TV shows and movies rarely take place near the Midwest, but rather in big cities on the coasts. However, ABC’s new comedy “Bless This Mess” is making a change to that with its western Nebraska setting.
“Bless This Mess,” tells the story of a couple from New York named Mike and Rio, played by Dax Shepard and Lake Bell, who inherit a small farm in fictional Bucksnort, Nebraska, from Mike’s great aunt. They decide to move there to begin a life of farming away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Shepard and Bell’s acting takes the episode on a rollercoaster of emotion, filled with both humor and sincerity.
One such moment happens toward the climax of the first episode when Rio and Mike express how they want to be the person the other wants them to be. Mike wants Rio to be alright with the idea of moving, and Rio wants Mike to be handy and fix the farmhouse roof himself. But they can’t fulfill each other’s wishes and end up being fine with it because they fall in love with who they are, not who they want each other to be.
The first episode’s portrayal of Nebraska and its people is somewhat accurate, such as the feeling of a small town community and neighborly help. However, there are a few inaccuracies — particularly in the landscape. The series makes Nebraska look like a dusty, dry heap of dirt. There are very few scenes that show grass or a field of corn, which is an obvious staple of Nebraskan culture. There is also not a single mention of the Cornhuskers, although Shepard dons a Nebraska cap while doing handiwork.
Another part of this show’s pilot that made it enjoyable was the supporting cast. The most hilarious is Rudy, a family friend from Mike’s childhood. Portrayed by Ed Begley Jr., Rudy’s mannerisms are borderline creepy, yet somehow friendly, like when he uses the bathroom when someone else is in the shower. And whenever he greets someone, he does so in a monotone and commanding voice, but everyone replies to him like he is the supreme leader for no reason aside from his seniority.
Pam Grier also gives a standout performance as Constance, the owner of the town’s hardware store, the local sheriff and Rudy’s love interest. Grier’s portrayal of Constance resembles a motherly figure who may not look intimidating, but also isn’t a person to mess with.
She’s not afraid to tell anyone when they mess up, but she reassures them that it’s OK to not be perfect, like when she consoles Mike after he and Rio have their first argument as a married couple. She tells Mike that the fight with Rio needed to happen, or else they would be lying to themselves and letting their problems fester. She’s able to say this in a gentle yet authoritative way, which may have something to do with the fact that she wears a sheriff’s uniform.
The episode is an average introduction to the characters and the story. There aren’t any mind-blowing moments or scenes that make the premiere a spectacular one, but it does a satisfying job of providing the audience with a few laughs. Shepard and Bell have a believable chemistry and are able to make the audience care about their characters through the struggles they face in the episode. The audience will have to wait and see whether the show will steer clear of Nebraskan stereotypes and actually explore what it means to be a Nebraskan. But so far, the show looks adequate with the characters of Rudy and Constance giving Nebraskans a good look.