Katy Burns: Puppies! Kittens! Who can resist?
Some years ago we were out for a ride in the country when we clicked on NPR. And there was an interview, clearly in progress, with a guy who was recounting, with great good humor, his failed attempt in the mid-1990s to launch what he thought would be a sure-fire new cable outlet: The Puppy Channel.
And I was startled as I listened to his mellifluous voice, familiar even after 35-plus years. Good grief, that’s Dan FitzSimons!
And sure enough, it was. Dan was a real Irish charmer, a born salesman who parlayed his brains and personality into a successful career in advertising. When he retired, he and his daughter had a mutual brainstorm: a new cable channel that would show nothing but puppy videos all day long. After all, who can resist roly-poly puppies? Surely the Puppy Channel would be perfect for places like doctors’ offices, a nice change from those fancy aquariums. Or for folks who just want to be soothed, wherever they are. Perfect!
Alas, Dan’s salesman’s radar failed him. The Puppy Channel lived only briefly on a few minor cable networks. Even today, though, it apparently hangs on as a website and Facebook page.
I think of Dan and his Puppy Channel every year about now, because my old friend was clearly a man ahead of his time.
I’m talking, of course, of the Puppy Bowl! Today’s Puppy Bowl X kicks off at 2. This paean to fuzzy little puppies of every conceivable color, size and breed mixture, has delighted dog lovers since 2005, even if the dogs have fairly dubious athletic abilities.
The baby pooches are gathered up from animal shelters. They’re given names and player “profiles” which are read when the cuddly critters tumble onto the field – an enclosed little “stadium” where they take turns racing all over the place chasing balls and tussling over colorful chew toys, all while an announcer explains and analyzes the plays.
Apparently just off camera a crew with rags and buckets stands at the ready to deal with accidents, which are frequent, so retakes are common, and teams are regularly refreshed with more puppies.
Viewers are reminded often that the players – and a lot of other worthy pets – are waiting in shelters to be adopted by loving families. And from all accounts many pups will find homes through Puppy Bowl X.
It’s silly – and irresistible. The Animal Planet channel, the show’s home, gets a flood of puppy-loving viewers once a year.
And this year, the Puppy Bowl isn’t alone. There’s the Kitten Bowl!
Now I should make it clear that the Puppy Bowl people have always thrown a catnip mouse, so to speak, to cat aficionados.
The half-time show at the Puppy Bowl is performed, after a fashion, by winsome kittens. Some climb up luxurious scratching posts and bat cat toys around. Others desperately hide from the cameras and the prying eyes of others, behavior cat companions are very familiar with. The cats are cute – but the puppies steal the show.
So some cat people, apparently, demanded parity for kittens. And lo, the Hallmark Channel heard their cries.
Voila! An embarrassment of riches. The Kitten Bowl will debut today at noon, carefully timed not to overlap with the Puppy Bowl, so lovers of both animals won’t have any remote control contests in their homes.
Since no one has yet seen the Kitten Bowl – which like its puppy counterpart will feature shelter cats, available for adoption – we’ll quote the website to see what is planned.
“The competition will consist of two preliminary playoffs and a championship match. Along with basic obstacle courses of hurdles, tunnels, hoops, jumps, weave poles, lasers, lures and toys on strings, ‘Kitten Bowl’ will feature clever locker room strategies, player profiles and ‘interviews,’ and camera work and audio recordings from the athletes as they play the game!”
Well. As one who has over the years shared her home with a whole bunch of cats who mostly sleep, eat and groom themselves, I’m a wee bit skeptical. But I’ll happily check it out.
And then there’s something else demanding our attention today. Yeah, the Super Bowl.
We – my husband and I – enjoy the Puppy Bowl. We’ll definitely check out the Kitten Bowl. But the Super Bowl?
I am – or was – a football fan going back to the good old days of the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the Browns did have glory days once in the mists of history. It was a pre-Super Bowl time. And yes, there was a time when the Super Bowl didn’t exist.
Somehow, though, as the spectacle got longer and louder, my interest – and my husband’s – faded.
And so today we’ll likely watch at least part of the Puppy Bowl. And the new Kitten Bowl. And then we’ll perhaps watch a good movie. Maybe The Fortune Cookie, a great old Billy Wilder comedy with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. It deals with football. Well, sort of.
I’d like to think my old friend Dan FitzSimons would approve. As long as we first watch the Puppy Bowl.
(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)