WATCH THIS: DOWNWARD DOG
So, I’m your typical hipster, cord-cut, prestige TV watcher. I don’t even have cable, bro! I like Mad Men and Better Call Saul and proclaim that I like The Leftovers. So when my mom, YES, MY MOM, recommended a talking dog sitcom on a Big Three Network (ABC), I was like, sure, Mother, I’ll get right on that. But then I did get right on that, because I am a good daughter and Mother’s Day was just a few weeks ago, and guess what? Downward Dog is great TV.
Downward Dog stars Allison Tolman as Nan, a career gal who works for an American Apparel type clothing store, with an American Apparel type douche-boss. Her dog, Martin, spends a lot of time talking to the camera. He doesn’t talk to Nan, because he is a dog, but he talks a lot. His mouth moves and everything. Nan has a man-friend, Jason (Lucas Neff), who is a stoner Jesus type. They’re very on and off, which is confusing to Martin the dog. Martin spends a lot of time home alone, as Nan lands a big campaign at work and has to pull extra hours. He is not happy with this. He thinks, hilariously, that she drives around in the car all day.
Nan is Martin's world, but he’s often unhappy with their relationship. He chews shoes and and her big presentation in a fit of pique. He thinks obedience training is couple’s counseling (and is maybe not far off). He loves her, but he feels the need to completely dominate her. He’s confused by her on again, off again relationship with Hipster Jesus, who seems to be a good guy if terminally chill. At the end of the first episode, a demon in the form of a cat, voiced in his dreams by Maria Bamford, taunts him with doubts about Nan’s love.
Nan is doing the best she can. She is trying to adjust to new responsibilities at work and figure out where her stoner boyfriend fits in. And she is good at her job. Her pitch (after Martin destroys her sellout presentation) was wonderful and MADE ME CRY! To top it off, her boss calls her Nan Draper after she knocks it out of the park. This is wonderful because I thought, “she’s pulling a total Don Draper here,” and then the show read my mind and made the reference for me! The work plots are great. Nan is neither super competent or incompetent. She stumbles but she recovers well.
Martin is intense and a bit of a jerk. I really like the way he is portrayed--not as an unconditionally loving dog, but as a dog who loves her and can be mad at her at the same time. My own dog is a total Martin. I feed him expensive dog food, but when I get ready to go to work to earn the money that buys it, he shuns me. He literally will not look at me as I get my things together to leave. This happens EVERY DAY! Every damned day I leave for work, my supposed best friend ignores me pointedly. (I happen to know that as soon as I go outside he runs to the window and watches me get in my car.) Now I know he thinks I drive around all day with my head out the window. No matter what happens between Nan and Martin, in the end, they love each other.
This show has aired two episodes and both have made me cry. When I checked in with my mom, I nearly cried in a store talking about it. Granted, I have an asshole dog that I love at home, so I’m the target audience. Consider your media diet: It can’t all be Game of Thrones and The Leftovers. You have to mix in some Mom-approved talking dog sitcom. Plus, it’s on Hulu, so you don’t have to like, get cable or put up an antenna or whatever regular TV watchers do.
Dogs can be jerks but they always love us. And we love them, even when we are preoccupied with work. It’s great and it makes me cry. You should be watching Downward Dog, but do it in a cool way, not on regular TV with commercials.