Bless This Mess plants sitcom seeds in fertile ground, but it’s difficult to tell just yet if it’ll prosper or wither on the vine.
This Bless This Mess Episode 1 recap for the pilot episode contains spoilers.
There’s something that feels fittingly salt-of-the-earth about Bless This Mess, a new ABC sitcom co-created by and starring Lake Bell, about a newlywed couple who leave their Big Apple life behind to become blue-collar farmers in Nebraska. It’s an old kind of sitcom; winning leads and a fertile premise obviously reminiscent of Green Acres, the kind of thing where a lack of originality feels comforting. It’s tough to tell from the 22-minute Bless This Mess pilot quite how much of a success it’ll be, but it’s certainly well-made and likable enough to find an audience who’re in the market for some laidback and homey television.
Bell plays Rio, a successful therapist and lifelong New Yorker who abandons her practice when her husband, Mike (Dax Shepard), is bequeathed a farm in corn country by a deceased relative. Mike feigns an indescribable pull from the raw, untamed land of Nebraska, but in reality, he has been laid off and is trying to cover it up; this barely has time to be dealt with in the Bless This Mess pilot, but it should hopefully tee up some drama in the future. I know how my partner would react to being conned out of her cushy lifestyle to work a falling-down farmstead in the middle of nowhere.
That’s the other thing. For predictable comedic purposes, the farm is barely holding together, and a looming storm threatens to reduce what’s left of it to splinters. This is all ripe comedic territory, and the general competence of the show’s construction is what stands out about it. These are well-worn ideas — almost all the comedy is derived from fish-out-of-water buffoonery and the usual differences between rural and city folk — but they don’t feel like it in this context; Bless This Mess gets through its setup with admirable efficiency and manages to find plenty of genuine laughs along the way, many of which come from Ed Begley Jr.’s hilariously intrusive neighbor, Rudy.
Ultimately, like with all sitcoms, it’s just difficult to tell whether a show like this will prosper or wither on the vine. There’s a reason that the current direct-to-binge model of television distribution is so popular, and for all the familiar-feeling comforts that Bless This Mess provides, like the ever-present threat of a devastating storm the risk of never finding a large enough audience looms on the horizon. But the seeds have been planted, and the land is healthy enough for something to grow.