I approached the US remake of Wilfred with high expectation. As someone who had only seen a handful of episode of The Australian series, I wasn’t wildly invested in whether the show held up to the original (which I did like, quite a bit). Rather, I was simply interested in whether this US adaptation would be entertaining, funny, and deliver a series that I’d be keen to watch on a weekly basis? On all three counts, I offer a wildly enthusiastic ‘yes’.
The casting of the US version of the show is great, with Elijah Wood playing the human victim/friend of Wilfred. It’s wonderful to see that series co-creator Jason Gann has continued to play Wilfred, keeping his Australian accent. Not only does Gann deliver the comedy goods, but his foreign accent adds to a certain exotic oddness to the character of Wilfred. Elijah Wood, surprisingly, has some great comedy chops and manages to steal the show completely. This is no easy feat considering that he’s playing against a man in a raggedy dog costume.
While the comedy styling of Wilfred certainly isn’t for everyone, the only people I can see being genuinely dissapointed by the show will be those expecting it to be the original. It isn’t. The changes made to Wilfred are very similar to changes made to The Office when they transplanted it to the US. As evident from early episodes of The Office, a straight adaptation of the UK series simply did not work in a US environment. Once the show evolved and the writers made it their own, the show was imbued with the vitality and relevancy that the show desperately needed to work in a different culture. The same is at play here.
Wilfred is still a bit of a c*** with a negative attitude. While Wilfred is still keen to spend some time with a bong, the new version has him spending a lot less time on the couch in this new version (if the pilot is anything to go by). The energy levels of the series are also very different. With a change in location from dreary Melbourne to upbeat LA, the characters all have a little more zest.
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Story-wise, the world surrounding Wilfred is different. Elijah Wood is ‘Ryan’, a guy who is dissatisfied with his life. He’s at his happiest when we’re introduced to him – on the night he’s trying to commit suicide. The emergence of Wilfred brings a sense of unwanted excitement into his life, but it enables him to develop some confidence in his day-to-day life. Wilfred (US) also dispenses with the live-in love-interest. The original had ‘Adam’ move in with ‘Sarah’ at the beginning of the series, while the remake has ‘Ryan’ interested in next-door neighbour (and Wilfred owner) ‘Jenna’. They’re certainly not a couple in this series, though the show may head down that route in future.
Unlike Kath & Kim, the US adaptation of Wilfred has let him keep his bite. Wilfred (US) has a sharp and funny script, the cast are all pitch-perfect, and the tone of the show is spot-on. While not all the fans of the original will be on board for this remake, the show deserves the supportive critical reaction it’s recieved so far and will undoubtedly go on to find many more fans.
Wilfred premieres on Eleven at 9:30pm this Tuesday night.