‘Dogs in the City’ cruelty not aimed at canine

Posted: June 02, 2012

Were I still a gambling man, there are several wagers I would be eager to make after this strange week of television. To wit:

The cruelest thing I saw was on the debut of the CBS summer docu-series Dogs in the City. It was nothing that the show’s star, canine behavior-modifier Justin Silver, did. He was really cool, like a GQ Cesar Millan, taxiing around Manhattan to conduct interventions on a number of crazy pooches and the far crazier humans on the other end of their leashes.

No, it was what CBS did with the footage. There was one segment where Silver was dealing with the owner of a model agency who had rather staggering control issues. Case in point, she insisted on bringing her dogs to her small office every day, even though one of them launched itself, choppers first, at every person who walked through the door, including the models.

The dog’s owner didn’t really see how this constituted a problem. "How many people has she bitten?" Silver asks. "Are you counting blood bites and non-blood bites?" the owner wanted to know. At this point, her two young assistants, stuck behind tiny desks in opposite corners and obviously living in total fear of their boss, exchange wide-eyed looks, like "Whoa, here we go again."

The camera lingers on their silent Stockholm syndrome exchange. In fact, it becomes the leitmotif of the segment: Every time their scary employer says something that indicates her chilling disregard for other people, their eyebrows semaphore each other.

The show aired Wednesday night. I’m willing to bet that by lunchtime Thursday, both those young people were a) unemployed and b) had their ears ringing.

Range wars. Break out the corn liquor, Pappy. We’re celebrating tonight.

Hatfields & McCoys, the miniseries on History, shattered all kinds of viewing records on basic cable this week, drawing an average of 13.8 million viewers over its three nights.

As a result, I’m willing to bet you dollars to doughnuts that there are at least 100 TV producers out there right now feverishly pitching series concepts based on the Appalachian family feud. TV being what it is, the shows probably would resemble Li’l Abner more than they would the Hatfields and McCoys. What would you think of Sofia Vergara as Martha Hatfield?

Youth will be served. Reality competitions continue to shell out huge money to bring in big names as judges, reasoning that it will result in big ratings. Got news for you: It doesn’t work. That’s because the novelty factor lasts only about 20 minutes into the first episode they’re on. Then you’re back to the same cheesy talent show.

So far this season, Howard Stern has gotten more attention and press as the new addition to the America’s Got Talent judging panel for giving a quick buzz to 7-year-old rapper Amir Palmer than for anything else he’s said or done. The kid, surprised at his near instant rejection, began to cry on stage (and on camera).

Here’s the bet: For the rest of the season Stern will not veto any contestants under age 15, no matter how bad they are. If they’re going to get the hook, Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne are going to have to give it to them.

Change the subject. This week comic Martin Short made an appearance on the overtime hour of Today to promote the new animated film Madagascar 3.

That put him in the crosshairs of vinous cohost Kathy Lee Gifford, who went off on a long, rather manic riff about Short and his wife — how they have the best marriage in Hollywood, how long’s it been, like 34 years? what’s the secret? you two still make each other laugh? — all of it tumbling out so fast that Short could barely get in a word.

Although he behaved with the utmost politeness, it was a supremely awkward segment because Short’s wife, Nancy, died of ovarian cancer in 2010.

Whatever else may have gone through his head, I’m willing to bet that at some point Short thought, "I put on pancake makeup for this?"

Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv. Read his blog, "Dave on Demand," at www.philly.com/dod.

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