Where it all began: Wilfred.

Wilfred, Short Film by Jason Gann,  Tropfest Finalist 2009.

An essay on the adaptability of mutts and TV hybrids.

Wilfred is the same age as my bitza and like him is still going strong.

This video shows Wilfred as a precocious delinquent pup  in the  short film that started it all a decade ago.

The young Wilfred

Wilfred, now fully grown, has starred in several seasons of  his own Australian and American TV show, and is still a rogue okker dog unchanged by Hollywood success.

That’s dogs for you.

I’m wondering though if the program is reaching its full potential? For starters, is it attracting enough dog lovers? I can check at the local dog park to get a take on whether dog lovers in my part of the world watch it (they ALL watch Inspector Rex – dogs and owners), but I’ll have to visit some dog blogs or get some feedback here to find out if American dog lovers watch it.

Nielsen Ratings suggest the program is already a hit in the USA – a strong performer for FX, which has been climbing in ratings due to smart programming and several ‘appointment TV’ shows like Wilfred.

Wilfred Ratings September 14th 2012 – FX cable channel, 10.00 pm 0.642 million viewers, 0.3 million Adults 18-49. This is up there for a 10 pm time-slot.

And let’s face it the 18-34 yo male viewer is very attractive to advertisers.

But people love dogs too. And people would surely love Wilfred if they only got to know him.

Perhaps there could be a cross-promotion episode with Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer.

Cesar Millan – in training for a guest appearance on Wilfred

Cesar visits Jenna to show her how to manage Wilfred’s behavior (sic – US spelling). Wilfred wants to bite the c’….

What? Jenna is puzzled. Who told Cesar her Wilfie has issues? Some paranoid,  jealous……Australian. Adam? ( the boyfriend from Aust. series). No. The identity of the dobber * will remain Cesar’s secret for now and a festering bone of contention for Wilfred to chew over, revealed at the end of the episode. We’ll have to sit through some ads to get to that.

* dobber  – Australian slang for snitch, informant, traitor.

Cesar takes Wilfred for a long walk with his own dogs to show Jenna a few tricks. Wilfred’s response? He says to camera – “It’s not ideal”.

But  now, for the scene we all want to see. No – not that one.

Jenna must test her new Wilfred-whispering techniques by walking him past the rusty mesh fence of a junkyard and a mean SOB junkyard dog. Obligatory scene/dog in every American ‘coming of age’ film. The junkyard dog (JD) is huge but all muscle, lean – hungry looking. You can see his heaving ribs through the coat of his massive chest. He slobbers, shoestrings of drool, and shows off enormous glistening fangs. The hairs on his neck bristle.

Junkyard dog

Jenna is worried, looks at Cesar. Cesar’s hair bristles. Actually it always does.

Cesar looks at Wilfred, then raises one quizzical eyebrow to the camera (us).

Wilfred? He saunters past the beast and is his usual self. Casual. Unperturbed.By contrast he looks…..soft, floppy, cuddly.

JD snarls with contempt – “Pussy!”

Wilfie ignores the goading. Flustered, JD spits out  “You….you, quiche-eating lap dog”.

Wilfie walks on.   “Pyjama-eater” JD sneers.  No response. JD has never seen such a goofy soft-toy mummy’s dog in his life. He goads again – “Hey you …why are you so fat?”   Wilfie promptly replies – Because every time I hump your missus she gives me a biscuit”.

JD goes OFF, slams himself against the  fence, clawing and savaging the wire in a barking frenzy.  Wilfred continues walking.

Of course only the dogs have heard Wilfred’s provocative sledge. The only guys who can hear Wilfred speak are Ryan (and Adam), who aren’t there. Gotta love dramatic irony.

Jenna beams with pride. Good BOY Wilfie – GOOD DOG – and rubs him all over affectionately. Wilfred smirks.  Cesar winks at Jenna and at the camera – then whispers to the rabid dog  “I’ll be back for you in another episode”. This is lost on the dog – in spite of its huge  ‘all the better to hear you with” wolf ears – because only humans (with cable TV subscription) can hear Cesar speaking.

They arrive back home just in time for the ‘REVEAL”.  They’re about to meet the ‘dobber’. Someone is climbing out of a tinted limo.  Jenna strains to see. A low growl from Wilfred. Out of the car climbs an unimpressive, ordinary guy. No, I dont mean Ryan. And it’s not Adam either.  “Who the f’ are you?” Wilfred says (and it’s what Jenna and all of us are thinking). It’s Kevin. A random. A disgruntled Australian Wilfred fan – one of the many who were devoted to Wilfred, the real Wilfred, and can’t get over what’s happened to the American version.

Wilfred wants to bite the ‘c…’.

Jenna is bored. Cesar wants Jenna to show Kevin how she manages Wilfred’s behavior. They  walk off down the street together with Wilfred  followed by cameras, sound recordist, animal wranglers nd a long and happy trail of dog fanatics, Millan fans, Furries, Latino viewers and reps from Science Diet and Novartis (the company that makes clomicalm, doggy prozac) seeking product placement deals.

Hmm..If Wilfred, in a future (sponsored) episode is prescribed clomicalm, will this interact with his cannabis intake? That dilemma will prepare the way for a future episode,  a cross-over with Bondi Vet. Wilfred has a psychotic ‘episode’ in an episode that is set in Australia where he is treated by the spectacular Dr Chris, a guy who would make any show rate its socks off. This will attract the 18-55 females, including grocery buyers, and the gay male audience. If the Australian shoot is well timed, it could culminate in Wilfred sharing a float with Dr Chris in the Mardi Gras parade.

Bondi Vet/ Bondi Rescue/Wilfred hybrid episode – Dr Chris with lap dog.
Chris to treat Wilfred when he freaks out on Bondi Beach. He asks “was it the hydroponic weed or the mix – the weed and the PetMeds – that triggered Wilfred’s episode?

Sneak preview.

Episode 17 : Jenna takes Wilfred to Australia to help locate his birth mother (Wilfred’s bogus excuse to travel to Australia) . When Jenna is welcomed by Bondi Lifesavers, Wilfred hangs out with some surfers who are huge fans (the Australian show only). He smokes hydroponic dope with them and later freaks out. This creates a scene which is attended by Lifesavers from Bondi Rescue  who then contact Bondi Vet (same network 10- cross promotion).

Quote from Tropfest site: Interview with Jason Gann – man inside the suit and the idea.

10 years on from your Tropfest debut – and wins for Best Comedy and Best Actor – what opportunities did Tropfest open up for you as a filmmaker starting out in the industry? 

A. It put me on the Australian map and opened doors as an actor, writer and producer. Now I’m an executive producer and star of a TV series in the Hollywood. Were it not for Tropfest recognizing our short I wouldn’t be still wearing a dog suit ten years later… hang on… so that’s Tropfest’s fault!!

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