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Martin: A Dog’s Eye View

November 1, 2017
A sketch of Martin, the star of “Downward Dog” television series. Pencil, pen, and watercolor on Stonehenge.

I was disappointed to learn that ABC’s “Downward Dog,” was cancelled. 

Huge mistake.

This was a gem of a show if ever there was one.

The show follows the life of the dog Martin as he talks (to the camera and in voiceover) about his life, his philosophy, and  the way his world revolves around his person Nan.

The show isn’t always consistent on dog psychology. Sometimes it hits it exactly, like when Martin didn’t feel very respected by the shifting breakfast times. Other times Martin’s actions and statements were more “human” than canine.

But each week the show delivered on humor, and some drama, in a warm and contemplative way. (Martin was doing the contemplating.) As Martin tried to understand his world the viewers got to see Nan and our human world with fresh eyes. 

Some might say the show had heart, but that sounds too sappy to my cynical mind. It was simply a show that enabled me, through Martin, to check myself now and then and remind myself to not be so cynical.  

The show also reminded me weekly how much I missed the girls (who were much better behaved then Martin, but then I’m not “flightly” like Nan).

The camera work is brilliant. We might see Martin in a series of quick cuts from one nap to another as his voiceover explains his busy day. There’s nothing boring in these cuts—each is individual and goofy and exactly what anyone who has every lived with a dog would have seen. But better—better lit, and edited to contain meaning and weight—which is what art makes out of the human, or in this case canine, existence.

Samm Hodges is listed as the actor who gives Martin a voice. His performance is spot on. We seem to be right in Martin’s brain. I haven’t heard such a pitch perfect narrator since Daniel Stern started speaking in the opening minutes of “The Wonder Years.” Martin could only sound like this.

We need shows that seem to deal with something small and insignificant but which in effect, and effortlessly, deal with so much more—our whole attitude and outlook on life. And do it unpretentiously. And challenge us to hold ourselves responsible. (To write more specifics would be to spoil the discovery you will experience if you seek out the show.) 

I understand the show evolved from a web series to network, and that at least in the summer it was being shopped around in hopes Netflix or Hulu would have take it on for another season.

I already subscribe to Netflix, but if Hulu produced and ran a season two for this show I would have to subscribe to Hulu—Martin would convince me to do what even Hugh Laurie hasn’t yet convinced me to do.  

If you missed seeing the show when it aired you can purchase it on Amazon. I recommend you do.

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    • Tina Carter
    • November 1, 2017
    Reply

    I utterly agree about Downward Dog – I was heart broken (but not surprised) when it was cancelled. What I loved most about it was that despite Martin’s angst or questioning about his life, he always came back to his love for Nan. Thanks for the note about Amazon, I’m heading there right now to purchase. I’m still hoping someone would pick it up.

    1. Reply

      Yes, it always came down to his love for Nan. I hope you enjoy rematching the show. I have. With luck we will get to see a second season.

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