When owners jump through hoops for their dogs
Here's a new reality series about dogs. Wait, strike that. Here's a new CBS reality series about dog people, that strangely wonderful breed of humans who live to serve their beloved pets. Dog people: They can be aggressive, stubborn, and playful, and many of them bark a little too loudly.
"Greatest American Dog," premiering tonight at 8 on Channel 4, takes its cue from the 2000 Christopher Guest movie "Best in Show," as it zeroes in on the eccentricities of the owners. Each one, of course, firmly believes his or her own poopsie is destined for the crown. The 12 diverse dogs in the competition - including Elvis the Parson Russell Terrier, Preston the Pomeranian, and Star, a Brittany who can sense her diabetic owner's blood sugar levels - are awfully cute.
The 12 owners are less cute and awfully kooky, as they guide their dogs through elimination challenges that will eventually win one of them $250,000. Tonight's challenges include doggy musical chairs and a doggy performance pageant in front of three judges.
The dog-and-owner interplay ranges from the awesome and comic to the cringe-worthy. See burly Ron and his bulldog Tillman. See Tillman run. See Tillman jump onto a skateboard and ride it like a plump little punk. See J.D. and his pointer-collie mix Galaxy do amazing tricks. See Galaxy jump onto J.D.'s bent back and stay there for minutes at a time. Hear J.D. pant. See Beth Joy and her 10-year-old Chihuahua mix Bella Starlet swan about like impossible prima donnas. See Beth Joy dress up Bella Starlet in precious dog outfits. See her shape Bella Starlet's hair and ears into fancy dog 'dos.
See the other owners roll their eyes.
Like most reality shows, "Greatest American Dog" is rigged to create interpersonal drama among its players. Your tolerance for the show will ultimately depend on your tolerance for owner-on-owner spats and misbehavior. In the manner of "Big Brother," everyone lives together as roommates in the show's mansion, which features a grass sculpture of a giant fire hydrant on the front lawn. Then class tensions are imposed on them. Every three days, one dog-and-owner pair wins rights to sleep in the deluxe "Dogbone Suite," and another must live in the outdoor doghouse.
The battles and alliances begin quickly - watch Brandy's alarm go off tonight when Laura merely touches Brandy's miniature schnauzer Beacon. Perhaps aware that the dog challenges aren't enough to sustain a series that isn't on Animal Planet or the National Geographic Channel, producer R.J. Cutler makes sure the personality issues take center stage. Cuteness is sweet and happy, but it doesn't generally get ratings.