Shows come and go, some are binge-worthy and worth obsessing over every detail. Others are worth a watch but don’t go further than that. But it wasn’t until recently that I found a show I truly fell for. A show that I could actually relate to, unlike most shows that have made it on air and are supposed to be “this is what real young women are like.” ABC’s Downward Dog‘s Nan is my relatable character. Her furry best friend Martin is my best friend, Orion.
When I first saw trailers for this show, I had the impression that it would be fun and lighthearted. It is narrated by a talking dog, so how could I not get that impression? But a few episodes in and I have already welled up every time Martin has comforted Nan. Or made me realize how another creature could just love you wholeheartedly and not care if you’re a dysfunctional mess or not a size small. I’ve laughed my butt off every time Martin has had an eye-opening realization about the world. And of course, have sighed in awe of their tender moments of just leaning on each other.
Nan played wonderfully by Alison Tolman, is a young woman still trying to get her footing in life. She’s in her desired career field but has an idiotic misogynistic boss that refuses to see her talent because he’s too worried about selling sex rather than a genuinely good idea. She’s in an on-and-off relationship with Jason (Lucas Neff), a good-hearted person but not ready to be as mature as her. She’s trying to still understand herself while balancing adult responsibilities. And she hasn’t once gone on a rant about being married and having kids by a certain age.
Martin, played by rescue dog Ned and voiced by co-creator and writer Samm Hodges, is an anxious-ridden dog that views Nan as his entire universe. He views a neighborhood cat as a demonic entity. He questions Nan’s actions and mirrors her anxiety through his own destruction. But his moments of discovery and joy radiate to Nan giving them a loving symbiotic relationship. His musings on life, while from a dog’s perspective sometimes mirror thoughts I have while letting life roll over me.
In the latest episode, Nan’s date thinks Martin should be more obedient but Nan realizes that she doesn’t want strict perfection for Martin or herself, she justs want Martin to be happy. That’s when you realize you need a jogger for your pet. And as simple as that sentiment may be, it was powerful to me. As a young woman just trying to get through every day, it’s hard when you’re not only berated with toxic masculinity but social media and pop culture that tries to shove down the stereotypes of beautiful skinny women getting all of their ducks in a row before age 30 or the quirky women that rail against the other stereotype. It’s frigging exhausting and makes it hard for me to like many female characters on television, which in turns also makes me feel like a bad person.
This isn’t the only bone of gold the show has had to offer so far. Nan has never been judged once for her size on the show. Her on-and-off boyfriend Jason is a seemingly fit man who is head over heels for Nan. He doesn’t try to change her and constantly compliments her for not only being beautiful on the outside but for who she is as a person. The show’s purpose isn’t about her accepting her body, she already does!
But I think one of the most important aspects of this show is the love between Nan and Martin. It’s a bond that speaks to me on so many levels. That feeling when your dog first sees you from coming home and that it’s like Christmas morning. Or when your dog instinctively knows you have had a bad day and curls his body up against you.
I’ll be extremely upset if this show gets the ax. It’s one of the few shows on television that actually has a heart. I’m tired of angry housewives, angsty teenagers played by adults, the 8 millionth law show, dysfunctional families or bumbling man buds. Don’t get me wrong, I love my fantasy shows but at the end of the day, I do want a show that will tug at my heart strings and Downward Dog is like the perfect belly rub.
ABC, I’ll sit and stay every week for this show. Please keep it on air.
Downward Dog airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC.