Wilfred the new American import starring Elijah Wood started on BBC3 last week (Tuesdays, 22:30). The thirteen part series follows the lives of Ryan (Elijah Wood) and his neighbour’s dog Wilfred (Jason Gann), the twist being that Ryan sees Wilfred as an Australian man in a dog suit whilst everyone else just sees him as a dog.
David Zuckerman the Showrunner and Executive Producer of Family Guy, created this American adaptation of an Australian television series. Obvious parallels can be drawn between Family’s Guy’s white labrador Brian (“Who do you have to hump to get a dry martini around here?”) and the less cultured Wilfred (“part labrador retriever part Russell Crowe on a bender” according to Zuckerman). But can an offbeat take on Dr Dolittle - where the protagonist can not only walk with the animals and talk with the animals but also smoke bongs, drink Bud and pull birds with the animals – really work?
The pilot kicks the series off with confidence and a laudable lack of exposition. At the end of the first episode we know very little about Ryan, but you can tell a great deal about a man who makes a suicide shake with reduced fat milk and writes four drafts of the accompanying note. The same goes for Wilfred whose Australian accent, despite having been uprooted to middle America, explains a lot (bar his predilection for Matt Damon flicks). The humour is smart, the concept high and the central relationship great fun.
Unapologetically absurd, the series scores points for not trying to explain or justify the premise – you either go with it or you don’t. However, it is this quirky concept that is both Wilfred’s doing and its undoing. It’s great to hear from the voiceless domestic pet and Wilfred, like a smutty Garfield, tells it like it is. But can thirteen episodes be sustained on this unusual point of access alone? With the first two episodes ‘Happiness’ and ‘Trust’ already feeling repetitive in places, could this be a one trick puppy? The series is based on Gann's 2002 short film http://video.tvguide.com/Wilfred/Short+Film/702849 and feels more suited to this territory or as a one-off feature. So... does this mutt have legs? I, for one, will continue watching to find out.