It sounds like another lame TV idea — a 21st-century version of the 1960s sitcom “Green Acres,” in which a New York couple decamps from Park Avenue to Hooterville.
The update is “Bless This Mess” (9:30 p.m. Tuesdays on ABC), starring Dax Shepard and Lake Bell. The first season wraps up May 21, and ABC just renewed the show for Season 2.
The Manhattanites are moderately obnoxious newlyweds — Shepard is Mike, an earnestly hipster music journalist with family roots in Nebraska; Bell is Rio, an overbearingly earnest therapist. (She also is the co-creator of the show, with “New Girl” mastermind Elizabeth Meriwether.) When Mike inherits a farm in his ancestral homeland, the couple heads out to become a favorite sitcom stereotype: fish out of water.
Despite its cliches about clueless urbanites and wise ruralites, “Bless This Mess” pulls off absurd-yet-warmhearted comedy. Episode 3 is a prime example. Mike’s fellow farmers think he’s too wussy to slaughter his chickens — called “Malala” and “Kamala” and “Solange” and other unchickenlike names by Rio. Mike tries but can’t decapitate.
When his neighbors come over to buy fresh chicken meat, he doesn’t want to admit his failing, so he and Rio herd the squawking birds into their home to conceal them — only the fowl fling themselves at the windows. This is chicken slapstick at its best.
And the human interactions are absolutely charming. Rio can’t seem to make friends in her new community. She tries desperately to chat with sheriff/general store owner Constance (the awesome Pam Grier of “Foxy Brown” fame). Stolid Constance just says, “Oh, you know.”
But then the women have a breakthrough by discussing how gratifying it is to confess one’s inner truths to chickens. “They’re good listeners,” says Constance, who reassures Rio: “People will come to you in their own time.”
There are plenty of diversions, so “Mess” isn’t just the tale of Mike and Rio. Ed Begley Jr. is scruffy neighbor Rudy, who expresses his crush on Constance by making a daily trip to her store to buy a single piece of red licorice. Hunky millennial farm boy Jacob (JT Neal) yearns for a “swag” haircut like the cool kids get in Lincoln. And sharp-tongued Susie Essman plays Rio’s mother, who answers an evening phone call with a brusque, “Who died?”
When all of these pieces come together, the result is a blessedly funny mess.