind games with people and smokes pot.

Throughout the season, Wilfred gets Ryan into a lot of trouble.  He breaks into a neighbor’s house, steals the man’s marijuana and takes a dump in the man’s shoe.  While volunteering at hospice Wilfred falls asleep with a patient who dies and he gets a reputation for being able to sense death.  When people expect him to repeat the gesture, Ryan isn’t sure if the next woman died of natural causes or was smothered with a pillow by Wilfred.  Wilfred plays a lot of mind games, saying he killed her, and then saying “just kidding.”  In season one, we meet Ryan’s mother who has been in a mental institution for 20 years.   Ryan has a lot of contact with his the season continues.  

It’s easy to see why Ryan has grown up to be a less than stable adult.  Eventually Ryan starts to grow weary of Wilfred’s games and questions whether or not he’s really talking to Wilfred at all.  He continues to pine for Wilfred’s owner Jenna despite her boyfriend Drew (Chris Klein).  The season began with Ryan trying to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. His sister, Kristen, knowing that giving out pills to family members is unethical, decides to give him sugar pills without him knowing. At first, he does not know and thinks that Wilfred is just a hallucination, then after a visit from his sister, he finds out about the sugar pills, and therefore it is unknown exactly why only Ryan sees Wilfred the way he is.

Wilfred is certainly unique.  A lot of the discussions about “dog things” are kind of interesting.  To hear a dog verbalize how he’s afraid his owner won’t come back, or how frustrating it is when a kid pretends to throw the ball,  is more compelling than I expected.  There is a lot about the show I like but there are a lot of holes in the story – which at this point are just unexplained items, not necessarily things left out. 

I think Ryan jumped very quickly into the idea that he’s talking to a dog.  It’s never clear if he’s just crazy.  The end of the season hints at an answer to that question but with this show, you never know.  I’m used to seeing Elijah Wood as a hobbit, so this is certainly a much different role and I think he plays it well.  At the end of season one, I’m honestly not sure what I think about season one.  I feel like I really need all the information to judge the show (all seasons) in its entirety.  In general, most television is the same stuff recycled over and over.  When a unique show comes along it’s often the first to be cancelled.  I hope cancellation is not in Wilfred’s immediate future.  I haven’t checked yet, it may have been cancelled already.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Wilfred is presented on DVD in widescreen 1.78:1 ratio.  For a television show on DVD, the show looks pretty good.  Flesh tones are consistent and detail is clear both in natural sun light and in the interior basement.  Based on the video quality of the DVD I would guess the Blu ray looks pretty good.  Wilfred’s fur, in particular shows quite a bit of detail and texture.

Audio (3 out of 5 stars)

Wilfred is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound with subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.  This mix is decent but nothing spectacular. The front channels offer dialogue that is clear and intelligible but the rear channels aren't used too much.  The sound effects and the music are well balanced with the rest of the mix.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars) 

I enjoyed the Comic-Con feature and the Fox Movie Channel interviews.  The rest of the features are very brief and have little substance.
  • Mary-Jane Mashup – a few drug related scenes.
  • Deleted Scenes – A collection of deleted and extended scenes.
  • Wilfred & Bear a Love Affair – A short look at Wilfred and his relationship/abuse of Bear.
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents Life After Film School with Jason Gann – Three students interview Jason Gann on the Fox television show.
  • Wilfred at Comic-Con 2011 – The Wilfred panel at Comic Con featuring Elijah Wood and Jason Gann.

Final Thoughts (3 out of 5 stars)

Every episode beings with an opening quote and the title of that episode is a word from that quote. Surprisingly I was enjoying reading the quotes and was looking forward to the next one.  If anyone has any misconceptions about this being for children, let me warn you that it contains adult content.  There are some really good guest stars including Ed Helms – but if you let your children watch this show they will learn profanity, and unacceptable uses for peanut butter. This is a very unique show that pleasantly surprised me and I think it deserves at least a season two to develop a little more.

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