I went into this series with high hopes and came out with a few disappointments to say the least. It’s clear that DOWNWARD DOG, is facing more challenges than it can bear in a pilot episode as a new comedy, but for better or worse it’s based on a web series of the same name. I’m not too sure that worked in it’s favor or will actually hurt the show but time will tell. It’s clear early on that the dog in part will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to humor.
There aren’t many talking animal live action shows on TV at the moment and this will either prove to work for the comedy or hurt it. Along with a few other archaic choices like going with a mockumentary style similar to the web version that are so overdone I’m a bit shocked they kept it as similar as the webseries. Even with a few web original being adapted for television there’s usually a significant change that differentiates the television show from the web series.
The best thing this show has going for itself is the cast and the lovable dog that really pull through the episode to keep you mildly entertained. The talking head device really does double duty as he shares his advice with the audience. The owner, Nan as her faults, but being unaware isn’t one of them. Whenever Ned, the likeable talking dog, address the camera he speaks so eloquently, his inner monologue proves to be worth listening too. His opinion on his own world and his humorous quips about his own life as a four-legged animal are laugh out loud funny.
His observations work in a way that brings a fresher take on a story that is continually told every year or so. Even with the misguided choices in this episode I still have to give credit back to the cast as Tolman carries the series. Her Nan is a marketing rep who’s indulges her dog a ton, even balking when a handsome trainer tells her Martin needs more discipline. The show begins to take shape as boundaries are set early on with not only her dog but her on-again/off-again boyfriend, Jason. Nan ends up doing what millions of people often do, she uses fills the space she wants her ex to fill with her dog. It’s interesting how their relationship unfolds in the episode and really gives insight to the smart musings of the dog which needs to make sense in a world that doesn’t make sense. I actually found myself relating to the dog in way that I wasn’t with his humans.
Nan’s story dovetails with her dog’s more often than not which does so in a way that isn’t noticeable and keeps the story moving forward. Her dog’s charming and unconditional love factors into her work life quite a bit as she quickly admits that Martin could use some boundaries she also refers to her ex. The balance between the dog’s point of view and the humans isn’t there at all as we stay in dog’s POV much longer than expected. Her frustrations with her personal and work life could have been much more relatable since as the root of the problem they are but the show somehow missed the mark.
Furthermore, Downward Dog has to spark some sort of balance as a person can only follow a dog’s point of view for so long before we realize that it really just is a dog. The cast shouldn’t be ignored as they have the comedy chops to pull off this show but with the lack of balance and low stakes, the show could be over before it even gets started. There’s a reason Martin appears so much because he takes up a lot of Nan’s emotional life which extends to the overall series. It’s clear that Nan and her dog have both saved each other as with most emotional stories about a rescue dog and it’s owner. The heart of the story is there and just waiting to get to the surface and I hope it does.
What did you think of Downward Dog? Will you be tuning in for the next episode?
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Downward Dog airs Wednesday at 8PM on ABC
Jerrica Long | Contributor