A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Downward Dog is a sitcom about a talking dog and his owner, Nan. The show is sweet and inoffensive, with the occasional mature reference or visual that may make parents of young children want to wait before watching with the family. A man talks about masturbating; characters have sex behind a closed door, and we hear heavy breathing. There's the odd swear or potentially offensive word: "hell," "dammit," "douchey," and Martin referring to an animal that intimidates him by calling him "that f--king cat," with "f--k" bleeped. A character who's upset tells a coworker she's out of the liquor she keeps in her desk to cope with her job; the two of them steal into their boss' office to steal his booze, filling the bottle up with water. Otherwise, this show is easy to watch and easy to love, particularly for animal lovers.
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What's the story?
In DOWNWARD DOG, Martin loves Nan (Allison Tolman), and Nan loves Martin. The only problem? Her new focus on work has eclipsed their relationship. Also, Martin's a dog. He grudgingly shared Nan's affection back when she was dating Jason (Lucas Neff), but once they broke up, Nan stopped taking real walks, preferring crying in bed to playing ball, and now there's been a fly in Martin's water dish for three days. When Nan's abrasive boss Kevin (Barry Rothbart) uncharacteristically shows enthusiasm over one of Nan's marketing ideas for their fashion line, she suddenly has something to live for -- but even less time for Martin. Can a struggling millennial and her No. 1 fan make a peaceful life together?
Is it any good?
Attached to a cutesy premise that was fresh and original right around the time that The Shaggy Dog and Mr. Ed were hot, this gentle comedy improbably works due to its pure sweetness. A dog who thinks he's people and talks to the camera when his owner's not around? Cringe. But Downward Dog scores by recasting the pet-owner relationship as a sort of romance, with Martin waxing rhapsodically over Nan's wonderful qualities and how very, very much he loves her. Nan, of course, is busy with work, busy getting over her breakup, and busy with other things -- she has no idea that when she sends Martin into the backyard to relieve himself instead of taking him on a walk, he's as heartbroken as if she'd stood him up for a date.
Anyone who's known a dog has marveled over the faithful, tireless love they provide and wished to be worthy of the worship. Hearing Martin voice the kind of thoughts we all imagine dogs must have quickly stops being awkward and starts being adorable. Dog-loving families may find themselves tearing up -- and may want to watch with their pet close at hand so they can smother them with love. Your dog won't know the reason for the extra affection, but, as dogs always do, he'll happily accept it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why talking animals are a staple of movies and TV shows like Downward Dog. Would we want animals to talk in real life? Or not? Would it be harder to eat an animal who talked? What about how hard it would be to live with one? Why do we find it interesting or entertaining when animals do things in movies and on TV shows that they can't do in real life?
What do you think about the show's comedic style? Is the originality appealing or just strange? Why are so many TV shows similar in tone and format?
How does this show communicate that Martin is sad or lonely without saying it straight out? Have you ever heard of the advice "show, don't tell"? How does this series show instead of telling things?
For kids who love comedy
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