Give A Dog A Bone

With Angry Boys turning out to be the stinker we’ve been predicting since 2009, the nation’s focus has started to shift to…

– sorry, you though this was another Angry Boys gripe-session? Don’t worry, we’ll let you know when we start our serious “hate to say I told you so” singalong for Lilley’s latest effort. In the meantime, why not enjoy the sight of The Age (which has been loving on Lilley since 2005 without pause or breath) being forced to consider the idea that Angry Boys just might not be any good. And even then, they have to provide “balance” by making sure to enclude “for” and “against” – clearly just running an “gee, maybe it’s not that good” story is beyond them. Especially as then they might have to explain why they thought it was going to be amazing in the first place.

Anyway, the focus has started to shift to the next big hope in Australian comedy: a US import. That’s right, things are so grim at the moment that the immanent arrival of the US remake of Wilfred – a SBS sitcom not exactly watched by millions – is news is a way that the US remakes of, say, Kath & Kim or Sit Down Shut Up never were.

We’re generally of the opinion that the more attention comedy gets the better, so this in itself isn’t a bad thing to us. It may be an increasingly funny thing to us if the show tanks in the US, as Australia is getting it at roughly the same time so there’s zero buffer for Ten (who is showing it here) if the US pulls the plug. But having it promoted? Fine with us. Especially as it largely involves Jason Gann yammering away about his big plans for making it big, which is always fun. Take this choice quote:

“Because I played two very identifiable characters in Australia, it was difficult for me to start anything new; I was almost a prisoner to my character,”

What, he was a guy in a dog suit in a show hardly anyone saw and a mumbling sportsman on two shows almost no-one watched? We’re not talking Garry McDonald trying to escape Norman Gunston here. We’re not even talking Garry McDonald trying to escape that guy he played in Love is a Four Letter Word. Oh, unless Gann means he was a prisoner to his actual, non-acting character. Guess he must mean his series of assault charges. Yeah, that could make it difficult for him to start something new.

Anyway, what is interesting in a non-tabloid way about this new Wilfred is the way it’s being promoted. If you remember the original, it was the product of a writing / creative team: Gann (who also played Wilfred the dog) and Adam Zwar (who also played the gormless victim of Wilfred’s surly, bong-smoking torments). Gann went to the US to further his career after his mockumentary Mark Loves Sharon fizzled, while Zwar stayed in Australia to write for everything under the sun including his own ABC series Lowdown. Gann took Wilfred with him to the US and is reprising his role for the remake. Zwar, as far as the remake is concerned, has been erased from the history books.

In pretty much all the articles we’ve seen, Zwar doesn’t get a look-in. We’re not talking about television interviews with Gann: even the print articles on the new version are blanking him. Worse, the official press release doesn’t mention him (even Renegade Films Australia, who produced the original series, get a listing as executive producers). In fact, Jason Gann’s complete credits are “[playing] Wilfred / created by / co-executive producer”.

It’s kind of obvious that Zwar and Gann aren’t working together and may never work together again: whether they just grew apart or this is another “funnyman feud” we don’t know.  And we know absolutely nothing about the behind-the-scenes wheelings and dealings here, apart from reading a couple of articles where it’s said that Zwar gave Wilfred to Gann with his blessing – we don’t even know if money changed hands between the two, though you’d like to think so as there’d have to have been a bit of coin thrown around by the US production companies at some stage.

What we do know is that Wilfred was based on a short film made by Gann and Zwar, who’d been working together as team for a fair while. They made a feature length film together (Rats & Cats) and they were both hired to work on a sketch show (The Wedge) prior to Wilfred getting up on SBS. If the US version was completely brand new and its own unique creation, that’s one thing. But it’s not. It’s based on an Australian show made by two people working together, and – to us at least – it feels a little unfair that the other half of the team is being airbrushed out of the picture.

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4 Comments

  • James says:

    In fairness the US end credits name the THREE creators of the Australian original – you left out Tony Rogers.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Thanks – we hadn’t seen the actual show at the time of writing. Our bad for overlooking Rogers

  • JohnP says:

    I kind of admired The Wedge as an attempt to explore outer suburban life as it is actually lived in all it’s drab bogan pop-culture glory, with a broader canvas than Kath & Kim. Just wish it had been a bit stronger overall. I stuck with it mainly for the superb Mark Wary press conferences, consistently one of the funniest things I’ve seen on Oz TV. The Mark Loves Sharon spin-off was awful, unfortunately.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Much as The Wedge had many, many, many failings, the basic idea of an outer-suburbs comedy series aimed at teens was a pretty solid one. It’d be great to know more about the behind-the-scenes there, because clearly it did well enough for a second series to be made – only they shoved in a lot more “adult” material (that is, mild swearing, “dark” comedy and pointless smut) and stuck it on at random times. What happened there?