TV

Blu-ray Review: ‘Wilfred: The Complete First Season’ Is No Dog

Whether or not Wilfred is real or a figment of series protagonist Ryan’s imagination is kind of, strictly speaking, beside the point. Ryan (Elijah Wood) isn’t an especially nice person and the Australian in the shaggy dog suit, Wilfred (Jason Gann) simply provides convenient cover for that. And that’s at the core of what makes this comic fantasy on FX work so well—as played by Wood, Ryan is a twitchy character who might not be screwed in all the way, and now that he’s talking to his (maybe) imaginary dog friend, who knows what he’ll do next?

The series is a remake of the Australian import of the same name created by Gann, and it revolves around Ryan’s misadventures as he tries to suss out what to do with his life after his largely unwanted legal career collapses. Wilfred is a dog of indeterminate breed who belongs to Ryan’s cute and sweet neighbor Jenna (Fiona Giblemann), a local newscaster who Ryan has his eye on. Wilfred often articulates all of Ryan’s lofty and sometimes grubby little desires and offers to “help” him in a largely manipulative fashion. But it’s hard to tell what Wilfred wants or what his end goal is. You’d want to call Ryan hapless in this situation, but Wood plays the character as wanting to stay medicated with pot, looking for direction, and way too trusting of his (possibly) imaginary friend.

I’m describing a show that’s pretty dark because for the most part, it is, although it just happens to be really, really funny. Gann and Wood have a terrific rapport in the show, the man in the dog suit subtly and not so subtly pushing the man-child to get off the couch and engage the world—or, you know, not. Wilfred the character is complicated and slippery in his own way, and he might not have Ryan’s best interests at heart. Wilfred is all id, humping anything that moves (one of the show’s real successes is translating dog behavior through Gann) , promising Ryan some kind of erstwhile enlightenment if the latter would simply follow the latter’s lead. That results in property damage, humiliation, possible murder, and in one case, false imprisonment of a small child.

The season ends on a grim note as Ryan seizes control of his life and wreaks havoc on those around him, so with the premiere of season two on the way tonight, it’s tough not to be intrigued by what sort of twisted and strange direction the next season will take.

Special Features

If you wanted a mix of all of the pot references in the series, you’re in luck: the set includes a “Mary Jane Mash-up” montage which features just that. Similarly, there’s “Wilfred & Bear: A Love Story” which compiles all of the scenes of Wilfred making sweet, horrible romance to a stuffed animal, along with the FX featurette “Life After Film School With Jason Gann.” The whole package is rounded out with Wilfred at Comi-Con.

It would have been nice to have some commentaries included here or maybe even an episode of the the original series to check out for comparison, and as it stands, the collection of features here is kind of slim.

Wilfred: The Complete First Season is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD now. Season two premieres on FX tonight at 10 PM EST.

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