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TV review: 'Downward Dog' will resonate with anyone who loves canines

May 14, 2017 Updated: May 14, 2017 at 9:25 am
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DOWNWARD DOG - ABC's "Downward Dog" stars Ned as Martin and Allison Tolman as Nan. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Cast: Allison Tolman ("Fargo," "The Gift"), Lucas Neff ("Raising Hope," "Fear, Inc."), Kirby Howell-Baptiste ("Love," "A Dog's Purpose"), Barry Rothbart ("Dean," "Wolf of Wall Street"); series co-creator Samm Hodges voices Martin the dog.

Airs: The series premieres Wednesday on ABC at 8:30 p.m.

The premise: Based on the web series of the same name, "Downward Dog" focuses on the life of Nan (Allison Tolman), a millennial living in Pittsburgh with a stressful career and a messy personal life. Nan's struggles are told via voiceover by her dog, Martin (Samm Hodges). Martin loves Nan unconditionally but gets frustrated by his friend's questionable life choices.

DOWNWARD DOG - ABC's "Downward Dog" stars Ned as Martin and Allison Tolman as Nan. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)  

Highs: Admit it, there have been times you've been envious of your dog. Sleeping 14 hours a day, gnawing on treats and playing outside sounds like a pretty great way to spend a day.

But is a dog's life more complicated than that? "Downward Dog" looks to answer that question through Martin, a surprisingly philosophical canine who views humans as peers and obsesses over the relationships in his life.

In many ways, Martin is a typical dog. His surprisingly packed day consists of protecting the house from the mailman, trying to get as much rest as possible and being psychologically intimidated by a neighboring cat who he refers to as a "sociopath" and a "demon." Pretty standard fare for a dog, but Martin is more complex than that.

Although a confident pooch, Martin is also self critical. He considers himself cute, but not food bag model good looking. He gets jealous easily. When Nan's takes him to work, Martin finally sees what she does all day - throwing balls, petting people and having friendly conversations - and worries he's not interesting enough.

He also has a complicated relationship with Nan. Martin is consumed by her but won't hesitate to set her straight by chewing up important things if she doesn't make time for him. Sometimes Nan needs a little tough love.

DOWNWARD DOG - ABC's "Downward Dog" stars Ned as Martin, Allison Tolman as Nan and Lucas Neff as Jason. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)  

Audiences will get to see Martin interact with Nan's slacker boyfriend, Jason (Lucas Neff), and her moronic boss, Kevin (Barry Rothbart), as well. Just like his relationship with Nan, when hanging out with Jason and Kevin, Martin proves to be thoughtful, humorous and affectionate. While watching "Downward Dog" I couldn't help but be reminded of how much dogs are like people, but in many ways better because their capacity to give is limitless.

This series will resonate with anyone who love dogs. After watching several episodes, I realized I need to better appreciate my own unique pooch, even though I think I spoil her rotten.

Lows: The series splits its time showing viewers Nan's home and work life. This keeps "Downward Dog" balanced, for the most part. Martin is clearly the star of the show, so any time he's on camera things click. It's when Nan goes to work where things can get occasionally off kilter. A storyline involving a specific advertising campaign is spread out over multiple episodes and eventually loses steam.

Nan's best friend Jenn (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) is a significant supporting player and is pleasant enough but isn't given much to do.

Grade: A-. I watched the first four episodes of "Downward Dog" with my wife. After the fourth episode was over the Mrs. went downstairs and I stayed upstairs with our dog Butters and started to work on my review.

Thirty seconds later, I heard my wife yelling. Butters had gone to the bathroom downstairs while we were watching TV. I looked at my dog and smiled because the moment couldn't have been more timely. We get upset at people we love from time to time, but this series is a humorous reminder that forgiveness is always a part of every caring relationship.

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Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.

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