Recently, when browsing Kickstarter for new, interesting and up-and-coming webseries to look out for, I stumbled across a campaign seeking donations for series 2 of a brilliantly surreal webseries named Dogs & Me. Having never heard of the show before, I was delighted to discover in series 1, a battered yet sturdy trunk brimming with unwatched episodes; numerous tales (6 in total) about a young man and his two overly talkative pets.
I was so excited about the whole darn thing that I even wrote about it, right here. In that particular article I swore a review of the shows’ first series was soon forthcoming. This, readers, is that very review. Behold!
Dogs & Me is a comedy webseries by creator and star Matt Rocklin. Inspired by a Mother’s Day video Rocklin created for his mother (duh) in 2011 in which his two dogs, Jerry and Scarlet complain about how much time he spends on the phone with her, the series’ origins are interesting to say the least. Miguel Amodio, the series’ eventual producer & director of photography saw potential in the idea and suggested that Rocklin turn the short clip into a full series.
“Several months later, Matt Rocklin pitched “Dogs & Me” to the owners of Inner Image Media, Miguel Amodio and Michael Lang, at Ernie’s Mexican Restaurant in North Hollywood, CA.”
In the series, which is six episodes long and follows a continuous and ongoing narrative, Matt Rocklin plays Matt Rocklin – a young and aspiring Hollywood actor who’s trying to break out, find the perfect partner and eventually settle down. Matt shares an apartment with his two talking dogs, the excitable and supportive (and breast obsessed) Jerry (voiced by Ray Plumb) and the paranoid, suspicious and fast talking Scarlet (voiced by Petra Areskoug). Matt, Scarlet and Jerry make up the core cast of the sitcom and work fantastically as a tightly knit trio for conflict bounce against, but rarely within.
The supporting cast is varied, offering a new character every episode who often acts a a source of the conflict as well as the foundation of each episodes premise and humour. Series 1′s general setup is comfortably repetitive – Matt is just trying to get on with his life, but is constantly put upon by friends and strangers, all whilst his talking dogs reliably complicate matters. Humourously vulgar props and well achieved visual comedy (An enormous lime green booger or bag of freshly picked dog poop for instance) occasionally take centre stage as well. The series never quite feels childish or immature though, despite how it might sound.
As a lead, Matt is generally a passive passenger in his own life, who often acts far too late to resolve the many out of control situations he finds himself in. In other words, as hard as he tries, he never quite manages to keep a lid on things, mostly thanks to his over-active canine companions.
As a comic duo, Jerry and Scarlet are superbly surreal. Their dialogue feels either very well written or brilliantly ad-libbed, and their personalities are peppered with clever touches to help remind you that yes, these ARE dogs we’re taking advice from. Voiced with plenty of energy by Areskoug and Plumb, their larger than life personalities, adult dialogue and Pixar-esque voices meld brilliantly to form a fairly original take on the talking pet shtick.
As dogs, Jerry and Scarlet are unconsidered and ignored by everyone but Matt, which cleverly leaves them in a perfect position to people-watch and snarkily comment on the surrounding world. Only Matt ever addresses them, responding and conversing with them in public even as it remains unclear if other characters can actually hear the dogs. It’s an unexplained quirk of the series not dissimilar to Brian and Stewie Griffin’s treatment in early seasons of Family Guy, and it adds a light psychological twist to the series if you choose to believe that Jerry and Scarlet’s voices are just aspects of Matt’s own troubled psyche.
Clocking in a 3-4 minutes per episode, Dogs & Me is quick to get into its conflict, which can hurt the eventual comic payoff as some episodes can feel rushed. On a first watch of the series, it often paints Matt and the people he interacts with in a poor light, as everybody is incredibly quick to jump to conclusions over minor misunderstandings. Episode 5 suffers the most due to this, as Matt is harassed by a woman in the park, who blows an innocent blunder by Matt way out of proportion. Her reaction feels forced, out of the blue and almost deceitful as it pushes suspension of disbelief just a little too far (in a show about talking dogs of all things)
Other than this occasional gripe, and overlong intro and outro credits, Dogs & Me is a well made, entertaining and all too brief webseries.
Series 1 of Dogs & Me has an ambitious bent, introducing several characters and plot threads without attempting resolution. The show very much feels like an experimental prototype or proof of concept. Just enough care has been lavished on its central and supporting cast that I want to know how Matt, Jerry and Scarlet’s stories continue. Especially given episode 6′s cruel cliff-hanger ending.
Thankfully, as I said to begin with – Series 2 of Dogs & Me is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. You can read more about my thoughts on the subject HERE, and you can of course visit creator/star Matt Rocklins’ Kickstarter Campaign for more information. You can follow Dogs & Me on Twitter and Facebook, and check out their Official Website HERE. Episode 1 is available below, via YouTube.