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, 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 remains in the role, 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. Wood, surprisingly, has some great comedy chops and manages to steal the show completely — no easy feat considering 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 disappointed will be those expecting it to be the original. It isn’t. The changes made to Wilfred are similar to changes made to The Office when it was transplanted 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, it was imbued with the vitality and relevancy it desperately needed to work in a different culture. The same is at play here.
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.
Unlike Kath and Kim, the US adaptation of Wilfred has let him keep his bite. It 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 received so far and will undoubtedly go on to find many more fans.
The details: Wilfred premieres on Eleven at 9.30 tonight.