Skip to content

Review: Downward Dog (ABC) – Bad ABC, bad!

By on May 18, 2017

Downward Dog

Downward Dog

No. Just, no. No to this. A harsh conclusion? Perhaps, but true nonetheless. Downward Dog deserves nothing less than to hear a ‘no’. I know I am probably alone in my harsh, negative tone, and I know it is most likely fueled by my personal view of dogs and animating live action scenes, but I will not budge: This is not a good series. Why, you ask? There is a plethora of reasons, but let me take you through the biggest ones.

First off, the premise: a dog that talks. Downward Dog revolves around Nan (Allison Tolman, Fargo), who has just broken up with her boyfriend Jason (Lucas Neff, Raising Hope) – again – and is trying to lose herself in her work, and her dog Martin (voiced by Seven Days director/writer Samm Hodges). We hear both their sides of the story from their own mouths. That’s right, Martin talks, but only to us viewers. Because a talking dog, that would be weird, right? Martin’s animated mouth is unsettling, and although his musings are sometimes quite funny, it still feels like a massive gimmick instead of a comedic addition.

I do like how Jason and Nan quarrel about ‘visitation rights’ to see Martin, because it feels very accurate to real life situations. However, that’s about as deep as their characters go. Both are very one-dimensional in this pilot episode. Especially since we see most of Nan through Martin’s eyes, and we get to learn his view on her weird double standards style of dog rearing. On the one hand she has no boundaries for Martin whatsoever, as she fills the gap left by Jason with doggy-love, but on the other she provides Martin with nothing as far as his needs go. It becomes easy to dislike her this way.

Martin’s daily to-do’s are obviously meant to speak to dog-owners, and I’m sure they do to most, but they remind me very much of the animated movie The Secret Life Of Pets. Plus, how long will that stay interesting, really? Already, Hodges’ way of talking makes me want Martin to shut up regularly – the overload of like’s and you know’s gets on one’s nerves quickly.

If anything, Downward Dog does show one thing: the unconditional love a dog has for its human, no matter how screwed up they are. Which I suppose is nice, but I don’t need to be watching an animated dog’s mouth to know that. In fact, the emphasis put on the difference between Nan’s life and Martin’s is painful. Nan is Martin’s entire life, but Martin isn’t Nan’s. Anyone who can realize that and still find joy in watching Martin talk about missing Nan is, frankly, an enigma to me.

Downward Dog has concluded its run after 1 season.