The show (premiering April 16) stars Dax Shepard and Lake Bell as a New York City couple who move to rural Nebraska after his great-aunt dies and leaves them an old farmhouse. Shepard and Bell see it as way to live “a simpler life.” But, as the show’s tagline goes: “Living the simple life is a work in progress.”
“I’m goin’ farming in Nebraska!” Shepard shouts as they’re leaving New York.
But it turns out the farmhouse needs a little work, and Bell and Shepard aren’t especially well-suited to country life. She’s terrified of cows, for instance.
For those worrying that the show will portray Nebraskans as a bunch of hicks, well, there might be some of that. But most of the humor appears to come from the ineptitude of the city slickers and their failed efforts to fix their rickety house. The whole thing is very “Green Acres” with a side of “The Money Pit.”
Pam Grier and Ed Begley Jr. play the locals, clearly amused by the New York couple’s efforts to live the Good Life.
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The trailer gets in a shot of a “NEBRASKA ... the good life” sign as well as a few cornfields and even Shepard wearing a Huskers hat as he attempts to fix a hole in his roof.
(There’s a little Nebraska B-roll footage in the trailer, but the pilot was filmed in Santa Clarita, California. That’s a green-screen background we’ll be seeing. Though isn’t it kind of cool that Nebraska of all places is being green-screened into a primetime TV show?)
The series was co-created by Bell and Elizabeth Meriwether (who also created “New Girl”). Both have a great track record creatively. There’s reason to be optimistic that this very Nebraska show might actually be pretty good.
On the Television Critics Association press tour, Shepard joked that they set “Bless This Mess” in Nebraska because the state’s tourism board gave them enough money to pay for the whole first season.
When someone pointed out that Nebraska’s new catchphrase is “It’s Not For Everyone,” Meriwether said she had “dibs on that for the show.”
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1. “Omaha,” Waylon Jennings
“Omaha, you’ve been weighin’ heavy on my mind”
On a tune written by Billy Joe Shaver, Jennings sings about leaving Omaha for better places only to realize it was a mistake. After some jailtime in California, the song reckons that it’s time to return to Nebraska.
2. “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis,” Tom Waits
“I went back to Omaha to live with my folks”
As the titular prostitute notes, everyone she used to know is either dead or in prison. In this tune, Omaha represents its own kind of prison, so she moves back to Minneapolis. Oof. (Of course, the truth we find in the song’s last line is rougher than anything.)
“Omaha stylee, did not think there was one”
The Omaha-bred rock band dishes about how it comes from a town where “the shows are more fun.” For years, 311 has used this song as its concert opener as a salute to its hometown. “We’re proud of where we came from, and we know how we feel and we kinda want to write a song that there’s no doubt where this band is from,” drummer Chad Sexton told The World-Herald about writing the song.
4. “We’re an American Band,” Grand Funk Railroad
“Four young chiquitas in Omaha/Waitin’ for the band to return from the show”
There’s nothing quite like a hotel party after the show, and that’s what those chiquitas were after. They wanted to meet the boys in the band and, as the song says, “tear that hotel down.”
5. “I Shall Be Free No. 10,” Bob Dylan
“And I’m gonna ride into Omaha on a horse/Out to the country club and the golf course”
Dylan depicts Omaha as a sleepy town where he’s gonna waltz in with the New York Times and “blow their minds.” Maybe in 1964, when he wrote the song.
6. “Omaha,” Counting Crows
“Omaha/Somewhere in middle America”
Adam Duritz wrote “Omaha” long before the Counting Crows recorded it, but he thought his other bands could never quite get the feel right. He loved “Omaha” by Moby Grape as well as R.E.M.’s cover of it, and he loved the sound of the word.
7. “Turn the Page,” Bob Seger
"On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha"
Seger and his band were always annoyed that their long hair attracted so much attention.
“I wrote that song in 1971. We were in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and we got accosted by some traveling salesmen,” Seger told The World-Herald in 2011. “The salesmen were calling us girls and everything. ... (The Rolling Stones) were going through the same thing at the same time we were. They were in the South, but ours happened in the North, in Wisconsin.”
But why the Omaha mention?
“We didn’t get much west of Omaha because we weren’t very big at the time,” Seger said, laughing. “We were always east of Omaha!”
8. “Omaha,” Damien Jurado
“The land of Nebraska is beautiful at night”
An Omaha man hits the road with his three kids.
9. “Omaha, Nebraska,” Groucho Marx
“There’s a place called Omaha, Nebraska/in the foothills of Tennessee”
This silly song depicts a forlorn man who says his sweetie promised to love him precisely “when the snow falls in Montana and it’s raining in Peru.” So, never.
Listed as No. 95 on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest guitar songs of all time, this tune doesn’t actually mention our city except in its title. But it is a seriously awesome jam with three guitarists battling it out. It also inspired Counting Crows' "Omaha."
11. “Omaha,” They Might Be Giants
“Sokol Auditorium/Party in the night time/...Sokol Auditorium/Psychedelic light show”
On its album, “Venue Songs,” They Might Be Giants provided 31 songs that were written and recorded at each venue of its 2004 tour.
12. “Omaha,” Everly Brothers
“Everything’s there, my love and my laughter/It’s all in Omaha”
Omaha is a city of romance. Just ask the Everly Brothers. Some wonderful relationship happened in Omaha, which causes this song’s subject to forget anything that ever happened to him elsewhere.
13.“Hello in There,” John Prine
“John and Linda live in Omaha”
Growing old can be lonely, and Prine spells it out in detail, up to and including when his kids grow up and move to Omaha.
14. “(Ready or Not) Omaha Nebraska,” Bowling for Soup
“And now it’s two men on, two men gone, batter up/Ready or not, Omaha, Nebraska”
This is basically a song advertising baseball and Omaha that was commissioned for ESPN’s coverage of the College World Series. Bowling for Soup lead singer Jaret Reddick told The World-Herald that he wrote it in just a few minutes. “We do a bunch of stuff for film and TV and that sort of special-order thing,” he said.
15. “Global a Go-Go,” Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
“Cuz tonight, Bo Diddley’s in Finland Station/Sun Ra’s in Omaha”
The former Clash frontman basically calls out all the places his music can reach, and Omaha is one of more than 20 spots he mentions, including Saturn, Acapulco and Sierra Leone.
16. “Going Nowhere Slow,” Bloodhound Gang
“Jackson, Omaha, Des Moines, Boise, Providence, Chicago”
Bloodhound Gang’s pump-up jam about all the places they’ll rock includes 15 rhyming lines of cities they rock. Except New Jersey. They won’t go there.
17. “Help Save the Youth of America,” Billy Bragg
“Omaha will burn with them”
The whole country is going down the tubes, and Bragg uses Omaha to represent that not only are the coasts going to burn, but so is the middle of the country.
18. “Letter From Omaha,” Josh Ritter
“Sent me a letter from Omaha”
Josh Ritter weaves a story about missing someone with lots of imagery of farm fields and sewing. We’re pretty sure Omaha just sounded cool.
19. “Uneasy Rider,” Charlie Daniels
“I wonder if anybody’d think I’d flipped/If I went to L.A., via Omaha”
Daniels’ poor experience in Mississippi causes him to rethink his route for next time.
20. “Shower,” The Mountain Goats
“The blackest storm I ever saw was coming in from Omaha”
As he frequently did, John Darnielle wrote about a dark day that could be washed away only by a shower.
21. “The Great Salt Lake,” Band of Horses
“Everybody listen we will be the next Omaha”
Frontman Ben Bridwell wrote this tune about a South Carolina reservoir and the people hanging out around there, and one of them posits that their town could one day reach the heights of Omaha’s music scene.
22. “The Simultaneous Occurrence of True Love and Nausea at an Omaha Burger King, Oct. 12, 1992,” Simon Joyner
“That’s love to me/It occurs every day in Burger Kings”
Joyner’s lo-fi acoustic composition sounds like every awkward crush we had in high school.
23. “Greater Omaha,” Desaparecidos
“Out west they’re moving dirt/To make a greater Omaha”
Conor Oberst circa 2002 sings about his home city and how commercialized everything has become. It’s not a good view.
24. “Leaving Omaha,” The Good Life
“I was moving up and out/Out of Omaha/Oh, it didn’t last”
As many high schoolers do, Tim Kasher dreamed of getting out of Omaha after graduation. He did, but he came back. That sounds like it was a bad thing, but he sounds happy about it by the end of the song: “I’ve got to get back over that bridge/...I guess that’s where I’ll stay.”
25. “The Execution of All Things,” Rilo Kiley
“Then we’ll go to Omaha, to work and exploit the booming music scene”
That’s kinda what the band did when it signed up with Saddle Creek Records.