"Downward Dog," 8:30 tonight (Wednesday, May 17) on ABC, then 7 p.m. Tuesdays • 3 stars (out of four)
If you've looked into the mournful eyes of your dog when leaving for work and worried that you were breaking his heart, meet Martin.
A large, sad-eyed mutt, Martin is the hero, and narrator, of "Downward Dog," arriving tonight on ABC, following the season finale of "Modern Family," before moving to Tuesdays.
Martin lives with and adores Nan (Allison Tolman, Molly on Season 1 of "Fargo"). But his love isn't uncritical. Samm Hodges, who created the web series on which the TV show is based, voices Martin as part deadpan comic, part spurned suitor and part anxious egomaniac. And part, well, dog.
Nan has a tedious job in what seems to be marketing and an ex-boyfriend (Lucas Neff of "Raising Hope") with whom she can't completely break up. (And why would she? He comes over a lot to play ball with Martin.)
Martin has much to say about this, and also about dog stuff, especially when he doesn't think Nan is being attentive enough to his needs.
A sweet little show, low key and more smile-worthy than hilarious, "Downward Dog" won't be for everyone. Animal lovers (count me in that group) are likely to find it adorable; cynics, unless they really, really love dogs, probably should stay away.
Here, in two sentences, is the show "Downward Dog" is, explained in Episode 2, when Martin offers an origins story.
"In the beginning, there was Nan," he says. "And she made everything." (Owner as God; check.)" And she saw that it was empty and small, and there was nothing cuddly or amazing. So she found me."
If that leaves you choked up, you're clearly cut out for the guilty dog owner's support group that is "Downward Dog."
If not, maybe try cats. (There's no talking cat show; sorry.) Cats don't care when you leave for work because they're asleep. But they love you to death when you come home, especially if you're about to open a can of Fancy Feast.