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Bowled Over, No Bones About It

8 Feb, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

This year's Super Bowl was a big disappointment for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was a game that exchanged old strategies like running and passing for the dominant strategy of dogpiling on anyone who looked close to the ball.

The halftime show was decidedly tepid, and ad industry critics had to wake up to write columns about the ads that put them to sleep. Still, I have no doubt that more people watched the game than any other program in the time slot.

What amused me most about the day, though, was the way Animal Planet handled it. My colleagues will pillory me for writing about it, but the network spent most of the day from noon on running a three-hour loop of a program called the “Puppy Bowl.”

Before we lambaste the show as ridiculous, let me point out that it would be a much more valid criticism if the gameplay in Jacksonville, Fla., had looked more like a professional contest and less like a bunch of curs piling onto the prize at hand. Uh, paw.

I like the idea of the Puppy Bowl much more than the actual show, which was hours of puppies playing in a mini-football arena. Not that it could have been much else. I confess, I gave it about 10 minutes, but mainly just to see how far the producers went. Yes, there were puppycams, a ball cam, waterbowl cam and even instant replays. It delivered on the one promise made in promo spots: “Puppies, puppies and more puppies!”

The folks at Animal Planet obviously knew they had nothing to grab eyes or, more importantly, sponsors from the Super Bowl. So instead of making a lame try, they came up with something that was completely original, easy to do (in advance, yet) and provided a kids-room fallback position for parents living in fear of another wardrobe malfunction. On top of that, I don't think puppies make much money, and I'm pretty sure they don't have a union negotiating for residuals. Yet.

The show made few promises and no apologies for what it was: a Cute Bomb. Best of all, it's available on DVD for $9.95. While I doubt many Patriots or Eagles fans are racing out to buy it, the disc could do well with the Barney and Teletubbies crowd, or pet owners looking to entertain their pets while they're out.

OK, so it was ridiculous. But if the DVD sells, it was also a stroke of genius.

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