The Underdog Show, BBC2

by | Mar 20, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Over the years, we at like to think our cynical hearts have hardened when reviewing TV shows to the point where we can laugh at granite for being a relatively neurotic, jelly-like material – but put a bunch of adorable dogs who have had hard lives in front of us and we melt enough to cause the global sea levels to rise by about five metres.

What was good about it?

• The criminally cute dogs that were often mongrels, and had all been abandoned for one reason or another. The cuteness factor has also played a role already as Kirsty Gallacher and Bruno made it through to week two despite having the worst obstacle course round and an inferior obedience demonstration against Theo Paphitis and Claudia – but viewers obviously voted for Bruno because he is so lovely.

• But in this show nobody really loses. Despite being eliminated, Theo revealed he had come on the show primarily to get a dog for his family and spent much of the time cuddling Afghan hound Claudia, who can now look forward to a life of luxury with the Paphitis clan.

• Theo even demonstrated that, perhaps languishing at greater depths than the Titanic, there lurks within him a compassion absent from his Dragons’ Den persona. He forlornly tried to keep the tough businessman approach in the film of him training Claudia (“Things work better when there’s a pecking order – and I’m the boss”), but we are pretty sure he’s going to be at the beck and call of Claudia from now on.

• Julian Clary was a decent host. He always seemed more at ease when involved in impromptu banter with the “famous faces”, and seemed to regard reading out the terms and conditions as a necessary evil – aware that this is the moment when viewers’ brains switch off in the same way nobody reads the legal jargon when installing a new program on their computer.

• Julian did manage to set a new personal best by ploughing through one-and-a-half hours of live television without a single risqué quip. But he still could be funny; he said to judge Peter Purvis: “I remember you from Blue Peter when it was a wholesome show, untainted by scandal.” And as the nervous “famous faces” prepared to parade at the start: “My minions are standing by with industrial-sized pooper scoopers – and smaller ones for the dogs.” Neither of which look that funny in the cold light of day; perhaps it was that our brains had been metamorphosed into that of “a family audience” by the cute doggies.

• The only part of Crufts worth watching is the obstacle course and that was the task set for the “famous faces” and their new dogs this week. Huey Morgan of Fun Lovin’ Criminals (probably chosen to appear because an out-of-touch producer thought Scooby Snacks was about Scooby Doo) was entertaining as Casper ran wild around the studio.

• Anton Du Beke putting years of dance practice to good use by catching Ginger when she hurtled from the little walkway. In fact, Anton was the most irritating of the “famous faces”, and that was only a mild irritation for being slightly too chatty and overconfident (“I’m gonna win this, which will be good for me of course”). If you are in search of Hate TV you’ll have to wait for The Apprentice next week.

• Arcade Fire’s Haiti.

What was bad about it?

• The format seems to have been lamely lifted wholesale from Strictly Come Dancing and Fame Academy with 50% of the marks from judges and 50% bled from the red raw fingers of that section of the viewing public who feel compelled to express their opinion in reality shows (we wonder if this will soon become an illness like gambling addiction).

• While the obstacle course is enjoyable, watching eight dogs perform exactly the same course did get a bit tedious. Sure, there were a couple of variations, some intended some not, but the repetition did start to pall by about the time Julia Sawalha and Cookie went off sixth.

• The same criticism of repetition could be applied to the films of how each “famous face” selected their pooch. They were taken into a dog sanctuary; a cute dog ran up to the Perspex screen and scratched at it desperately; the “famous face” went “aaawwwww”; and finished with a clip of the dog being trained in a field.

• The rigmarole of indicating which of the eight “famous faces” had made it through to the next round was an ordeal of excruciating indulgence. Just like at Crufts, one of the judges marches up and down the line of expectant contestants before ostentatiously pointing to one of them – glorying as much in the sense of power as the pleasure of gratifying a “famous face”. It has the same alienating effect as attending a party thrown by people two classes posher than you are when you are expected to applaud opera instead of looking baffled.

• Maths isn’t Julian’s strong point: 7+6+7 does not make 22.

• Keane’s Everybody Changes.

• It’s “all for charity”. Just once is it possible that we have a reality TV show in which everyone from the “famous faces” right down to the folk manning the telephones are doing it out of gross selfishness. If only for the honesty, as by saying something is “all for charity” provokes far more people to call, perhaps boosting net corporate profits by more than if it was “all for the capitalist gain of shareholders and executives”.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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