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Tag: series

New TV series features talking dog

You regular readers may know already I am not a fan of the talking dog.

That’s partly because I feel we have no right to be putting words in their mouths, thereby further humanizing them, which, in my view, is not just a mistake, but an insult (to dogs). But mostly it’s just plain creepy.

So I’m going to refrain from predicting whether ABC’s “Downward Dog” will be the blockbuster hit of the season, or gotten rid of quicker than a used poop bag.

The New York Times called it “hard on the ears,” while USA Today described it a “delightfully amiable summer companion.”

Martin, the dog character, sometimes talks with a moving mouth, sometimes as a (far less creepy) voice-over, but he can only be heard by us viewers — not the other characters or dogs in the show.

Gimmicky as it sounds, the show does feature some talented creatures, beginning with Ned, who plays Martin. Ned was discovered at PAWS Chicago, a no kill shelter he was shipped to after becoming homeless in Mississippi.

Martin is the narrator of the show, offering wry philosophical comments on both being a dog and the behavior of his human, a “struggling millennial” named Nan, played by Emmy-nominated Allison Tolman of “Fargo.”

IMBD describes the plot as “a lonely dog navigates the complexity of 21st century relationships.” It started out as a web series of short videos. A year and a half ago, producers got clearance to make a pilot out of the concept and started looking for a dog to play the role of Martin, who is a rescued dog in the show.

They took one look at Ned’s photo from PAWS and hired him immediately, according to DNAinfo.

Upon arrival at PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) from Mississippi, Ned was an anxious, skittish dog — a bit under-socialized, said PAWS Director of Training Joan Harris. “He was seeking a lot of attention from people, but then he didn’t know how to receive it.”

nedHe was adopted, but later returned and ended up being fostered by Crystal Dollinger, a PAWS volunteer who cared for him for four months before he was chosen for the role and moved to Hollywood.

Ned belongs now to his trainer, Nicole Handley, who made a return visit to the shelter in Chicago with him last week — partly for his 4th birthday party, more so to promote the new show. It premieres tonight at 8:30 before switching to Tuesdays. The shelter will waive adoption fees today in his honor.

“Ned’s life is very different now than it was a year and a half ago,” Handley said. “Ned is definitely the diva on set. Pretty much whatever Ned needs, Ned gets.”

(Photo: Ned with Allison Tolman, who plays his owner on “Downward Dog,” trainer Nicole Handley and PAWS volunteer Crystal Dollinger, who fostered him for four months; by Ted Cox / DNAInfo)

If the Guardians of Rescue look familiar …

If some of the bulging biceps, shaved heads and never-ending tattoos you see on Animal Planet’s new series, “The Guardians,” look familiar, that may be because they are.

The Guardians, when it comes to both personnel and concept, is a reincarnation of Rescue Ink, the National Geographic Channel program that featured burly and biker-esque “heroes” rescuing dogs in need.

Rescue Ink, the rescue group on which the old reality show was based, underwent a splintering about six years back. Its website remains in existence, but, on TV, it exists only in reruns.

misseriGuardians of Rescue, put together by former Rescue Ink co-founder Robert Misseri, formed not long after that, and now it’s the focus of a six-episode Animal Planet series. It premiered last month, and airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m.

As was the case with Rescue Ink, its members seek out the most heart-wrenching of animal abuse and neglect cases, and do whatever it takes to correct the situation, making sure the cameras don’t miss a second of it.

As with Rescue Ink, some of the tales they tell seem to get a little embellishment — in the name of dramatic license, or, to take a cynical view, evoke more financial support from viewers.

In the video above, for example, the Guardians of Rescue say the Long Island dog they are so dramatically freeing of its chains, is being freed for the first time in 15 years.

Once released, he doesn’t behave too much like a dog that spent 15 years on a chain; instead he trots up and happily greets those who are watching.

Still, this being reality TV, we have to take their word for it.

“The poor dog had spent his whole life attached to a heavy chain,” Misseri told the New York Post.

The dog, a Lab-chow mix named Bear, is now at Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue in Port Jefferson Station, waiting to be adopted.

According to a New York Post feature earlier this month on the group — one that strangely makes no reference to its roots in Rescue Ink — the Guardians of Rescue is a slightly more diverse collection of animal lovers.

“The Long Island-based group counts ex-military personnel, retired police detectives, carpenters, electricians and even former convicts among their unpaid volunteer ranks,” the Post reported.

Rescue Ink’s members spawned a TV show, a book, and some criminal charges.

Member John Orlandini, who ran the Long Island shelter they took over, was charged with grand larceny and accused of personally profiting from public donations. In 2014, though, a grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence to go to trial.

rescueinkRescue Ink’s popular TV show brought them large numbers of fans and followers, but there were a few doubters as well.

Some of those questioned whether the group was more focused on achieving fame and fortune than rescuing dogs.

A lot of those concerns show up on this Facebook page, created to inform the public that the group — even though people are continuing donating to it — is no longer in existence.

The group fractured in 2010, with about half of its members leaving, including Misseri.

“(Rescue Ink) was an organization I started,” Misseri told a blogger for Newsday. “I was against doing a TV show at the time, but there was another guy who was the face of the show and it got to his head. I refused to go on and subsequently National Geographic shut it down…”

Clearly, he had no objections to a TV show this time around.

Animal Planet is billing the show this way:

“Though they may be an eclectic team – ex-military personnel, retired police detectives, former FBI investigators, carpenters, electricians and even former convicts and gang members – they unite in their passion and dedication for animal advocacy. With this group, first impressions are not always what they seem. When an animal is in need, their tough facade washes away and clients see their true love and compassion come forth.”

Let’s hope, this time around, the pack of tough guys with hearts of gold stay out of trouble, keep the hype and exaggeration to a minimum, cool it on the self-promotion and portray what they do with some honesty.

Brian is back! Family Guy dog is resurrected

brianbackBrian the dog has returned to life on “Family Guy,” with a plot twist anyone could have guessed, and many did.

Writers resurrected the straight-talking dog, killed when he was hit by a car in a recent episode, by taking a somewhat tired route, and — next to “it was all a dream” — the easiest available one.

Stewie, the diabolical Griffin family baby, used his time machine.

He went back in time and pushed Brian out of the way of the speeding car that claimed his life three weeks ago.

Stewie’s time machine has often been part of “Family Guy” storylines. It surfaces again — even though some viewers may remember it being destroyed in another episode — to allow Stewie to reclaim the family dog.

The time machine. How can something that hasn’t been invented yet already be so … dated?

We’d suggested (though far too late) that the writers return Brian by having the family send some of his tissue to South Korea for cloning. Unlike time machines, dog cloning technology — preposterous as it may be — is real and available (if you have $100,000 to shell out).

It would have been a chance for the show to cover some new and edgy issues, to show it was keeping up with the times and, given the realities of dog cloning, the writers could have taken the concept to some pretty interesting places.

Instead they broke out the old time machine.

Brian’s death three weeks ago led to mourning and protest among “Family Guy” fans.  While many suspected it was only a temporary death — Brian being the show’s most likeable character — a petition on the website Change.org collected over 128,000 signatures from people asking Fox to bring the dog back to the animated comedy series, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Viewers do not like it when the dog dies, even if it’s an animated one.

In Sunday’s episode, “Christmas Guy,” it was revealed that Stewie, by going back in time, was able to save Brian from getting struck by a car. How did he get back in time, given the time machine was broken? He found another version of himself, here from another time, and borrowed that Stewie’s time machine.

Sure it’s a stretch, but then “Family Guy” has always been about stretching.

In this particular instance, we think series creator Seth MacFarlane could have stretched in a different, more interesting, more topical, direction.

But we can’t help but agree with the message he Tweeted to fans about the episode:

“And thus endeth our warm, fuzzy holiday lesson: Never take those you love for granted, for they can be gone in a flash.”

Why I object to the Michael Vick Project

The attempted reinvention of Michael Vick continues tonight with the premiere of BET’s “Michael Vick Project” — a quasi-documentary that focuses on his alleged redemption and glosses over the horrors he perpetrated on dogs.

As its name implies, the show stars Michael Vick, who, up to now at least, has been less than convincing in the role of the remorseful, regretful and rehabilitated fighter of dogs who managed to resecure a multi-million contract as an NFL quarterback.

The word on the show is it focuses little, and then only superficially, on the evils he committed — as has been the case with his appearances at schools and before youth groups on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States.

opinion sigThose appearances, the TV show, and his Ed Block Courage Award — all focusing on Michael Vick’s travails, Michael Vick’s “bravery,” Michael Vick’s struggle, Michael Vick’s “redemption” — are only reinforcing the concept that one can get away with murder, or at least end up sitting pretty afterwards, at least when the perpetrator is a quarterback and the victims are dogs.

At this point, let me say that I’m all for rehabilitation, and all for second chances. In the eight years I reported about and hung out with prisoners — murderers even — I came to know, trust and, in a few cases, even respect many of them. I’m not a throw away the key kind of guy.

But allowing a convict to return to society is one thing. Seeing him return to the NFL, giving him a TV show, and topping it off with a “courage award” based on — what? — are quite another.

Michael Vick has every right to pursue and obtain those things. I’m not saying he should be banned from reaping riches, or anything else, with the possible exception of dog ownership — only that it turns my stomach to watch it all, and to watch the masses not just accept it, but throw their support behind him.

Yes, he served his time. Yes, he has a right to make a living. Yes, he can throw a football. But as for his choreographed image makeover, I’m not buying it — based on the comments he has made and his seemingless emotionless demeanor. I’ve yet to see any remorse in his face, and I’ve heard far more, from him, about his suffering than that of his dogs.

There’s no question he — and many others — are putting a lot of work into redeeming his image, but that’s different from redeeming oneself.

In an a radio interview with Dan Patrick this week to promote the TV show (it premieres tonight at 10 on BET), Vick was asked if he would still be fighting dogs if he hadn’t been caught.

“That’s the scary thing,” Vick responded. “I think about it. I would have continued to put my life in jeopardy. From a distance I would have still been involved.”

James DuBose, CEO of Dubose Entertainment, which is producing the Michael Vick Project, said, “We hope his story will be one in which years from now, people particularly young men, will view and learn valuable lessons from.”

My fear — given that in the year since he completed his less than two-year prison sentence he’s been signed up as Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, given a TV show and will be honored in March with an award — is that those lessons may not be the right ones.

Animal Planet probes dogfighting culture

dogfightingexposedAnimal Planet will kick off a new series of investigative specials Monday night with a no-holds-barred look into the underground culture of dogfighting.

“Animal Planet Investigates: Dog Fighting Exposed”  will probe the secretive world of organized dogfighting, with rare footage and commentary from law enforcement officers and former dogfighters.  The special examines cases across the United States, including Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Michigan and New York.

“By bringing viewers the true and uncensored reality behind dog fighting, we intend to raise public awareness about this cruel and inhumane practice,” says Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet.

“The brave men and women working tirelessly to expose and dismantle these fighting rings are using daring tactics and thanks in large part to their efforts we were able to share this powerful story with our viewers in an in-depth and unprecedented way. Some of the images might be tough to take, but it’s vitally important that these stories are told.

The hour-long show is the first in a quarterly series of specials on the network that will investigate animal issues.

It premieres Monday at 10 p.m.

Millan-inspired TV show in works at Fox

valderramaFox is developing a new sitcom inspired by the work of “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan.

Details are still being ironed out, Variety reports, but it appears that Wilmer Valderrama (left) would play the character based on Millan, who has built a massive empire from his skills as a professional dog trainer.

Millan’s series, “The Dog Whisperer,” has aired on the National Geographic Channel, which is operated by Fox Cable Networks, since 2004.

Valderrama is best known for his role on “That ’70s Show” and, more recently, as the voice of Disney Channel’s “Handy Manny.” His feature credits include “The Dry Land,” “Fast Food Nation” and “Unaccompanied Minors.”

Michael Vick gets his own television series

MichaelVick-Eagles-1You might want to sit down for this one: Michael Vick is going to star in his own television series.

Two weeks after his first regular season appearance as an NFL quarterback since completing his prison sentence for dog fighting, Vick has announced he has the starring and title role in an eight-part docu-series on BET, tentatively titled “The Michael Vick Project.”

Call it amrak (the opposite of karma). Call it unjust desserts. Call it absolutely outrageous. But the convicted animal abuser is on the verge of getting another heaping helping of good fortune.

“I just want people to really get to know me as an individual,” Vick said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.  “What I want to do is change the perception of me. I am a human being. I’ve made some mistakes in the past, and I wish it had never happened. But it’s not about how you fall, but about how you pick yourself up.”

The program will spotlight his controversial comeback with the Philadelphia Eagles and examine his tumultuous past — including his troubled childhood and his 2007 arrest for running a dogfighting ring, with visits to both the Virginia estate where he fought dogs and federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he served his sentence.

Officials with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals expressed skepticism about the project. “People who abuse animals don’t deserve to be rewarded,” said PETA spokesman Dan Shannon. “They shouldn’t be given multimillion-dollar contracts . . . or given the privilege of being a role model.”

The project has the support of the Eagles, the NFL and the Humane Society of the United States, which has enlisted Vick in its battle to end the widespread abuse of dogs in the inner city.

The project is being produced by DuBose Entertainment; Vick’s production company, MV7 Productions; and Category 5 Entertainment. No one associated with the production would comment on Vick’s compensation for the series, the Times reported. Vick has filed a six-year plan to repay creditors an estimated $20 million to get out of bankruptcy.

Producers of the Vick series said the program would not a typical reality show like VH-1’s “The T.O. Show,” which revels in the excesses of its flamboyant star, wide receiver Terrell Owens. The tone of Vick’s show, say producers, will be serious and somber as it focuses on his personal struggles since his release.

“This show can be a blueprint for so many kids,” Vick said. “I want to show them that things are going to happen, that they’re not going to get through life without dealing with some kind of adversity. I want to show that if they have a fall from grace, this is how they can turn it around. We want this to be a story of hope.”