Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I know parents who confess they love watching shows like The Nanny and Wife Swap, because it gives them no end of vicarious pleasure to see how dreadful other people are at child-rearing and assorted family management.
I was reminded of that odd bit of nasty pleasure while watching Greatest American Dog, currently running on CBS. Yes, it may be possible I'm only person watching this summer-grade reality show in which dogs have to live together in a big house and perform weekly challenges. I've been sick, and this sort of low-grade entertainment is just what the doctor ordered.
Plus, I have a dog. And I would never ever be as stupid as the dog-owners on this show. Ahem.
The dogs -- who perform in tandem with their owners -- aren't a bad bunch. Because the challenges require responding to commands and being generally well behaved, the dogs chosen for the show were pre-screened for minimal aptitude and temperament.
Not so the owners! They're deliciously out-of-their-doggie-owner minds!
Beth Joy dresses her dog, Bella Scarlet, up in frou-frou outfits, and feeds her elaborate holistic meals packed with eyedrops of potions and who knows what. She's already been yelled at by the judges, including hardcase British celeb dog trainer Victoria Stillwell (also seen on Animal Planet in It's Me or the Dog), for making her dog wear dresses: "A dog is not a Barbie doll; a dog is a dog!"
"But that's what Bella Scarlet wears to parties!" Beth Joy wailed. Beth Joy -- who seems in need of a life -- also has a huge tattoo of her dog on her calf.
Speaking of needy, there's Brandy, who literally demands that housemates talk more about her. A number of contestants aver that their dog is their best friend, and frankly, some of them seem so intense about their dog, it's suggestive the animal is their only friend.
Middle-aged Laurie, who has a low-key Maltese, seemed normal upfront, but the strain of living in the group house may be chipping the veneer. Two weeks ago, she tattled on Elvis, a badly behaved Jack Russell who had been biting some of the other dogs. It was true about Elvis, but the whole episode seemed less than classy.
The human-and-dog pair who seemed the most happy to simply be there, and took the whole thing as the righteous goof it was, were Ron and his flatulent sleepy bulldog named Tilman. Then, they were sent packing in a shocking upset, when Tilman failed his glamour-portrait challenge. Surprisingly, Teresa who used "snarl bands" -- a rubber-band that fits over the dog's teeth and pulls back the lips -- to get her dog to pose looking angry (and which actually made the otherwise placid pooch actually irked) was not eliminated. Isn't this cheating?
So, what gives? The snoring, slumping, farting Tilman was a big hit with contestants (and, I bet, viewers), and should have stuck around. Oh well, the reality-TV-biz is tough and often unfair. The dogs seem unfazed week to week, but expect more drama from the increasingly thin-skinned humans.