“Bless This Mess” has Lake Bell and Dax Shepard plowing their field of dreams for laughs on ABC sitcom

BLESS THIS MESS stars Dax Shepard as Mike, and Lake Bell as Rio. (photos: ABC/John Fleenor)

  Bless This Mess is the new ABC sitcom on Tuesday nights. It is a fish-out-of-water show that offers some great laughs as it follows newlyweds Rio (Lake Bell), a therapist, and Mike (Dax Shepard), a music journalist, after they make the decision to move from New York to a rural Nebraska farm they’ve inherited. They envision it as a paradise, so they give up their big city jobs to run the farm. But the simple life plowing their field of dreams isn’t as easy as they had planned—he can’t fix stuff, she’s afraid of cows, and neither has a green thumb.

It might as well be set in Hooterville, because it’s sort of a reboot of the folksy fictional town that was the setting for the classic down-home comedies Petticoat Junction (airing from 1963 to 1971), and Green Acres (1965 to 1971). Their debut was well over 50 years ago. But everything old is new again, and now ABC is trying to duplicate the hayseed humor, only with clever “woke” humor.

The show does have the corny sweetness that its predecessors captured, but for this generation of perspicacious TV viewers it also presents a different look at America’s heartland and their neighborliness. Mid-West wisdom, an appreciation for farmers, and small town life are subjects as scarce as hen’s teeth on todays’ crop of sitcoms, so the freshness of Bless This Mess is welcomed.

   The stars and creative team were on hand to talk about the comedy at the Television Critics Association’s winter 2019 press tour. Stars/executive producers Lake Bell and Dax Shepard were as funny during the interview session as they are on the show, and they were joined on the panel by castmates Ed Begley Jr., Pam Grier, JT Neal, and Lennon Parham, plus executive producers Elizabeth Meriwether and Melvin Mar.

Lake Bell is not only starring in the show she is the co-creator along with Elizabeth Meriwether, and they both wrote the pilot, which Bell also directed.

Why Nebraska for the setting? Bell explained, “The real concept that we were excited about in making the show was this incredible love and wonder of the simpler life and what that really is. I am from New York, and I absolutely unabashedly have this dream to move to a farm, and Meriwether is from Michigan.”

Meriwether added, “Yes, I’m from Michigan, so I’ve driven through Nebraska a lot of times and remember just staring at the expanses of the sky, and it sort of caught my imagination.”

Bell continued, “It’s so vastly different than New York. And I think it really satiates that craving of just land. You know, the dream is, the romance is— owning your own piece of dirt. I know Pam (Grier) is laughing at us because she literally lives that dream.”

Pam Grier

Yes, Pam Grier, best known as an empowered kickbutt gal in Jackie Brown, Foxy Brown and the ’70s blackploitation films, as well as The L Word series, plays the local store owner/sheriff on the show. And in real life she lives on a ranch in Colorado. Grier joked that she got cast in her Bless This Mess role “because I smelled the part.”

She explained, “The morning I came in to meet (the producers), I had been on the tractor, raking the pastures and mucking. I came in to meet everyone with what I worked in. My family had a sugar beet farm and a hotel in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It gave me my passion for ranching, so whenever I would finish a show, I would go home to Colorado. I need to see the horizon and the glory in that. So when Lake proposed this wonderful show, I said, ‘Oh, my God, I live it.’ I smell it, and I have something to bring to it. People don’t know that because they always see me dressed up and cleaned up for roles. But that’s the best part about this show, I get to show the real people of the heartland. I know them very, very well and what they believe in. So I can bring a lot of good dirt.”

Ed Begley Jr. and Lake Bell in ABC’s Bless This Mess

This reporter had to ask Ed Begley Jr. to compare Bless This Mess to Green Acres. Begley noted, “They were similar in plotline, but this is very new for 2019. I liked Green Acres, but I like this a lot more. I have a lot of personal experience farming on a small scale. I’ve grown a lot of my own food since the ’70s, and I really appreciate what it takes to grow food. I’ve been to Nebraska many times, and I love the people there, so I feel a connection. And hey, Green Acres ran for years. If we can have that kind of luck with our show, I think we’d be very happy.”

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.