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I'm in love with "Downward Dog." Completely caught up in this new ABC series.

That's probably not a surprise to anyone who knows me, because I love dogs.

When I first watched the "Downward Dog" pilot (almost a year ago), there were five people and six dogs in the room, and everyone enjoyed it. Well, the humans, at least.

Before you get too judgey, only two of those dogs were mine. But, yes, I'm devoted to — some would say obsessed by — my Shih Tzus, Xavi and Chip.

However, you don't have to love canines to enjoy "Downward Dog," a show that revolves around a talking dog. But not really a talking dog.

The dog in question here, Martin (real name: Ned), doesn't talk to anyone on the show. The character provides voiceovers throughout the episodes. Sometimes he speaks to the camera, the same way people do in "Modern Family."

Martin tells us what he's thinking. Shares his innermost thoughts. His fantasies. His insecurities.

His owner, Nan (Allison Tolman, "Fargo"), has to guess what he's thinking just like every dog owner on Earth.

"It's a talking-dog show that's not about a talking dog," Tolman said. "It's about humanity through the eyes of this dog."


"Downward Dog" is adapted from a web series created by executive producers Michael Killen and Samm Hodges (who provides Martin's voice). But it's a different dog and different people on the TV show.

Nan is a struggling career woman with an obnoxious boss, Kevin (Barry Rothbart), and a weird ex-boyfriend, Jason (Lucas Neff, "Raising Hope") — a relationship that doesn't seem to quite be over yet. Her strongest relationship is with Martin, who really loves her. And who is more than a little neurotic.

"The whole fun of the show is seeing how Martin views the world and how crazy his view of things is," Hodges said.

Martin sees Nan drive away every morning and home every night — and thinks she's just driving around in her car all day. He thinks a neighbor's cat is a "psychopath."

He's devoted and jealous.

"I don't want to come off as, like, hypercritical or something, but we used to go on walks," Martin says in the first episode. "Like, actual walks. Whereas now she kind of just, like, shoves me out in this little prison yard and acts like that somehow counts as connection time."

(It was Nan's backyard, by the way.)

"Downward" anthropomorphizes Martin — an incredibly expressive mixed-breed — in the way that so many of us dog owners do all the time. We talk to them, explain things to them, like they're people.

That's not just me, right?

In Episode 3, Martin feels "betrayed" when Nan takes him to work.

"Because I was, like, oh my God, this is where she's been going every day for years," he says. "Like, my heart just shattered. While I'm home alone, like, licking myself stupid, she's here, like, laughing and petting and throwing balls. Like, why would she need all these other people to play with unless she's tired of playing with me?"

It's charming. It's funny, but not in a setup-joke, yuck-it-up way. It's sort of observational comedy — observed from the dog's point of view.

It is definitely not what you expect. If it were just another sitcom, would the Sundance Film Festival have screened the first four episodes in January?


"We joke that the poster should say, 'Downward Dog: It's actually good,' " Hodges said with a laugh.

It actually is.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce. —


"Downward Dog" premieres Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC/Ch. 4. The show moves to its regular timeslot on Tuesday, May 23, at 7 p.m.