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There was a time when live-action TV series often boasted animals as main characters, with Mr. Ed and Flipper serving as two of the most popular examples. But those were over 40 years ago, and Dog with a Blog doesn't quite make the cut here. NBC is trying to resurrect this approach, but it’s for a sequel to the 2008 comedy drama Marley & Me. Can we all agree that this idea rings slightly dumb as shit and that it’ll never work? Marley & Me spoilers to follow.
The post-script story will take place after the events of the film, as John and Jenny Grogan – played in the pic by Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, respectively – are raising their sons, who are 14 and 11. They move back to Florida so that John can go back to his job as a newspaper columnist. Lo and behold, their neighbor’s mistreated puppy arrives at their doorstep, and so they adopt it as their own. The family gives this new dog Marley’s old leash and tags, and so she is now known as Marley. Not super-duper creepy in the least. She also shares many of Marley’s old mannerisms and, as THR puts it, “will help shed light not only on the growing pains of the Grogan family, but also the lives of the neighbors and fellow dog owners around them.” I seriously hope this series uses reincarnation for all of its story arcs.
It’s just the movie happening all over again, only with the two kids already existing. The film basically rested on the dog as a support system for Jenny’s initial failed pregnancy and John’s work problems. And then, I think we all remember, the movie ends with the dog dying, thus solidifying this paltry flick as memorable in the eyes of dog-lovers everywhere. So what, is this new Marley going to die at the end of each episode, or after the first season? I’d be seriously weirded out if that’s where NBC took this pilot, but it’d be more interesting.
Plus, I don't think it will surprise anyone that series based around animals aren't exactly the most popular thing around, nor are they the easiest to produce. Most networks just stay away, or will give their characters a dog as a little-seen pet. I think we can all remember what a disaster the short-lived Animal Practice was, though it's perfectly acceptable if you've forgotten it. And when it comes to the horse deaths involved with HBO's Luck, you get a better picture of putting animals in the spotlight can be a big problem. No one's saying Marley is going to be this uncontrollable problem or anything, but it's a little easier to direct humans.
After a bit of competitive bartering, NBC came out ahead of other networks in securing a put pilot commitment for Marley & Me, same name and all. The pilot will be written by Sex and the City scribe Jenny Bicks, with Marley & Me director David Frankel returning to direct, should the project reach that point. And it shouldn’t, should it? I’ve no problem imagining a sizeable audience would watch this series at first if it ever aired, but it would never last as an NBC series, regardless of how many boys in wells Marley saves. This is a much better fit for ABC Family or Hallmark, where they don’t care how fluffy their programming, and even then it should just be repackaged as an entirely new idea. Farley ‘n Us.
Other films taking the plunge to television include Mortal Instruments and its novel series, along with Neil Burger’s The Illusionist, which is heading in a completely unrelated direction from its source material. So I guess Marley & Me gets credit for not straying from the doghouse, but is it too late to make Marley an orangutan?