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Downward Dog Needs A New Forever Home 

Downward Dog Needs A New Forever Home
Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC
Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

There’s always a risk when you jump into a brand new show–it might be crap or it might be wonderful. It might run for years or not even finish its first season. Downward Dog premiered five weeks ago to decent summer ratings (3 million people watched live last week), but Friday afternoon, just as the entertainment news cycle was wrapping for the week on the east coast, creator Samm Hodges Tweeted out word that ABC is not proceeding with a second season order, and the final two episodes will move two hours to air back to back at 10 pm/9c on Tuesday.

Downward Dog has been a personal joy to me this summer as a balm of sweet furry humor in a not-so-nice world right now. As I said it my pilot preview, it’s not an overly mushy show, but it is grounded in an extraordinary love between Martin and Nan, maybe more from Martin toward Nan than he to her, but she was tested on that in the fifth episode, “Trashed.”

On-again/off-again ex Jason let Martin leave the house and yard overnight and Nan found him safe and sound on the porch when she returned home the next morning from a work trip. In a moment of extreme fear and anger and relief, she finally unleashed (no pun intended) all the pent up anger she’d been feeling about Jason’s adolescent holding pattern and then she gave Martin a bath and hugged him a little tighter.

We’ve also seen inside Martin’s mind what Nan has meant to him–she rescued him, and his one true place in the world is by her side, on her bed, in her lap on the couch. During his walkabout episode, he remembered his days as a trash dog when he and his littermates foraged for scraps. When he finally makes it home, and Nan comes up on the porch, a catch in her throat when she sees him and says his name with a question mark in her voice–is he OK–his response is perfect, “I’m a trash dog and she’s a fancy lady but we have each other. We’re not alone. And for that, I’m truly grateful.”

Photo Credit: ABC

And even when perhaps tested to do bad dog things, he comes through. Last week, in “Old,”  all he wanted for his 7th birthday was a nap until he had a visiting puppy imposed upon him. When said puppy attempted to abscond with his toy, he “helped” him down the stairs to the dark, scary basement, and then, remorseful, followed him down and laid in the dark with him until Nan and Jenn came home.

Photo Credit: Brian Douglas/ABC

Nan’s faced some demons of her own, on the job, and coming to terms with her mother’s abandonment–a wound re-opened when Jenn finds an old DVD from Nan’s own 7th birthday, the day before her mom left the family.  Nan finally talks about that, and her fractured relationship with her Dad and the episode ends with her finally calling him because they haven’t spoken in months.

We’ve also had terrific little wink-nudge guest stars. In episode 4, “The Full Package,” Psych‘s Timothy Omundson was an extremely type A guy from the park who Nan fixated on as an idealized future state version of Jason, but when he condemned her attentiveness to a sick Martin, she was out the door, taking her boy home and stopping off for a quick visit with Jason, where Martin felt recovered enough to snake her burger. And Martin gets over his Border Collie envy with the realization that, “When you’re as flawed as me, choosing to love yourself might be the bravest thing ever attempted in the history of the world.”

Photo Credit: Brian Douglas/ABC

Last week,  in “Old,” Star Trek legend Nichelle Nichols played a bingo hall torch singer who found her calling at 79, which prompts Nan and Jenn to take a better look at why they’re so terrified of finally embracing their adulthood.  And Martin reflected on his life so far, and the life ahead, with, “I confronted the inevitability of my own death. I’m here right now and I have all this in front of me.”

There are so many wonderful, laugh out loud, cry through tears moments in this show and eight episodes isn’t nearly enough time with these characters. I want more. We need happy and hopeful TV, especially SCRIPTED stories that are happy and hopeful, and real (yes, even when exploring what our pets are thinking–I’m totally on board with that). It can’t all be game shows and reality TV on the summer TV landscape. Some of us want and need actual storytelling and characters we can identify with and care about. As much as I love my sci-fi TV (and y’all know that I do), there’s room in my heart for comedy, too. And I’m not alone in that.

Hodges was extremely magnanimous toward the network about the news (although I take issue with the timing, that perhaps they hoped the announcement would be missed by the fans), but by last night, the Twitter fan base jumped up to express their disappointment, beg for another shot, and then suggest things to raise awareness for the network and other potential outlets.

So, in that vein, here are some things you can do today and this week, plus suggestions from Hodges himself:

  • Watch the show live Tuesday night on ABC and live Tweet your thumbs off, tagging @ABCNetwork and using hashtag #DownardDog.
  • DVR it and watch it again within the first 7 days.
  • Watch it and buy the whole season on iTunes or Amazon.
  • Watch it on Hulu.
  • Join our friend Melissa’s Twtition to collect 1,000 pics of pup who need Season 2.

The cast has been out and about promoting the show, appearing on Jimmy Kimmel (see below), @Midnight with Chris Hardwick, and even Nightline, so they definitely want you to watch.  A massive thank you to everyone who’s brought us this first season. You worked your asses off to get it on the air and I want you to have the time to tell more of your story. And a special thank you to Ned’s forever family for sharing him with us so he could become Martin. And thank you for rescuing Ned in the first place!

Downward Dog wraps its first season Tuesday night at 10/9c on ABC. Set those DVRs for the whole hour! Here’s Allison Tolman telling you why you should watch, and day in the life of Ned.

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