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An Open Letter to Animal Planet, Re: Groomer Has It

Written by: Mark Hurley, CC2K TV Editor

Esteemed Producers at Animal Planet,

I am writing today on behalf of what I can confidently assume is millions of citizens of the world to request – nay, beg – that you kindly order more episodes of my favorite show.

I have waited a few years, scouring the geek blogs weekly to find some indication of its impending return, but have been thus far disappointed. I believe I have been patient; I can count the number of unanswered personal letters I have sent on my fingers and toes. I understand that, as is the case with Venture Bros. and George R.R. Martin novels, the rabid fan must learn to control his fervor and wait for genius to percolate. But there is only so much satisfaction to be gleaned from two seasons of reruns, and it is time to make my request public. Please do the right thing and re-commission Groomer Has It for as many seasons as the exploitation of clinically ill animal hoarders will pay for.

I’d like us to be honest with each other: You and I both know that Animal Planet is the shuffling, ponderous D student of cable networks. Do not take this the wrong way, I stand in awe of your success despite the network’s standard setting laziness. It trudges through the motions of a cable network: it shows up every day, it turns in ‘original’ programming, it sells commercial space to people who want to buy your gold. For some reason, despite the name and mission of your network, Discovery pulled that Shark Week idea right out from under you noses. How do you let something like that happen? But in the end, Animal Planet’s repeat offence is cheating off a better network’s paper and turning in an irrelevant copy that serves only to highlight the insignificant role non-animated animals can possibly serve in the realm of Western entertainment. Bounty hunters? Hoarders? That’s what the kids like these days? Slap ‘Cat’ onto that title and let’s call it a fiscal year. If only cats could be found in storage lockers, your kids would never have to work again in their lives.

If your plan was to rest on the laurels of Meerkat Manor until such time as people stop watching TV, may I suggest supplementing your lineup with one of your older concepts? Rest assured, it won’t require any extra brain activity, the concept of Groomer Has It is already on the books, and it works so well. Get together a group of the first 15 people that walk through your doors claiming to be professional dog groomers, and pit them against each other Top Chef style. Do not vet these people (heh, puns, you like those, more on that a little later), or else you might end up with people who have actually encountered the tools prescribed for use in each of the challenges. You might not end up with a smattering of contestants that have never once, in their “professional career” ever even seen a vacuum clipper before. Prior to taping, be completely in the dark as to the level your chosen contestants are actually capable of functioning at.

Do, however, ensure that the people you choose are battier than a condemned cathedral in Transylvania. Make extra sure they understand that, though nothing could be conceivably less consequential than being the best amateur dog groomer, that they pepper their speech with catch phrases like, “I came here to win, not to make friends,” and, “I deserve this.” Screen test them for this, because without convincing contest show tropes, we the audience will not be able to gauge their levels of enthusiasm.

Your contestants must also be able to manufacture drama out of nothing. This sounds obvious, but many of these types of shows end up falling back on real reasons for their competitors to get pissed off at each other, and it comes across as almost sane. Your ideal contestant on Groomer Has It will be vaguely aware that this type of cattiness happens on Project Runway, that such conflict is somehow expected of them, and so will force a bitch fight out of literally nothing. There is no animosity so satisfying as fake animosity.

A traditional cock? Really? While you’re taking notes, honored Animal Planet producers, make sure your talent will be syllable-poor enough to not be able to afford to say “cocker spaniel” to save us all from the cheap laugh. That’s classy. I like this clip, not just for the silliest cat fight ever to grace the small screen, but because this guy redefines “Negative Nancy.” He is a Negative Nancy like Godzilla was a subtle critique of man’s technological folly. On QI, Stephen Fry tells us that dogs are the most varied species in the world. Count that against the amount of Peanuts’ level sociopathy on Groomer Has It, and I guarantee the metaphorical scales balance handily. That’s good watchin’.

And please, please do not misplace a single pun. The contestants battle to be Top Dog, and live together in the Dog House. It’s not traditionally good to be in the dog house, but I like a show that commits to the inherent laziness of the pun by having it not make any sense while it is at it. When they are asked to leave said Dog House, they must go “with their tails between their legs.” Win immunity in a Quick Sniff Challenge; They didn’t even need a pun there, and they went for it. That is nothing short of contemptuous, and I like an appreciable amount of emotional abuse from my television experience.

You’ve already got some great judges, too. Joey Villani, doggy dresser to the mob? Spectacular choice. The judges are all so needlessly mean to the contestants too, which I get a huge kick out of. The dog’s hair will grow back, fellas, there is no reason to beat so heavily on these kids’ emotions other than complete disdain for the show you regret signing on to. That is, at least on the surface. Seriously, if your job is as inconsequential as dog grooming, and you suck at it, you absolutely deserve to be yelled at by an extra from Goodfellas.

It’s always a great sign when you’re telling the confessional cameras you’re not going to snap. That usually works out swell. This is four episodes deep into the season. What can there possibly be to snap about? Oh, besides the producers of the show screwing with these poor people in hilarious ways, like having one bathroom in a house of twelve people. That could be a show in itself, and it is used as a throwaway. Takes chutzpah.

Americans spend 61 billion bucks a year on their pets, not counting vet bills, and this is what it has come to. If we’re to tolerate your 24 hour puppy propaganda network, the least we can demand is that you dump a bunch of people that directly profit from those statistics into the lamest coliseum conceivable and let us watch them duke it out. You’ve already had Danny Bonaduce as a guest; that is the level of quality of this show. You cannot walk away from that so casually, so callously. If you do this for us, the fair people of planet Earth, I can safely guarantee I will never ask Animal Planet for a single thing for the rest of my life.

Thank you for your time,

Mark Hurley and the hungry, suffering denizens of daytime TV country

Author: Mark Hurley, CC2K TV Editor

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