April 16, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Bless This Mess”


BLESS THIS MESS:  Tuesday 9:30PM on ABC

The six-episode order ABC gave BLESS THIS HOUSE (after FOX had passed on the project) is about as small as any network show can get.  That doesn’t leave much time for series creators Lake Bell (who also stars and directed the pilot) and Elizabeth Meriwether to show that there’s more to their plans than the shaky, predictable premise.  It puts young New York couple Rio and Mike (Bell and Dax Shepard) on a fading Nebraska alfalfa farm he’s inherited, as utterly unprepared as they are eager to change their yuppie lives (he’s a music journalist, she’s a therapist) for a rural experience.

This isn’t an original concept, and unfortunately Bless This House is, based on the pilot, more Green Acres than Newhart.  Naturally Rio and Mike are surrounded by local eccentrics, including Rudy (Ed Begley, Jr), who sleeps in their barn and divides his bathroom time between the one in their house and a convenient bucket; and Constance (Pam Grier), who in the small town is the proprietor of the hardware store, the sheriff and head of the local theatre company.

Bell is a newcomer to series TV, but Meriwether has shown an ability to find unexpected angles on premises as familiar and obvious as New Girl and Single Parents.  It typically takes time, though, for her to find the right balance among her misfit characters in order for them to develop a collective charm, and time is going to be at a premium with a run that ends in late May.  In addition, while her previous shows were built around ensembles, Bless This Mess is a star vehicle for Bell and Shepard, with the other figures so far firmly in the background.

Luckily for the series, the two leads are personable and amusing, with plenty of experience playing characters whose likability has an edge.  In order for Bless This Mess to work, though, there will have to be more to Rio and Mike than their current bland characters, so formless that they might as well be the anonymous couple killed in the first reel of a slasher movie.  Her phobia about cows and his stubborn resistance to admitting he doesn’t know how to fix a roof are not the stuff of memorable comedy.

There’s enough talent associated with Bless This House that it shouldn’t be dismissed too rapidly.  But it’s going to have to work fast to convince viewers that it’s any less ramshackle than the farmhouse where its characters reside.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."