Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wilfred The Complete First Season bounds onto Blu-ray

FX's Wilfred was one of the big surprises from last summer. A much-changed American remake of a popular Australian show, it's about a guy named Ryan (Elijah Wood) who, after a failed suicide attempt, begins seeing his neighbor's dog, Wilfred (creator of both versions, Jason Gann), as a man in a dog suit. This dog smokes pot and encourages Ryan to do illegal things, causing trouble. Or does he? Maybe Wilfred is just getting Ryan out of his comfort zone, so that Ryan can improve as a person.

No one else sees Wilfred a man. This can create some issues when Ryan interacts with Wilfred a little too naturally in public. And Wilfred himself spends a lot of time acting like a dog, from humping teddy bears to digging holes, though he usually uses a shovel to do the latter. So the line between reality and fiction is pretty fuzzy.

Obviously this is the recipe for a comedy, and Wilfred is that, albeit, a very strange one. However, it's also the kind of mix that opens up a bunch of philosophical questions, forcing one to confront questions about oneself. What does it mean to be crazy? Is Ryan insane, or is he just freed from the shackles of conventionality? What should a person want out of life? What should one do to get what one wants? Does pot destroy your brain?

None of these questions are answered in The Complete First Season, which may make the show a bit inaccessible to a widespread audience. Viewers aren't accustomed to thinking too deeply about television, especially in the comedy vein. Without knowing what the series is really about or what is going on, it turns into a strange presentation. Perhaps fans will commit to such mysteries on a series like Lost, but will they do the same for a cable half hour?

Obviously, Wilfred did something right, earning itself a second season, which is currently airing Thursday evenings. It could be the talent of Wood and Gann, who ably carry what is basically a two-man buddy show. It could be the writing, intelligent and witty. It could be the absurd situations Ryan finds himself in, which are the hallmark of any sitcom, and which Wilfred crafts well. Or perhaps the mystery really does draw people in and make them want to keep watching, hoping that someday Wilfred will get around to explaining its conceit.

Each episode has a one word title, which explains an emotion or character trait that is explored within. Among the highlights of the first season: "Happiness," the pilot that kicks off all the craziness; "Trust," in which Ryan learns that Wilfred may have ulterior motives for his actions; "Acceptance," where Ed Helms (The Office) plays a creepy doggy daycare owner; "Pride," which features Wilfred forcing Ryan into a relationship so that he can have his own tryst; "Anger," where Wilfred acts possessed; "Compassion," in which Ryan's mother, Catherine (Mary Steenburgen, Bored to Death), who is also nutty and sees a woman in a cat suit (Rhea Perlman, Cheers), is introduced; and "Identity," the finale that questions if anything viewers have been watching is even really happening.

Besides the mentioned actors, Wilfred has a rich guest cast of recurring characters that really help the high quality impression the show gives off. The series co-stars Fiona Gubelmann as Wilfred's owner and object of Ryan's affection, Jenna, and Dorian Brown as Ryan's controlling sister, Kristen. Additionally, in smaller roles, Chris Klein (American Pie) plays Jenna's boyfriend with anger management problems, Ethan Suplee (My Name is Earl) is a scary neighbor, and John Michael Higgins is Ryan's mom's somewhat unethical doctor.

For a show about being the best person one can be, many of the characters featured are not good people. Is this an excuse to make Wilfred and Ryan not seem as bad as they are? Or are these negative images offered up as excuses to get into amusing situations?

The two disc set of Wilfred The Complete First Season has a handful of special features. Six minutes of Wilfred's Comic Con panel is enlightening, showcasing the cast, especially Wood, speaking about the process of making the show. Even better is the ten minute "Fox Movie Channel Presents Life After Film School With Jason Gann," which has Gann talking lovingly about his creation. There are also fifteen minutes of deleted scenes, many of them, thankfully, from the episode "Compassion."

Less valuable are two featurettes that are basically sixty second mash-ups of clips. "Wilfred & Bear: A Love Affair" is just a bunch of sex scenes between the two, while "Mary Jane Mash-Up" shows some humorous moments had under the influence of drugs. Neither is very valuable, being too short to justify whipping them out at a party, and having no value for any other setting.

Overall, it's an entertaining and original series, even if the special features are a little lacking. Buy Wilfred The Complete First Season, on sale now.

Check out my new website,  Click here to read every review of Wilfred I've ever written. If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Article first published as Wilfred The Complete First Season bounds onto Blu-ray on

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