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TV Series Review

Whoever said that "it's a dog's life" was clearly not a dog.

Granted, dogs rarely speak English anyway. And when they do, it's not typically to philosophize and coin future clichés.

But Martin, the dog, does speak English—at least to his television audience. And he is prone to philosophizing. Because really, when you're a dog, what else are you going to do with your time? There's only so much kibble one can eat.

No, Martin has done some thinking on the subject, and he's decided that whatever life is all about, it's not a dog's life. Not this dog's, anyway.

Ruff Times Ahead

Oh, maybe a dog's life has some advantages, Martin might admit: the free food, the free time, the freedom to go to the bathroom on the carpet every now and then. But those are mere superficial accoutrements to the nature of life itself. To truly make a dog's life significant requires something more. Perhaps a new squeak toy. More quality time with his harried caretaker, Nan. Maybe the unexpected passing of Pepper, the neighborhood cat.

But for now, Martin's life is one extended existential crisis. He's prone to more navel-gazing than most of us whose actual navels are more readily in view. "Sometimes dog culture can feel like a breeding ground of anti-intellectualism," he grouses. "And I just want to say, like, it's not a sin to be smart."

Nan, meanwhile, has her own problems to navigate. She works long hours at Clark and Bow Outfitters, forcing her to spend time away from the precious canine in her life. She recently broke things off with her longtime beau, Jason. But they still hang out all the time, and temptation to sleep with the guy sometimes can confuse things. And as the young Millennial tries to dive into the dating world again, she gradually realizes that Martin's about the most stable male in her life.

Some Content to Give You … Paws

Downward Dog, based on a web series, is a strange, sweet and sadly problematic summertime sitcom.

Martin's rarely the cause of the show's unfortunate content. The pooch's propensity to opine about his life and the people around him (from a strictly canine point of view, of course) can be pretty entertaining and mostly innocent. He wonders what Nan does without him all day: throw balls? And why do people make such a big whoop over dogs that play dead? "Just the phrase, 'play dead,' is pretty dark if you think about it," he notes. Granted, his bathroom habits can become plot points in any given story. But dog owners are well aware that pets and poo can often be a wellspring of both domestic angst and unintentional comedy.

But when the show focuses on Nan's life, this walk through the park can be littered with unfortunate little landmines. Nan's sexual relationships are inherently problematic. And even if she's not having sex, that doesn't stop her and her friends from talking about it. Drinking and drug references can sully the yard further. And language can sometimes stray beyond the confines of "sit" and "stay."

The content's not horrible, mind you. Compared to many sitcoms, it's relatively innocuous. But take ABC's TV-PG rating seriously: Parental guidance is indeed advisable—with parents perhaps guiding their children to turn off the television.

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Episode Reviews

Downward Dog: June 6, 2017 "The Full Package"



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Ned as Martin; Samm Hodges as the voice of Martin; Allison Tolman as Nan; Lucas Neff as Jason; Barry Rothbart as Kevin; Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Jenn






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On Video

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Paul Asay

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