Comic-Con Interview: Former ‘Wilfred’ Showrunner David Zuckerman on Giving Up Control and How the New Season is a Different “Vision”

david-zuckerman-wilfred-comic-conComic-Con: For the first two seasons of Wilfred, a show that is the story of Ryan (Elijah Wood) who can talk to his neighbors dog (Jason Gann),  David Zuckerman was the man in charge. As the showrunner, he brought the show and created it for American audiences and steered the massive ship each season.

But at the beginning of season 3, he decided to give up the reigns and let writers Eli Jorne and Reed Agnew move up the ranks. As showrunners, they’ve made Wilfred, a bit less dark, still funny, but not the black comedy we all came to expect from the show about a man who can talk to a dog.

Not that that’s a bad thing. As Zuckerman said, “It’s just a really different vision.”

He’s still got his hands in the mix though. He reads every script and is still “very involved” in the show. But, he is loving that he’s got a normal life now.

I talked to David (who is Casting Director Dori Zuckerman‘s brother) in a roundtable interview at Comic-Con where he talked about giving up control of the show and how this new season is different in his eyes. 

Wilfred airs on Thursday’s at 10 on FX

How much easier is your life now that you’re not the main guy?

David Zuckerman: The word infinitely doesn’t seem to really do it justice. It’s been nice. I went in every day and I still was very involved in the show, but I was able to actually turn it off and spend some time with my family and have a life and that’s what I needed this year.

And it’s been sort of a mixed bag, it’s been great to have more time to work on other things and just take it easy. But it’s also been hard to, you know, to not be the guy. I’m somewhat of a control freak and Wilfred is an incredibly personal show for me. So I love Reed and Eli and I’m glad that they were able to, you know, they’ve been there since the beginning and there was nobody else that I would’ve felt comfortable handing the show to.

But, yeah, it’s mixed feelings. On the one hand it’s like, “Oh, I’m not there. I don’t have to…” and then the other time it’s, “I’m not there. What are they doing?” You know?

You get all of the scripts. Do you still read everything?

David Zuckerman: Oh, yeah. I mean, I was there when we were breaking the stories. It wasn’t like I wasn’t involved or present. So I knew what all the stories were and I gave my input. I tried to shape it as best I could to keep it true to the show as I know it.

But ultimately, it was theirs to put their stamp on and I think the show is a little different this year. It seems… maybe I’m the one who notices the difference more than the general public does, but I’m curious to… it’s been interesting to read the fan and the reviews you guys have written. Some people have noticed some of the things that I’ve noticed and some people haven’t, so as long as people are still enjoying the show.

Ultimately we all want the same thing which is a good, successful show.

What do you think those differences are?

David Zuckerman: I would say to me the biggest difference is in the first two seasons we really focused on what was going on in Ryan’s head. We always approached the show from where’s Ryan at emotionally and what’s going on with Ryan, and I think that there was less emphasis on that this season and more emphasis on what’s going on in Wilfred’s head. I think Wilfred had more of his own life and his own existence. I think Wilfred became a little less menacing perhaps, a little less dangerous, and I think that was done in the name of comedy. I think there was an attempt to make the show funnier this year while still maintaining some of the depth and complexity but maybe making it a little more accessible in the hopes of attracting a larger audience. That’s what I would say the differences are.

Do you feel like you had to compromise on anything?

David Zuckerman: I think it’s just really a different vision, you know? It’s still the same show, but I think it just has sort of a different emphasis and I think it was a really interesting experiment and I also think that for a show in its third season, it’s not a terrible thing to try to reinvent it a little bit and to try to enliven it with different elements. The show isn’t exactly what I wanted it to be because I wasn’t the show writer. Am I happy with the result? Yeah. I am. I just… it’s just different.

Does that answer the question? I’m not gonna go all Dan Harmon on the show and…

Do you think the show has improved with the changes?

David Zuckerman: I just think it’s different. It’s like saying which child do you love more? You love your children differently but you love them both. And I think that there’s a lot of things that I really like about this season and there’s a lot of things that I really love about the previous seasons. I think the show is really good.

Reed and Eli were incredibly brave to step up and try to take over, not only take over the show but still have me there looking over their shoulder because I think they wanted to be true to the show, they wanted me to like the show still. I didn’t make their job easy this year, they’ll tell you that. I challenged them and I think we did… they did an amazing job. I think they did an extraordinary job and I think the show is really funny this year and I think that as it goes on we get a little bit more of the depth and complexity and the finale is pretty mind boggling.

Has it been difficult to with Elijah going off an making movies?

David Zuckerman: No. When Elijah does our show he’s 100% on our show. I don’t know how he does… I don’t know how he stays so busy. Well, he’s young. Right? But, no, when he starts the show he’s 100% on. He’s in virtually every shot of every episode, so he’s there for the whole 12 weeks. He’s amazing.

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