Rebel Wilson (“Cats”) opens the pilot of “Pooch Perfect” by telling contestants that the show is “a competitive dog grooming show that I promise everyone will love, unless they’re a cat.” This statement is not only extremely corny — it’s also unequivocally false.
I cannot imagine a world where anyone, let alone everyone, would crave to watch a show about dog grooming. Even without taking into account the innate horridness of the show’s premise, many animal rights activists criticized the show for perpetuating potentially dangerous dog grooming methods.
The format of “Pooch Perfect” goes as follows: There are 10 dog grooming duos and three judges. Each week, participants compete in two prompted grooming challenges, one called “Immunity Puppertunity” and another called the “Ultimutt Challenge.” The winner of Immunity Puppertunity, as deemed by the judges, is safe from elimination and does not have to compete in the Ultimutt Challenge. The judges then come to a consensus as to which duo had the worst performance in the Ultimutt Challenge, and that duo is sent home. Whichever duo is the last standing by the end of the season wins the grand prize of $100,000.
The pilot episode’s Immunity Puppertunity asked contestants to groom a dog in the image of each contestant’s personal “heart dog,” the dog that inspired them to become a groomer. The Ultimutt Challenge prompt was to transform a dog into another animal, like a tiger or skunk. Everything about “Pooch Perfect” is cringe-inducing, from the awful one-liners and over-the-top sound effects, to a 30-second dance sequence featuring Wilson and a rather unnerving group of dog mascots.
Even for a show designed to be a guilty pleasure, “Pooch Perfect” is poorly produced. Based on musical cues alone, it was painfully easy to tell which duo was going to be eliminated from the competition. Reality game shows thrive from the surprise that comes from seeing who gets booted each week. If that element of suspense is not present, there is no point in continuing to watch. The show also does a poor job of showcasing its contestants’ personalities. In order to be truly invested in a reality game show, the characters must stand out, which is unfortunately not the case in “Pooch Perfect.”
At its roots, “Pooch Perfect” is representative of the dying cable TV landscape. As more and more audiences turn to streaming services, cable lags behind — tail between its legs — with shameless reality programs.
The moral implications of “Pooch Perfect” are an even more concerning problem. Dogs are not toys and should not be decorated or dressed up like American Girl Dolls. The groomers on “Pooch Perfect” style their assigned dogs with beads, hair dye, unnatural shaving patterns and other tacky accessories. Animal rights organization PETA issued concerns that “Pooch Perfect” could inspire dog owners to subject their pets to extraneous prodding or toxic dyes, though the show claims that vets were brought in to confirm the safety of the dyes.
And yet, even if there were no valid ethical concerns over the show, “Pooch Perfect” would still not deserve to be on the air. Networks should green-light creative and genuinely good ideas if they want to remain relevant at all.
Daily Arts Writer Aidan Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.