Stupid pet tricks sink "Greatest American Dog"

Thu Jul 10, 2008 3:18am EDT

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Just in time for the dog days of summer, we get the CBS reality show "Greatest American Dog," which premieres Thursday.

A dozen of them compete for fun, doggie treats and, naturally, the obligatory $250,000 grand prize (or the equivalent in dog biscuits, presumably).

These unscripted shows have all grown almost indistinguishable from one another, including the trio of judges (Wendy Diamond, Allan Reznik, Victoria Stilwell) and the back-biting (in this case almost literally). To be sure, the Westminster Kennel Club is nowhere in sight for this dog show, which turns out to be (surprise!) far more about the people than the canines.

Created and executive produced by Emmy-winning documentary specialist R.J. Cutler ("American High"), this series turns out to be far less than the sum of its parts, with the human egos far surpassing the stupid pet tricks in terms of relevance and screen time. And that's wholly unfortunate.

A dozen dog-human teams square off to judge which dog can best follow instructions. It's not really entirely clear what the criterion is for success here other than a capacity to impart silent cues to one's animal. And the not-so-silent ones might be nearly as equally important. The judges include dog magazine/book authors and TV series hosts. But it's the owners who are on center stage, make no mistake. And they turn out to be a predictably self-absorbed, if generally colorful, lot.

They range from a Manhattan doctor (with a Parson Russell Terrier named Elvis) to a building maintenance man from Flint, Texas (with a Brittany Spaniel named Star), to an aspiring dog salon owner from Portland, Ore. (with a Giant Schnauzer named Kenji).

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter