While it may be tempting to discredit a show with a talking dog, ABC’s Downward Dog is a wonderful surprise. Samm Hodges and Michael Killen adapted a web series of the same name and created a show whose main protagonist is a talking dog named Martin.
Nan, played by Fargo’s Allison Tolman, is Martin’s owner and honestly the love of his life. Martin, voiced by Hodges, creates a faux-documentary type show that follows him through the trials of his doggy life.
Where other shows go wrong with talking animal concepts, no one in the show itself can hear Martin speak or knows that he is sentient. Although the tone of Martin’s conversation is very natural and he often ends his sentences with "like" or "you know."
What seems to be the only issue within the show is how the human characters are not as developed as Martin. This may be due to how they receive only a fraction of the air time as Martin does. Granted he is the main character but the supporting roles are just as important.
Lucas Neff appears as Nan’s ex-boyfriend but has little to offer as he is only Nan’s drunk call at night. Nan’s boss, played by Barry Rothbart, only seems to serve the purpose of annoying people in the workplace. The saving grace and arguably the most likeable human character, Kirby Howell-Baptiste plays Nan’s co-worker and best friend; but not even Howell-Baptiste receives a lot of air time. This could be a huge blunder for the structure of the show, as the first episode is already aired and they have little time to develop these main characters.
If we are being honest, I’m not mad Martin steals the show. Besides having conversations with my own dogs every day, I love the concept of the show because Martin is not only a talking dog but an insightful talking dog. Instead of the generic dog related gab, bones and bushes, Martin is lonesome for his owner (which is every dog parent’s nightmare). We get an inside view of what it means to be a philosophical pooch, longing for the attention of their owner.
And a bit of a side note -
The producers found Martin at a shelter in Chicago where he had been waiting for over a year for the opportunity. When beginning the search the executives knew they wanted a shelter dog, and kept going back to Martin because of his longing eyes. Within weeks Martin was acting trained and ready for action.
Downward Dog aired Wednesday the 17th at 9:30 on ABC.