Demonstrating yet again that there’s no shortage of people willing to become unwitting punching bags, Bravo follows its entertaining but troubling documentary series “Showbiz Moms & Dads” by going to the dogs, with what was doubtlessly pitched as “the real-life ‘Best in Show.'” While not as riveting as the original — in part, perhaps, because dogs are less annoying than some of those kids — this eight-part outing is still the least flattering thing to hit animal pageantry since Triumph the Insult Comic Dog began his annual sojourn to Westminster.
All that should make the series a hit by Bravo’s modest standards while leaving the participants to smack themselves for being so gullible. Everyone will have a favorite object of scorn or pity, though Moira probably takes the blue ribbon by having her 10-year-old son handle their Australian shepherd, bridging the worst of both shows. “You let him gallop! Two times!” she yells disapprovingly at one point.
As for negative stereotypes, look no further than Brandon and Ryan, a gay couple who dress their pint-sized dogs like drag queens and name one Liberace. Their angry shouting matches provide a show within the show, though by the end of the second hour — when one calls the cops on the other — it’s apparent that only a true reality TV sadist will embrace this subplot.
As in “Best in Show,” Christopher Guest’s spoof of the dog-competition world, the five profiled contenders eventually will convene at the National Dog Show in Philadelphia. The group includes Lourdes, who was unable to conceive herself and cries when a veterinary procedure impregnates her German shepherd, Katie; George and Connie, seemingly impersonating the Eugene Levy/Catherine O’Hara pairing in the aforementioned film; and Kyra, who tours with performing Weimaraner Chalcy, a beast almost certainly smarter than any of the people onscreen.
Aside from the enormous investment (up to $30,000 a year), the dogs-as-more-important-than-kids theme has its limits. And while there’s nothing new about pets as surrogates for children, when Brandon protests, “You need to not raise your voice in front of these dogs,” it illustrates the absurd depths to which these folks take it.
This isn’t to say the episodes aren’t educational. Moira feeds her dogs eggs, shells and all, to give them a living wild-type diet, which makes you wonder why she doesn’t do everyone a favor and set them free. Lourdes, meanwhile, explains that Katie is serving as a “teaser bitch” for harvesting sperm from Max (which elicits more tears) — a term sure to find life beyond the program.
Although nothing here proves as unnerving as “showbiz dad” Duncan Nutter, who uprooted his entire family to chase his acting dreams, it’s easy to feel superior watching someone put their dog in pants or a feathered boa, which is part of the show’s guilty allure.
Indeed, as train-wreck TV goes, “Showdog” delivers a veritable feast of “Stupid Owner Tricks,” one irresistible bowl-full at a time.