Martin (Ned; voiced by Samm Hodges) is a dog. He loves his “partner,” Nan (Allison Tolman), to distraction — in fact, he tells us he is obsessed with her — but he is not blind to her faults, of which he sees many. He is jealous of her time and attention and was never really on board with Nan’s boyfriend Jason (Lucas Neff), and so is pleased they’ve decided to break up with him in favor of “cry into wine time.” He talks to the camera in a very disconcerting manner and says “like” a lot.
Like, all the time.
Nan works at an ill-defined, as yet, lifestyle company, in some kind of marketing role, maybe? Her boss (Barry Rothbart) is the kind of horrible that you’d expect to get him either indicted or promoted — he bought a co-worker a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt, since she happens to be black, and has a secret white board labeled “Dope Ideas” that mostly deals with female anatomy — and she is generally both overwhelmed and underwhelmed with where her life is going, and the compromises she may have to make to get ahead.
In its short 22-minute run time, this show provides a constant stream of chuckles as the awkward Nan navigates her way through an increasingly messy — literally and figuratively; Martin decides to punish her inattention of him by destroying first her shoes and then her work presentation/diorama, leading to an ill-fated visit to an obedience school that is more like a cult — situation and Martin makes it all about him. Tolman’s highly relatable affect and aspect is endearing; you feel you would be best-friends with her. (But know this: her dog would resent you.)
The star here, however, is, of course, the highly-anthropomorphized Martin, whose views on their relationship, and its challenges and rewards, are straight out of a Dr. Phil self-help book and all the funnier for it. This is definitely not your typical comedy — the show was birthed out of a web series helmed by the guy who came up with the Taco Bell chihuahua — but Martin’s ruminations on life, his universe and everything (which is pretty much Nan) make for a fun alternative reality in which our animal companions look at us with an adoration informed by awareness, and not because we feed them twice a day.
Downward Dog airs Tuesdays on ABC at 9PM.
Contemporary Fantasy | Season 1, Episode 1 | May 17, 2017
Based on web series Downward Dog | Created by Samm Hodges and Michael Killen | ABC
Starring Allison Tolman, Samm Hodges (voice), Lucas Neff, Barry Rothbart, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Maria Bamford (voice) and Ned