David Zuckerman could become our newest hero:
by David Zuckerman
A good television show is, in many ways, like a real dog. Both require a lot of attention and love, and occasionally, despite their best intentions, they drop a deuce in your living room.
When I first laid eyes on the original Australian seriesWilfred, I loved co-creator Jason Gann‘s indelible performance as the title character, a man trapped in a dog’s body. But as funny and weird as the show was, it didn’t grab me on an emotional level. It wasn’t aboutanything, and at that point in my career I was looking to do something with more substance. Also, I’d already done two other shows with talking dogs and I didn’t want to look like a one-trick puppy.
Still, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. While the Aussie series centered on the irascible man-dog, I was more intrigued by the largely unexplored predicament of the human character, Adam (played by co-creator Adam Zwar). He was a low-key slacker who sees his girlfriend’s dog as a sketchy man in a cheap dog suit. Much to his bewilderment, everyone else sees just an ordinary dog.
How terrifying and lonely it would be to live with that kind of secret. Such a man might be so afraid of what people would think if they learned the truth that he’d likely become even more isolated and unable to make meaningful connections with others. His only choice would be to pretend he’s normal, to hide his authentic self from the world.
This was something that resonated with me. I had a turbulent childhood, and I learned at an early age that the best way to survive was just to pretend everything was fine. This, of course, is madness. Perhaps sometimes I fooled people, but more often I suspect I was perceived (accurately) as an angry, unhappy perfectionist.
With my trusty golden retriever, George, lying at my feet, I developed a new main character to whom I could relate. Ryan (Elijah Wood) was depressed, emotionally repressed, estranged from his family, and still suffering from some unspecified childhood trauma. For dramatic (and comedic) effect, we would meet him just as he was attempting suicide. (For the record, I have never done that, and while I often talk to dogs, they have never spoken to me.)