Monday, 8 May 2017

Downward Dog | Review (ABC)

ABC's new talking dog comedy is a creative triumph 

Almost a year has passed since ABC ordered their talking dog sitcom Downward Dog, based on the webseries of the same name. However, this month audiences will now have the chance to revel in this show's adorable weirdness whilst they still have the chance...

The reason why I said "whilst they still have the chance" is because it seems like ABC, led by Channing Dungey, have much confidence in the show. Despite Downward Dog being a 'favourite among ABC brass' during pilot season last year, the show has been relegated to summer (outside of the regular Fall-to-Spring schedule) and I can understand why

Downward Dog is unlike anything on network television at the moment. It has a natural indie approach to storytelling - from its dark and quirky humour, the sombre hipster soundtrack to the cold pastel colours of the set. These features would make the show a fantastic addition to the Sundance film festival but in a sitcom landscape dominated by The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, it may make some viewers feel uneasy and possible quite bored.

However, those who do check out the show are sure to fall in love with its natural sincerity and wit. In the show, Nan (Allison Tolman) recently breaks up with her boyfriend, Jason (Lucas Neff), and immerses herself in her work at Clark and Bow Outfitters, where she has worked for six years. This leaves her philosophising dog, Martin (Sam Hodges), at home and lonely. He cannot express his feelings to her, so he destroys things around the house such as her favourite boots. After months of not being productive at work, Nan finally creates an inspired presentation, only to have it also destroyed by Martin. One session at obedience school makes them realise that, even at their worst, they may be the best thing for each other.

The plot line is somewhat expected and the non-talking dog elements of the show (i.e. scenes focusing on Nan at work) are fairly generic in a hipster Sundance type of way but still manage to be entertaining. Overall, Downward Dog is undoubtedly the best of this seasons high concept comedies (Son of Zorn, Making History, Imaginary Mary) because it uses its gimmick effectively, has genuinely funny moments and hits genuine emotional beats. 

I want nothing more than to see Downward Dog succeed but it is hard to watch the show and not think about its future. The show would be better suited for a cable network (FX would love something with this tone though the female lead may be a problem for them...) or a streaming network like Netflix (the most obvious choice), Hulu or Amazon where quirky and unusual shows like Downward Dog are able to thrive.

Downward Dog premieres May 17 on ABC.

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