Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s installment, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, chats with Lake Bell and Dax Shepard, stars of ABC’s “Bless This Mess,” which debuted on Monday.
The show centers around a newly married couple, played by Bell and Shepard, who decide to ditch their shoebox New York City apartment for the plains of Nebraska.
Bell, who co-created the show with Elizabeth Meriwether, says the concept for “Bless This Mess” came from being a newlywed herself.
“The idea was wholly from Liz Meriwether and I sitting on a couch and hashing through our own marital shenanigans and foibles,” Bell says. “We’re relatively newly married, and we had a lot of camaraderie with that and we wanted to talk about the relationship of a couple in their first year in marriage and the parts that you play.”
The two main characters have become “sick and tired of the concrete life,” and so decide to fulfill their fantasies of the “rural, pastoral experience” by moving to the alfalfa farm that was left to Bell’s character by her aunt.
However, perhaps not surprisingly, the environment they move into is not the backward, tranquil setting they were expecting.
“The core of it is that you’re coming into this story and you’re very much rooting for these guys, but it is really the community that looks at them like they are strange, because we are strange creatures and new age Ashwagandha drinkers,” Bell says.
The show originally had a pilot at 20th Century Fox TV, before Fox decided to pass on it. However, Bell insists the move over to ABC has been a “seamless transition.”
Shepard, who starred in the NBC drama “Parenthood” for five years, adds that returning to a broadcast show at this stage of his career does provide a slight risk because comedy shows have “left the cinema, but have not found a home on TV.”
He says that while many dramas have been critically acclaimed and successful on TV, comedies have yet to be recognized in the same way.
“It’s a joke when you look at the screeners that come to the house for awards season, versus the amount of television I saw that year that was outstanding, truly outstanding,” Shepard says. “I can list you over a 140 hours of some of the best content I’ve ever seen in my whole life, so that would equal 70 movies that would have been great last year. I’ve got bad news, there were not 70 great movies last year, I’m not sure there were seven, so any notion of there being some kind of prestige factor over movies and TV, I just think that’s a pretty shattered paradigm that’s about 10 years old.”
For Bell, the show will be a success if by the end, it’s still something that she is “truly proud of.”
Later in the show, critics Daniel D’Addario and Caroline Framke will discuss Hulu’s new comedy “Ramy,” and Netflix drama “Chambers.” Finally, TV reporter Joe Otterson will give an update on developments in this year’s pilot season.