ABC announces American version of ‘Pooch Perfect’ series, hosted by Rebel Wilson

January 13, 2021

The following is a press release from ABC:

“Pooch Perfect” (Tuesdays, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET/PT) on ABC

Premiere date: March 30, 2021.

Hosted by award-winning actress Rebel Wilson, “Pooch Perfect” is the ulti-mutt dog grooming competition series. The eight-episode serieswill showcase 10 of the best dog groomers in the country, along with their assistants, competing in a series of paw-some themed challenges. 

Each week on “Pooch Perfect,” teams will compete in the Immunity Puppertunity challenge, where one team will earn immunity from elimination. Then, in the Ultimutt Challenge showdown, the remaining teams will face off in an epic grooming transformation, which they will show off on the illustrious dogwalk. The trio of all-star celebrity judges – Lisa Vanderpump, Jorge Bendersky and Dr. Callie Harris – will be tasked with voting on the incredible creations and ultimately force one team back to the doghouse every week. It all leads up to the season finale where the top three teams compete for a giant cash prize and the coveted “Pooch Perfect” first place trophy.

“Pooch Perfect” is produced by Beyond Media Rights Limited. Elan Gale, Sonya Wilkes and Rebel Wilson serve as executive producers. Nicole Anthony, Mike Rosen, Carley Simpson and Matthew Silverberg serve as co-executive producers. ABC’s “Pooch Perfect” is based off of the Australian format. Episodes can also be viewed the next day on demand and on Hulu.

The Host, Judges and Season 1 Contestants

Episode Photos

2021 Puppy Bowl: see photos and videos

January 6, 2021

Puppy Bowl (Photo by Elias Weiss Friedman/Discovery+/Animal Planet)

 

The following is a press release from Discovery Networks:

“We need puppies now more than ever!” said everyone. Have no fear because television’s cutest sports competition and the original call-to-adoption TV event “Puppy Bowl” returns on Sunday, February 7, 2021 for the biggest, most exciting game to date, now as a 3-hour event that can be viewed on both Discovery+, the definitive non-fiction, real life subscription streaming service that features a landmark partnership with Verizon that gives their customers with select plans up to 12 months of Discovery+ on Verizon, and Animal Planet on February 7, 2021, at 2PM ET/11AM PT. Join Discovery+ and Animal Planet for this special three-hour event to experience all the fuzzy puppy faces from Team Ruff and Team Fluff who go paw to paw to win the Chewy “Lombarky” trophy in “Puppy Bowl’s” all-new venue, a ‘stadium within a stadium’ that’s bigger and better than ever before. Be sure to be on the lookout for Team Ruff who is looking to reclaim their title after last year’s loss – they’re coming back with a vengeance! Gear up because it’s officially the most wonderful time of the year for the biggest game of the year – “Puppy Bowl XVII”!

“Puppy Bowl” celebrates adoptable pups in all their cuteness and showcases the incredible shelters and rescues, as well as their staffers, who dedicate their lives to helping animals find their loving homes. In years past, “Puppy Bowl” is 16 for 16 with the adoption rate at 100% as all puppies and kittens featured in “Puppy Bowl” to date have found their forever homes with loving families. And even though this past year has been different from year’s past, one thing is for certain—there will be a “Puppy Bowl”—and discovery+ and Animal Planet continue this annual tradition to highlight these special puppy players and kittens so that they can finally find the place they are meant to call ‘home.’

This year, 22 shelters and rescues from nine Northeastern States are enlisted to bring 70 incredible adoptable puppy players out for “Puppy Bowl” to sport their Team Ruff ‘Tail Mary Tangerine’ and Team Fluff ‘Bark Blue’ bandana colors. What genetic traits are these pups bringing to the game? With the Wisdom Panel™ dog DNA test, we’ll find out what’s beyond those big puppy dog eyes and how each dog’s breed mix might give them an advantage on the field. We’ll see their skills playout in the brand-new Geico Stadium, where these adoptable players have even more room to rumble and fumble!  Fan-favorite elements, including slow motion replays, nose-to-nose action from the famous water bowl cam, and aerial shots of the field from the brand-new Temptations Sky Box are all back this year, along with epic drone shots of puppy players across the arena that bring audiences as close as possible to all the game-play action. The Home Depot goal post nets serve as the backdrop to every touchdown and field goal as audiences have a front row seat view through lens of the cameras in the Chewy end zone pylons.

Joining this year as “Puppy Bowl XVII” announcers are ESPN’s Monday Night Football play- by- play announcer Steve Levy and SportsCenter host Sage Steele who will be providing puppy analysis throughout the game! The “Puppy Bowl XVII” Pre-Game Show begins at 1 PM ET/ 10 AM PT where long-time “Puppy Bowl” sports correspondents Rodt Weiler, James Hound and Sheena Inu, and field reports Brittany Spaniel and Herman Shepard pump up the crowd with pup insights on the furry matchups before the big game. Sponsored by [ yellow tail ]® wine, the Pre-Game Show will also offer ideas on how to create a “Puppy Bowl” “tail”gate party for the perfect viewing experience. The game opens with a special performance of the National Anthem by singing-group and internet sensation, Boys World, before kicking off with the pups of the Pedigree Starting Lineup, who are giving it their all to compete for the one and only Bissell MVP (Most Valuable Puppy) award by scoring the most touchdowns. Who will take home the title this year to join the greats of puppies past in the Puppy Bowl MVP Hall of Fame? Tune in to find out this and which lucky pup will also take home the coveted Subaru of America Inc. Underdog Award!

Joining the game for the 10th year in a row is America’s favorite “Rufferee,” Dan Schachner, who, after a decade, is ready to call the puppy penalties, ruffs & tumbles, and pawsome touchdowns for a game unlike any other. Award-winning animal advocate and television correspondent Jill Rappaport also returns to introduce the Subaru of America, Inc. Pup Close and Personal segments that shine a light on some of these adorable athletes and other adoptable puppies across the country, in addition to the special Senior Spotlight stories which showcase that age is just a number with senior dogs who are ultimately puppies at heart.

This year’s Pup Close and Personal highlights include a special profile of actress and animal advocate Kristen Bell who has teamed up with Annenberg PetSpace in Los Angeles to spend time with Java, a Labrador mix puppy looking for a fur-ever home to snuggle in; Biscuit, a very special Maltese mix pup from Paw Works in LA, who gets a special day out with one lucky kid baker from Food Network’s ‘Kid Baking Championship,’ where we’ll also hear from hosts Valerie Bertinelli & Duff Goldman; Fozzie, a Foster Dogs Inc. Norwegian Elkhound who experiences his first ever grooming from Harlem Doggie Day Spa; and Foofur, a Shepherd mix puppy who is cared for by a very special foster under the PAWS Chicago foster program. Other in-depth profiles include Marshall, a deaf Boston Terrier mix rescue pup who’s training with Green Dogs Unleashed to be a therapy dog, where at a local hospital, he will provide a group of COVID ER nurses with a much-needed mental break in the midst of the pandemic; Jett, a double front amputee Labrador mix from Pets With Disabilities in Maryland, who is prepping for the big game with regular jaunts along the countryside with his fellow special needs cat and dog companions; and Stitch, a Hound mix, who at Wilburton Inn-New England dog friendly resort in Vermont, enjoys a special day out at the Inn on a mission to meet an adopter, before getting scrappy on the field.

Audiences will also see four incredible Senior Spotlight profiles that include Scoobert, an 8-year-old Chihuahua Boxer mix from mix from Young at Heart Sanctuary in Chicago who even though is a senior pooch with medical needs, has a special zest for life; veterinarian Dr. Kwane Stewart, aka @thestreetvet, who treats homeless dogs off the streets of Los Angeles at no cost; Mona, a 10-year-old Toy Poodle mix who undergoes reiki healing sessions at Den Retreat in Los Angeles for a more peaceful state of mind; and Blossom, an American Staffordshire Terrier, who has become the poster pup for the ‘Pitbulls in flower crowns’ series by rescue advocate and photographer Sophie Gamand. Puppy Bowl XVII will also feature five special needs players who are looking forward to finding their loving home including Jett, and four hearing impaired pups including Marshall, a Boston Terrier; Fletcher, an American Bull Dog; Theodore, a Pyr Border Collie; and Rumor, a Heeler mix.

Additionally, for the first time ever on the sidelines, our Team Ruff and Team Fluff players will be cheered on by none other than adoptable puppy cheerleaders who will root and howl for their favorite players. These cheerleading pups will turn up the volume with cuteness overload by shaking their pom poms as the Puppy Bowl XVII players make their way down the field! Midway through the game, get ready to turn up the beat and put on your dancing shoes for the Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal™ Kitty Half-Time Show. Audiences will experience the neon dance party they’ve been waiting for all year and rave to the purr-fect beats dropped by senior rescue cat DJ Grand Master Scratch. As an after-party treat, viewers will even be able to see a special adoption update on where these dancing felines found their loving new homes with their loving new forever dance partners.

As a bonus treat for this year’s Puppy Bowl XVII, audiences will also see exciting new ‘Adoptable Pup’ segments, hosted by Dan Schachner and sponsored by Chewy. Sprinkled throughout the program, 11 shelters from around the country will feature one of their special pups (and a few kittens during Kitty Half-Time!) that are all up for adoption during the game!

Puppy Bowl digital audiences can point their paws to PuppyBowl.com to vote for their favorite pup in the ‘Pupularity Playoffs’ bracket style tournament featuring photos by Instagram sensation @TheDogist. Audiences can also check out an exciting live puppy playtime scrimmage on Animal Planet’s TikTok in the lead up to Puppy Bowl XVII. Fans may also be able to see their own animal featured in a photo gallery on PuppyBowl.com when they post a pic of their fur-baby watching Puppy Bowl XVII and tag #PuppyBowl. For more fun social content, head to FacebookInstagramTwitter, and TikTok for original videos, GIFs, Instagram Stickers, a Puppy Bowl AR Filter, and more. Audiences can also follow discovery+ on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Fans can also access even more furry fun and exclusive content by downloading Discovery+. Leading up to “Puppy Bowl,” Discovery+ and Animal Planet GO users will find exclusive in-app original programming, including the “Puppy Bowl” midform series “Pupclose & Personal”, where NFL stars Chris Godwin, Ronnie Stanley, and Ryan Kerrigan reveal their personal pup adoption stories to share why they’re so passionate about canine causes. Pus, we’ll also see Dan the Ref take us down memory lane, highlighting the very best and firsts of “Puppy Bowl’s” 17-year history. Additionally, fans are also invited to Tweet along with game day commentator Meep The Bird and vote in real time, for the winner of the Most Valuable Puppy award. Results will be revealed during the epic program.

Official “Puppy Bowl XVII” sponsors include Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal, Bissell, Chewy, Geico, The Home Depot, Pedigree, Subaru of America Inc., Temptations, Wisdom Panel dog DNA test and [ yellow tail ]® wine.

For more information about the shelters, rescues and organizations that participated in “Puppy Bowl XVII” Animal Planet audiences can visit Puppybowl.com/Adopt.

“Puppy Bowl XVII” is produced for Animal Planet by Bright Spot Content, an All3Media America company. Simon Morris is executive producer and showrunner with Cindy Kain and Sandy Varo Jarrell also serving as executive producers. For Animal Planet, Dawn Sinsel serves as senior executive producer and Pat Dempsey is supervising producer.

Pet Valu announces closure of all U.S. operations; Canada operations to remain open

November 4, 2020

(Photo courtesy of Pet Valu)

The following is a press release from Pet Valu:

Pet Valu, Inc. (“Pet Valu U.S.”), a specialty retailer of pet food and supplies in the United States, today announced plans to commence a wind down of its operations due to severe impact from COVID-19. The Company expects that all of its 358 stores and warehouses in the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S., as well as its corporate office in Wayne, PA, will close by the end of the wind-down process.

Pet Valu U.S. licenses its name and contracts for certain services from Pet Valu Canada, which is a separate company based in Markham, Ontario that is not impacted by this wind down. Pet Valu Canada is a market leading, highly profitable and growing business with a tremendous history and a very bright future. Pet Valu Canada will continue to serve customers across Canada through its approximately 600 stores, franchise locations and e-commerce site at www.petvalu.com/ca/, offering its usual assortment of thousands of pet products and supplies and in-store services such as dog washes and grooming. 

All Pet Valu stores in the U.S. are currently open and ready to serve their devoted pet lover customers through the wind-down process. Customers in the U.S. can continue to use Pet Valu gift cards and loyalty rewards for purchases. Effective immediately, U.S. customers will no longer be able to place orders on the Pet Valu U.S. e-commerce site at www.petvalu.com/us/.

Jamie Gould, Pet Valu, Inc.’s recently appointed Chief Restructuring Officer, said, “The Pet Valu U.S. team is proud to have met the needs of our devoted pet lover customers in the U.S. for more than 25 years. However, the Company’s stores have been significantly impacted by the protracted COVID-19-related restrictions. After a thorough review of all available alternatives, we made the difficult but necessary decision to commence this orderly wind down.”

He continued, “During the store closing process, we will continue to provide our customers with the same great in-store experience, offering them even better deals and value. We will work to assist our dedicated associates through the transition. We thank all of them for their commitment to our company and our customers, and especially for going above and beyond so we could help customers as an essential service during the pandemic.”

Pet Valu U.S. expects to commence store closing sales at all locations in the U.S. in the coming days. The Company will continue to take necessary precautions to keep its stores safe for customers and employees.

The Company has retained Malfitano Partners as its restructuring advisor, SB360 Capital Partners, LLC to assist with store closing sales and A&G Realty Partners, LLC to assist on U.S. real estate-related matters. Mr. Gould joins Pet Valu, Inc. from a successful career of retail restructuring in global assignments in the apparel, eyewear and office products industries. William Transier, Chief Executive Officer of Transier Advisors, has been appointed as independent director to the Board of Directors of Pet Valu, Inc.

AMC Networks partners with Adopt-A-Pet.com for FurFest adoption promotion

October 20, 2020

The following is a press release from AMC Networks:

AMC Networks today announced it has teamed up with Adopt-a-Pet.com, North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption website, for AMC’s annual horror marathon FearFest, to raise awareness for pet adoption with ‘FurFest.’ All month long, AMC, AMC+, and Shudder are encouraging viewers to support Adopt-a-Pet.com’s mission to end the overpopulation of companion animals in shelters and help pets find loving forever homes through custom, PET-tacular spots airing across linear, digital, and social channels.

The custom spots, featuring a few four-legged horror fans, encourage viewers to find their perfect watch buddies through adoptions and especially raise awareness for black cat and black dog adoptions this spooky season. Halloween may be the season for magical black cats, but in reality, they are most often left behind in shelters because of the color of their fur. Many animal welfare organizations call this “black cat syndrome,” with the phenomenon happening with black dogs as well. Through the collaboration, audiences are encouraged and inspired to help fight “black cat syndrome” by adopting these furry friends or by donating to Adopt-a-Pet.com. See the custom spot: 

“We all know that spooky season is best enjoyed with a buddy by your side, which is why we’re thrilled to join forces with Adopt-a-Pet.com to help viewers find their perfect four-legged watch companions,” said Linda Schupack, President of Marketing, AMC Networks Entertainment Group. “The movies on AMC’s FearFest and Shudder are already scary enough. How great to cuddle up with a lovely black cat or black dog for Halloween and beyond.”

“Teaming up with AMC Networks is an exciting and unique way to spread the word about pet adoption,” said Dana Puglisi, Chief Marketing Officer of Adopt-a-Pet.com. “We appreciate AMC and Shudder’s efforts to help get more pets into loving homes. And we love all the extra snuggles those newly adopted pets will receive while their people binge through the FearFest thrills!”

Now in its 24th consecutive year, AMC’s annual horror marathon FearFest brings the frights with an entire month of genre programming from iconic franchises like Halloween and Insidious, and the return of award-winning docuseries Eli Roth’s History of HorrorShudder, dubbed “the ultimate in streaming horror” by Newsweek, offers the best selection of original and classic horror, thriller and supernatural films and series, uncut and commercial free. Both are also now available as part of the new AMC+, a premium streaming bundle featuring only the good stuff, which also includes IFC Midnight’s best genre cinema from independent, foreign and documentary films. In addition to the largest slate of classic horror movies such as Friday the 13th and Halloween, AMC+ also includes all series within The Walking Dead Universe, as well as AMC’s Eli Roth’s History of Horror, and new Shudder programming, such as Joe Bob’s Halloween Hideaway Special and A Creepshow Animated Special, and much more.

See the full FearFest lineup.


Find the Best in Horror at Shudder.

About AMC Networks

Known for its groundbreaking and celebrated original content, AMC Networks is the company behind the award-winning brands AMC, BBC AMERICA, IFC, SundanceTV, WE tv, and IFC Films. Its diverse line-up of popular and critically-acclaimed series and independent films include Killing EveBetter Call Saul and The Walking Dead, which has been the #1 show on ad-supported cable television for ten consecutive years, as well as PortlandiaBrockmireLove After Lockup, and the films BoyhoodDeath of Stalin, and many more. Its original series Mad Men and Breaking Bad are widely recognized as being among the most influential and acclaimed shows in the history of TV. The Company also operates AMC Studios, its production business; AMC Networks International, its international programming business; the subscription streaming services Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, and UMC; and Levity Entertainment Group, the Company’s production services and comedy venues business. For more information, visit http://www.amcnetworks.com.

About Shudder

AMC Networks’ Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving members with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers and the supernatural. Shudder’s expanding library of film, TV series, and originals is available on most streaming devices in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. For a 7-day, risk-free trial, visit ​www.shudder.com​.

About Adopt-a-Pet.com

Adopt-a-Pet.com is North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption website, helping over 19,000 animal shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies advertise their purebred and mixed breed pets for free to millions of adopters each month. Sponsored by companies including Purina, Chewy, and Elanco Animal Health LLC, Adopt-a-Pet.com helps homeless dogs, cats, and even rabbits and other animals go from alone to adopted.

CBS All Access announces ‘That Animal Rescue Show’

September 22, 2020

“That Animal Rescue Show” (Photo by Danny Matson/CBS Interactive, Inc.)

The following is a press release from CBS All Access:

 CBS All Access, ViacomCBS’ digital subscription video on-demand and live streaming service, today revealed the official trailer and key art for its upcoming original docuseries “That Animal Rescue Show.” Executive produced by five-time Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Richard Linklater and two-time Academy Award winner Bill Guttentag, all 10 episodes will be available to binge exclusively for CBS All Access subscribers on Thursday, October 29, 2020.

“That Animal Rescue Show” follows the animal rescue community in and around Austin, Texas, where Linklater lives. The 10-episode docuseries provides a window into this captivating world through moving, humorous and powerful stories of animals, the humans who love them and the inspiring, life-changing bond that occurs between people who have dedicated their lives to rescue and the animals who rescue them right back.

“That Animal Rescue Show” is produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Dr. Phil’s Stage 29, Linklater’s Detour Filmproduction, and Guttentag and Nayeema Raza’s 1891 Productions. The series is distributed internationally by ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group. An episode of the series was accepted as part of the official selection for the 2020 Telluride Film Festival. In addition to Linklater, Guttentag and Raza, the series is also executive produced by Phil McGraw, Jay McGraw and Julia Eisenman.

“That Animal Rescue Show” joins CBS All Access’ growing slate of original series that currently includes “The Good Fight,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Tooning Out the News,” “No Activity,” “Why Women Kill,” “Interrogation,” “The Thomas John Experience” and “Tell Me a Story,” as well as the upcoming limited event series “The Stand,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “The Harper House” and “Guilty Party.” CBS All Access is also the exclusive domestic home to “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Picard,” the animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” and the U.S.S Enterprise set series “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”

About CBS All Access:

CBS All Access is ViacomCBS’ direct-to-consumer digital subscription video on-demand and live streaming service. CBS All Access gives subscribers the ability to watch more than 20,000 episodes and movies on demand – including exclusive original series, current and past seasons of hit shows from the CBS Television Network and growing libraries from brands across the ViacomCBS portfolio including BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian and more, as well as a wealth of films from Paramount Pictures. The service is also the streaming home to unmatched sports programming, including every CBS Sports event, from golf to football to basketball and more, plus exclusive streaming rights for major sports properties, including some of the world’s biggest and most popular soccer leagues. CBS All Access also enables subscribers to stream local CBS stations live across the U.S. in addition to the ability to stream ViacomCBS Digital’s other live channels: CBSN for 24/7 news, CBS Sports HQ for sports news and analysis, and ET Live for entertainment coverage.

The service is currently available across all major device platforms including online, mobile and connected TV and OTT platforms and services. Versions of CBS All Access have launched internationally in Canada and Australia (10 All Access), with unique but similar content and pricing plans. For more details on CBS All Access, please visit https://www.cbs.com/all-access.

About CBS Television Studios:

CBS Television Studios is one of the industry’s leading suppliers of programming with more than 70 series currently in production across broadcast and cable networks, streaming services and other emerging platforms. The Studio’s expansive portfolio spans a diverse slate of commercially successful and critically acclaimed scripted programming, genre-defining franchises including the ever-growing “Star Trek” universe, award-winning late night and daytime talk shows, and an extensive library of iconic intellectual property.

EDITOR’S NOTE: CBS All Access will rebrand as Paramount+, which goes into effect in early 2021.

Review: ‘Starting at Zero,’ starring Tracey Strichik, Steve Bullock, Ralph Northam, Cynthia Jackson, Tara Skiles, James Ernest and Sunny McPhillips

August 16, 2020

by Carla Hay

A scene from “Starting at Zero” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama)

“Starting at Zero”

Directed by Willa Kammerer

Culture Representation: The documentary “Starting at Zero,” about the U.S. education system for children younger than 6 years old, interviews white and black people (and one person of Asian descent), mostly from U.S. states in the South and Midwest, who are educators, politicians, academics and parents representing the middle-class and upper-class.

Culture Clash: Because access to a good education is usually determined by socioeconomic factors, most of the people interviewed say that more U.S. states need to do a better job at making it a more level playing field for people to have access.

Culture Audience: “Starting at Zero” will appeal primarily to people who are concerned about education for children under the age of 6, but the documentary puts so much emphasis on states in the South (especially Alabama) and the Midwest that people who live in other regions of the U.S. might be turned off by this bias.

A scene from “Starting at Zero” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama)

The child-education documentary “Starting at Zero” (directed by Willa Kammerer), for all of its noble intentions, is a very flawed and extremely dull film that was in serious need of good editing before this movie was released to the public. “Starting at Zero” is supposed to be about pre-kindergarten (pre-K) education in the United States, but more than half of the movie looks like a public-relations promotional video to glorify the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE), as if it’s the only government-funded pre-school department that works well in America. It’s best not to play an alcohol drinking game to take a drink every time Alabama is mentioned in this documentary, because that will definitely result in alcohol poisoning. The movie is only 63 minutes long, but it feels like it’s a lot longer.

In the production notes for “Starting at Zero,” Kammerer says that the movie (which is her first feature-length documentary) started out as exploration of why ADECE’s First Class Pre-K program has been consistently ranked #1 for more than a decade by the National Institute for Early Education Research. (There’s no mention in the documentary that Alabama is consistently ranked one of the worst states in the U.S. for education. More on that in a moment.) But as Kammerer and the other filmmakers got deeper into making the documentary, Kammerer says that they “realized there was so much more to the story—that it had roots in North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi, and other threads in Oklahoma and Montana, Chicago and Omaha and beyond.”

The problem is that the movie pretty much ignores the “beyond” part, by sticking to interviewing people who are connected to the pre-school education system in the South or Midwest. It’s a huge misstep for a documentary that’s supposed to be about the overall pre-school education system in the U.S., even though the documentary is actually a narrow look at only certain regions of the country. “Starting at Zero” gives the impression that the filmmakers didn’t want to spend the time, money or resources to include other regions of the U.S. outside of the South and Midwest. And that myopic view is just going to alienate a lot of viewers when they see that this is a documentary focused primarily on pre-school education in Southern and Midwestern states.

The fact-finding in this documentary is amateurish and, at times, atrocious. “Starting at Zero” cites statistics but does not list any sources for those statistics, which will make viewers wonder how credible those statistics are. It’s very disappointing that a movie about education seems like it was made by people who have no education in research, such as this basic standard: Always cite your sources.

And in being too eager/biased in promoting Alabama as an ideal state for pre-school education, the filmmakers of “Starting at Zero” completely ignored something that’s common knowledge to many people who are in and outside of the U.S. education system: Alabama is consistently ranked at or near the bottom of all U.S. states in education. According to U.S. News and World Report, Alabama is ranked dead last out of all 50 states in overall education and ranked at #49 out of 50 in education for pre-K to 12th grade.

The lack of diversity in “Starting at Zero” isn’t just with the U.S. regions covered in the film. Although there are several black people interviewed in “Starting at Zero,” Latinos are completely shut out of the documentary, and the only Asian who’s interviewed in the movie (Harvard University professor of public economics Raj Chetty) gets less than a minute of screen time toward the end. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Asians and Latinos are the fastest-growing racial groups in the United States. It’s really appalling that a documentary about the education of future generations in the U.S. leaves out significant representation of these racial groups in the documentary.

Only one person in the documentary realistically discusses the issue of how racial diversity impacts U.S. public schools. Cynthia Jackson, executive director of Educare, comments: “There are groups of children—immigrant children, children of color, children from under-served and under-represented communities—that are being left behind because of unconscious bias, because of equity issues.”

And speaking of unconscious bias, “Starting at Zero” has some racist editing too, because every time someone mentions “poor” or “under-performing” students in a voiceover, the film shows children who aren’t white, usually African American children. It reinforces a racist stereotype that non-white students are the only kids in school who could possibly be bad students or poor. The reality is that there are poor people and bad students of all races in America, but the filmmakers of this substandard documentary don’t seem to have a grasp on that reality.

Another major blind spot in “Starting at Zero” is how it barely mentions that being able to afford pre-school child care is a huge issue for many families. Not everyone can afford the “best” pre-schools in their communities. “Starting at Zero” has absolutely no one in the movie who says they’re struggling with being able to afford pre-school childcare, but it isn’t surprising that this perspective is shut out of “Starting at Zero,” since the movie fails on so many levels. Of the long list of people interviewed for this movie (see below), only two are parents who talk about having kids in a pre-school program, and they don’t talk about how it affects their finances.

The movie preaches that every state should eventually have the type of great pre-school child care that will be free to all, in order to “level the playing field” in U.S. education. Several people in the movie declare that since government-funded U.S. education is on the state level, not national level, it will be up to each state to make these improvements. Easier said than done.

Virginia governor Ralph Northam comments, “When one family has the means to send their children to early childhood education programs and another family doesn’t, it’s really what starts the gap. And we can either invest in it responsibly at an early age or can try to catch up later. The math is very simple.”

But the movie never answers this question: “Who’s going to pay for it?” Too many people are already angry at their state governments for raising taxes, and they don’t want higher taxes for the government to pay for these pre-school education programs. And although some people in “Starting at Zero” say that education is a non-partisan issue, the reality is that education funding is a partisan issue when one party can be more resistant than another to raise taxes to improve funding for severely under-funded public schools for children.

And speaking of funding, there’s no real discussion in “Starting at Zero” about the fact that school teachers for children are underpaid and how these severely low salaries are a major problem in attracting “quality” educators in public schools for children. A lot of people in the documentary spout vague platitudes about “high-quality education,” yet it’s irresponsible for the documentary to ignore that it’s harder to attract “high-quality” educators on the pre-school level if the educators aren’t even being paid a living wage.

Some of the ADECE people in the documentary brag that in Alabama, pre-school teachers and kindergarten teachers who work for government-funded schools are paid the same salary. But the documentary doesn’t mention is that teachers on this level all across the U.S. are usually part-time employees (they don’t get health insurance or other full-time benefits from their job) who get such low salaries that it’s not enough to be considered a living wage. ADECE has a program that brings pre-school teachers to people’s homes, but the documentary omits specific information about how much money it costs for Alabama to provide these home services and how many households actually get these services.

“Starting at Zero” spends a lot of time repeating things that are common knowledge, such as the fact that kids start learning before they go to school and that the type of pre-school education a child has will make a difference in how well the child does in school. The more educated a society is, the more likely the society’s economy will prosper. Therefore, it makes sense to invest in and care about a child’s education even before the child enrolls in school.

You don’t have to be an educator or a parent to know all of that, but there are several people who repeat these things throughout the film. Because this constant repetition is put in the movie, the filmmakers seem to think viewers are too stupid to understand the first time someone said it in the documentary. “Starting at Zero” makes the same mistake that a lot of documentaries make: It overstuffs the movie with talking heads who say the same things over and over.

The filmmakers of “Starting at Zero” don’t seem to understand that a documentary isn’t automatically good if you put as many interviews as possible in the documentary. In fact, interviews with too many people can make a documentary look cluttered and absolutely boring, especially if many of the people being interviewed don’t have a lot of charisma. It should be commended that the filmmakers made an effort to have numerous sources to interview, but this documentary needed better directing and editing, by putting into practice the concept of “quality over quantity” in the final cut of the movie.

Here’s the list of interviewees in “Starting at Zero,” keeping in mind that this movie is only a little more than an hour long, not a docuseries:

  • Joe Adams, research coordinator of Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama
  • Susan Adams, assistant commissioner for Pre-K, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
  • Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of National Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Laura Baker, regional director coordinator of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Pam Baker, Alabama First Class Pre-K teacher
  • Erin Barton, Vanderbilt Peabody College associate professor 
  • Camilla Benbow, dean of Vanderbilt Peabody College
  • Rebecca Berlin, senior vice-president of Ounce of Prevention Fund
  • Misty Blackmon, regional director of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Edwin Bridges, retired director of Alabama Department of Archives and History  
  • Steve Bullock, governor of Montana
  • Phil Bryant, former governor of Mississippi
  • Greg Canfield, Alabama secretary of commerce
  • Raj Chetty, Harvard University professor of economics
  • Lucy Cohen, HIPPY state lead of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Jeff Coleman, CEO of Coleman Worldwide Moving
  • Shernila Cook, graduate and Alabama First Class Pre-K
  • Tom Dodd, regional vice-president, Kaplan Early Learning Company
  • Steven Dow, executive director of CAP Tulsa
  • Amy Dunn, coach, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • James Ernest, University of Alabama, Birmingham professor
  • Alice Evans, monitor of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Jean Feldman, teacher/author
  • Stacy Ferguson, retired regional director of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Dorothy Flowers, Alabama First Class Pre-K teacher
  • Delliiah Hasberry, Alabama First Class Pre-K parent/Help Me Grow Alabama community liaison
  • Jana Hoggle, Satsuma City Schools director of Pre-K
  • Jan Hume, grants and budgets of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • James B. Hunt Jr., former governor of North Carolina
  • Cynthia Jackson, executive director of Educare Learning Network
  • Laura Jana, pediatrician/author
  • Lee Johnson III, director of First 5 Alabama, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Archie Jones, Harvard Business School director/senior lecturer
  • Todd Klunk, W.K. Kellogg Foundation program officer
  • Ken Levit, executive director of George Kaiser Family Foundation
  • Sunny McPhillips, lead teacher of Alabama First Class Pre-K
  • Allison Muhlendorf, executive director of Alabama School Readiness Alliance
  • Ralph and Pamela Northam, governor and first lady of Virginia
  • Diana Mendley Rauner, president of Ounce of Prevention Fund
  • Bentley Ponder, senior director of research and policy, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
  • Dallas Rabig, Alabama State Coordinator for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health
  • Jeana Ross, secretary of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Aaliyah Samuel, formerly of National Governor’s Association
  • Diane Schanzenbach, Northwestern University director of Institute for Policy Research
  • Javaid E. Siddiqi, president/CEO of the Hunt Institute
  • Tara Skiles, professional development manager of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Trellis Smith, Head Start state collaboration director of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Jim Squires, retired employee of National Institute for Early Education Research   
  • Katharine B. Stevens, American Enterprise Institute education policy scholar
  • Jera Stribling, director of Alabama Giving
  • Trayce Strichik, senior director, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Rachel Wagner, Devereux Center for Resilient Children
  • Emily Warren-Bailey, Alabama First Class Pre-K teacher
  • Eria White, Alabama First Class Pre-K parent
  • Kash White, Alabama First Class Pre-K student

NOTE: Alabama governor Kay Ivey is not interviewed for the documentary, but the movie has footage of her giving a speech that mentions pre-school education.

Stylistically, “Starting at Zero” is structured like a tedious PowerPoint presentation, including having outlines on the screen that lists each of the documentary’s five chapters, with headings and subheadings. Footage of real-life pre-school classes is mostly used as anonymous background to the voiceover commentaries from the interviews. However, these visual features of the documentary aren’t the film’s biggest problem.

“Starting at Zero” might be only 63 minutes long, but it’s bloated with too many people, mainly from the South or Midwest, who repeat the same things about how “high-quality” pre-school education should be available to everyone in the U.S., without discussing the practicalities of how to pay for it. If you thought that the list of interviewees was long, imagine how it must feel to watch most of them repeating similar generic comments about education. Excruciating.

Most of the people interviewed are in privileged positions where they don’t have to think about how pre-school education will break their household budgets if they have children who need this type of education. A lot of people in America aren’t that lucky; pre-school education is out of their reach because they can’t afford it. Meanwhile, most pre-school educators’ salaries in the U.S. aren’t enough for a basic standard of living in the U.S.

The way that “Starting at Zero” ignores these problems and many other issues makes this documentary short-sighted at best, irresponsible at worst. If people want to see a much better documentary about pre-school education in the U.S., then watch “No Small Matter,” which takes a more comprehensive and more informative look at this important subject.

Abramorama released “Starting at Zero” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on August 14, 2020.

HBO Max premieres ‘The Dog House UK’

July 9, 2020

“The Dog House” UK (Photo courtesy of HBO Max)

The following is a press release from HBO Max:

HBO Max’s heartwarming unscripted series The Dog House: UK is moving up its premiere date to Thursday, July 23, 2020.

Finding forever homes for rejected dogs isn’t easy – but that’s exactly what the staff of Wood Green do every day. Set inside a rural British animal rescue center known for its commitment to matching homeless dogs with eager owners, The Dog House: UK captures the joy and complexity of the human-dog “dating” experience. Each of the first season’s eight episodes introduces tearful tales of abandoned dogs, while also touching on relatable backstories of families, couples, and singletons all hoping their lives will be changed by a new four-legged friend. It’s up to the center’s dedicated staff to match pet with potential new owner – and to arrange an all-important first date that will determine if the adorable pups and hopeful humans have that fated connection. The show was originally produced by Five Mile Films for Channel 4 in the UK for distribution by all3media International.

Review: ‘No Small Matter,’ starring Rachel Giannini, Andrew Meltzoff, Myra Jones-Taylor, Deborah Phillips, Geoffrey Canada, Matthew Melmed, and Nadine Burke Harris

June 26, 2020

by Carla Hay

Rachel Giannini (pictured at right) and a student in “No Small Matter” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama)

“No Small Matter”

Directed by Danny Alpert, Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel

Culture Representation: The documentary “No Small Matter,” about children’s learning abilities before kindergarten age, interviews a racially diverse group of people (white, African American, Latino and Asian) who are educators, academics and parents representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A child’s ability to learn can be hampered by poverty, abuse, and a lack of caring adults in the child’s life, and it’s become increasingly harder for middle-class parents to afford childcare for pre-school children.

Culture Audience: “No Small Matter” will appeal primarily to parents, educators and other people who are concerned about how to teach children under the age of 6.

Larry Johnson, Wahnika Johnson and their daughter Laryn in “No Small Matter” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama)

The documentary “No Small Matter” tackles two different but related topics, and handles one topic better than the other. The first topic (which is the one that’s handled better) is an exploration of children’s learning abilities from birth to the age of 5. The second topic is about the increasing struggles for non-wealthy parents in the United States to give their pre-school children the best possible education and learning experiences.

“No Small Matter” directors Danny Alpert, Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel do a very good job of balancing interviews with experts and footage of real middle-class/working-class parents and pre-school children. The documentary gives a fairly comprehensive overview of children’s learning abilities before they reach school age. The movie also advocates for better support systems for parents of pre-school children, as affordable childcare become increasingly difficult for parents who have to work outside the home.

The best scenes in the film are with childhood educator Rachel Giannini, who was working at the time at Highland Park Community Nursery School and Day Care Center in Highland Park, Illinois. Her infectious enthusiasm for teaching kids and giving them positive encouragement to be themselves in their learning process are inspiring for anyone who wants to know how a good pre-kindergarten teacher should be.

Narrated by Alfre Woodard (who is also the documentary’s executive producer), “No Small Matter” covers subject matter that a lot of people might already know. For example, it’s fairly common knowledge that babies can start learning from birth. Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, tells a story of interacting with a baby who was just 42 minutes old. He saw that when he stuck out his tongue, the baby immediately did the same, which is an indication of how quickly newborn babies can learn imitation skills.

The documentary also mentions the new technology that’s available to study babies’ brain activities. Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences co-director Patricia Kuhl declares that it’s possible to see what’s going on in a baby’s brain before the baby can talk. However, the documentary could have used a little more discussion about how devices such as smartphones and tablets can affect brain activity for pre-school children.

One of the best aspects of “No Small Matter” is that the film has an impressive and diverse list of experts who are interviewed. The academics include University of California at Berkeley psychology professor Alison Gopnick; Georgetown University psychology professor Deborah Phillips; Temple University psychology professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek; University of Wisconsin pediatrics professor Dipesh Navsaria; and University of Wisconsin psychology professor Seth Pollak.

There are also several leaders of children-oriented nonprofit organizations, such as Center for Youth Wellness founder/pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris; Zero to Three executive director Matthew Melmed; Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada; Child Care Aware of America executive director Lynette Fraga; National Association for the Education of Young Children CEO Rhian Allvin; ReadyNation co-founder Robert Dugger and AVANCE executive director Jessica Atlas.

One interview that seems a little out of place is with Sesame Workshop senior vice president of curriculum and content Rosemarie Truglio, because during the interview, she’s interrupted by “Sesame Street” character Cookie Monster, who does a comedic skit with her. It’s supposed to be funny, but it comes across as too staged, awkward and perhaps some kind of sponsorship deal that the filmmakers made with Sesame Workshop. If people want to watch “Sesame Street” skit, they can watch “Sesame Street.” It doesn’t need to be in this documentary during what’s supposed to be a serious interview.

Several people in the documentary say things are already well-known: There’s a direct link between poverty, lack of education and crime. People who end up in prison are more likely to be poor and uneducated (not completing a high-school education) than people who not poor and not educated. Aside from the fact that prisons are filled with poor people who can’t afford good legal representation, poor and uneducated people are less likely to get jobs that can pay a living wage, thereby increasing the possibility that they will turn to crime to make money.

It’s a vicious cycle that experts say has the greatest chance of being broken by giving poor people the education that can increase their chances to climb out of poverty. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections secretary John Wetzel says, “True criminal justice reform is investing in early childhood education.” Arthur Rudnick, a former economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, adds: “You won’t find a better return than investing in early childhood education.”

But the rising cost of that early education is something that’s become increasingly difficult for working-class and middle-class families. Shea Gattis is named in the documentary as an example of someone who benefited from early education as a way to prevent some of the negative lifestyle circumstances and choices that plague low-income communities. Gattis is part of the Carolina Abecedarian Project, launched in 1972, which has been tracking him for more than 40 years since his childhood. He came from a low-income community, but received early education through the project and has been thriving as a law-abiding citizen with a good career.

The documentary shows three families who are struggling with making ends meet and having affordable child care for their pre-school children.

  • A married couple in Yorktown, Virginia—special-education teacher Wahnika Johnson and systems administrator Larry Johnson—have to put their daughter Laryn in day care after Wahnika’s maternity leave ends and she has to go back to work. The movie shows that how this transition has an emotional effect on Wahnika.
  • A married couple in Henderson, Nevada—nail technician Shannon Poff and security guard Donnie Poff—work two different shifts so that one can be home to take care of their son Daymean, who was born with a heart defect. Daymean’s medical bills have put the couple heavily in debt.
  • A single mother in Waco, Texas—Maria Hernandez—uses the nonprofit AVANCE program, which provides free child care for low-income families in the area.

It’s not exactly news to report that many families struggle with being able to afford childcare. What the documentary could have explored better is how a program like AVANCE works and is able to get funding and how a program like AVANCE can be implemented in other communities who need these programs the most.

Melmed comments that the U.S. military has “the best family support system in the United States.” It’s a belief confirmed by U.S. Army first-class sergeant Keacha Simmons, a mother who is interviewed kin the film. That’s great, but considering that most families in the U.S. don’t get military benefits, “No Small Matter” could have taken a closer look at people and organizations that are doing something about the problem of making good childcare affordable to families.

People already know that teachers/educators of children are grossly underpaid in the United States. With most budgets of cities, counties and states already stretched to the limits, it seems as if the future of early childhood education has to rely more on private funding. Where are all the billionaires who can help? And if a lot of wealthy people are helping, where is the money going? No one seems to ask these questions in the documentary.

Melmed has this to say about one of the best ways to rethink childcare and to make it more fun and educational for kids: “It’s not babysitting. It’s brain building.” “No Small Matter” is a good documentary that examines the issues and problems of educating pre-school age children in the United States. However, the documentary would have been much better if it also focused on realistic and attainable solutions.

Abramorama released “No Small Matter” on digital and VOD on June 26, 2020. The movie’s DVD release date is June 30, 2020.

HBO Max greenlights dog-grooming competition show; Jess Rona leads the panel of judges

April 17, 2020

Jess Rona (Photo courtesy of HBO Max)

HBO Max, the upcoming direct-to-consumer offering from WarnerMedia set to launch in the spring of 2020, announced today the greenlight of Hot Dog (working title), from Jax Media and Making It’s Nicolle Yaron. The twelve-episode, half-hour series features three dog groomers facing off in a full head-to-tail creative competition showcasing canine breeds of all kinds.

Inspired by the social platforms and coffee table book from celebrity dog grooming expert Jess Rona, each episode will include imaginative challenges and out of the box themes meant to spotlight the best looks for man’s best friend. Featuring comedic commentary from celebrity guests and a host, Rona will lead the judging panel with the Best in Show winner walking away with a cash prize and first place rosette.

Jess Rona built a following online with her signature slo-motion blow dry videos and serves as the dog grooming artist to many celebrity dogs. In addition to grooming, she is the author of Groomed, the director of Tegan and Sarah’s Closer video, and has appeared on Drunk History and New Girl.

“Jess Rona has made a name for herself as dog groomer-to-the stars and it is so fun to be able to bring her incredibly successful online brand and business to life in this way, ” said Jennifer O’Connell, executive vice president of original non-fiction and kids programming for HBO Max. “Expect pure escapism that the whole family can watch together and root for their favorite pooch with the most fabulous and creative trans-fur-mations.”

Hot Dog is a comedy competition series from JAX Media as they continue to expand their slate into the unscripted space.

“We are very excited to work with Nicolle, Jess and HBO Max on this very important project. There’s no better time to watch a dog get a bath than now,” says JAX Media’s partners Tony Hernandez, Lilly Burns, Brooke Posch and John Skidmore.

The series will be executive produced by Jax Media’s Tony Hernandez, Brooke Posch and Séamus Murphy-Mitchell along with Making It’s Nicolle Yaron and Jess Rona. Abi McCarthy has been tapped as showrunner.

“Haute Dog” (Photo by John P. Johnson/HBO Max)

September 16, 2020 UPDATE:

“Haute Dog,” HBO Max’s head-to-tail dog grooming creative competition series showcasing canine breeds of all kinds is launching with its first six episodes on Thursday, September 24, 2020. Emmy nominee Robin Thede (“A Black Lady Sketch Show”) is joining celebrity dog groomer Jess Rona to judge the imaginative challenges and out of the box themes meant to spotlight the best looks for man’s best friend. These doggy makeover wizards compete to turn the K-9s into K-10s. Matt Rogers (“Las Culturistas”) serves as the show’s host.

The most adorable competition series ever created, each episode features three dog groomers facing off over two rounds. Rogers provides comedic commentary as Rona leads the judging panel with her extensive knowledge of breeds and proper grooming techniques, with Thede serving as “haute” expert evaluating the outrageous and jaw-dropping transformations. The judges determine who wins Best in Show, with the lucky groomer walking away with $10,000 and a first place rosette. Rona’s coffee table book Groomed and social platforms, including her signature slo-motion blow dry videos, inspired the series.

Jax Media completed production of the series over four weeks this summer in Simi Valley following full union guidelines and COVID protocols, with zero positive results from cast, crew and producers. Tests were conducted regularly across four weeks of production from load in to strike.

About HBO Max
HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer offering debuting in spring 2020. With 10,000 hours of curated premium content anticipated at launch, HBO Max will offer powerhouse programming for everyone in the home, bringing together HBO, a robust slate of new original series, key third-party licensed programs and movies, and fan favorites from Warner Media’s rich library including Warner Bros., New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more. Sign up for updates at HBOMax.com.

About WarnerMedia
WarnerMedia is a leading media and entertainment company that creates and distributes premium and popular content from a diverse array of talented storytellers and journalists to global audiences through its consumer brands including: HBO, HBO Now, HBO Max, Warner Bros., TNT, TBS, truTV, CNN, DC, New Line, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and others. WarnerMedia is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T).

About JAX MEDIA
Founded in 2011, JAX Media is a television and film production juggernaut run by Partners Tony Hernandez, Lilly Burns, John Skidmore and Brooke Posch with offices in New York, Los Angeles and London. Jax Media has created a production model that allows talent to maintain control of their content and the results have been answered with awards and critical acclaim. As a company, they provide comprehensive production from development through post with a highly experience in-house production team who expertly implements the unique Jax Media model that has proven itself time and time again as a success for studios, networks and creatives alike. Jax Media currently has 11 shows in production and was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards for the 2018-2019 TV season alone

2020 Beverly Hills Dog Show: NBC special postponed

March 30, 2020

Bono, the Havanese winner of Best in Show at the 2019 Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina (Photo by Nicole Weingart/NBCUniversal)

The following is a press release from NBC:

Due to post production delays, the 2020 “Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina,” which was taped Feb. 29 and scheduled to air April 5 on NBC, will now air at a later date to be announced.*

In its original April 5 timeslot, (12:30-2:30 p.m. ET / 9:30-11:30 a.m. PT), NBC will broadcast the 2019 Beverly Hills Dog Show, featuring Best in Show winner Bono.

Last year, a 3-year-old Havanese named Bono was crowned Best in Show. The little canine from the Toy group is the most-winning Havanese in the breed’s history with over 90 Best in Show titles. Previous Beverly Hills Dog Show winners include 2018’s King, a Wire Fox Terrier, and 2017’s Ripcord, a Doberman Pinscher.

In celebration of man’s best friend and with the glamour only Beverly Hills can provide, the star-studded competition is co-hosted by award-winning TV personality, author and Broadway actor John O’Hurley and American Kennel Club-licensed judge and expert analyst David Frei.

Hosted by the Kennel Club of Beverly Hills and produced by NBC Sports, “The Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina” is a new breed of dog show and must-see viewing for the whole family. Before more than 1,500 dogs representing 200 eligible breeds and varieties face off for the coveted Best in Show title, the canine competitors will mingle with celebrity guests and strut their stuff on the red carpet. For the main event, each group winner will walk the show’s unique runway for the Best in Show judge to determine which dog has what it takes to be champion.

“We all love our dogs, of course,” Frei said. “We invite fans to celebrate these four-legged stars with us at the Beverly Hills Dog Show where they can cheer their favorites. After it’s over, hug your own dog and remind them they’re always Best in Show.”

This year’s dog-loving celebrity guests include Lauren Ash, Brian Baumgartner, Reece Caddell, Jade Catta-Preta, Olivia Culpo, Ester Dean, Bo Derek, Doug the Pug, Parveen Kaur, MJ Javid & Tommy Feight, Nastia Liukin, Greg Louganis, Ariana Madix, Justine Marino, Caitlin McGee, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier and Jocko Sims.

Two newly AKC-sanctioned breeds will compete to be top dog this year. The Barbet (sporting group) is a water dog from France with a long, sweeping tail, a dense coat of curly hair and a distinctive beard. He’s an agile athlete with a bright, friendly nature. The Dogo Argentino (working group) is a strong and intelligent hunting dog from Argentina, originally bred to hunt big game such as boar and mountain lion. He has a short white coat and expressive face.

ABOUT JOHN O’HURLEY

Award-winning television personality, author and Broadway star John O’Hurley is host of “The Beverly Hills Dog Show Present by Purina” and “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina” on NBC. Dubbed one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive,” he is best known as J. Peterman on “Seinfeld,” for which he received a Screen Actors Guild Award. He was also the ultimate champion of the first “Dancing with the Stars” television show. He has authored three books – “Before the Dog Can Eat Your Homework First You Have to Do It: Life Lessons From a Wise Old Dog to a Young Boy” (Hudson Street Press, 2007), the New York Times bestseller “It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump” (Plume, 2007) and his latest book for children, “The Perfect Dog” (Grosset & Dunlap, 2013), which since its release has inspired “The Perfect Dog,” a musical designed for children’s theatre. The musical production is licensed by Theatrical Rights Worldwide as part of its Theatre for Young Audiences catalogue. He is currently starring in his own one-man show, “A Man with Standards,” a humorous and poignant take on his life and experiences in show business.

ABOUT DAVID FREI

America’s foremost authority on all things canine, David Frei is a natural choice to serve as host and expert analyst for “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina” and “The Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina” on NBC. An American Kennel Club (AKC)-licensed judge who has officiated dog shows all over the world, Frei hosted television coverage of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for 27 years. A successful former breeder/handler/owner, he is proudest of the work his therapy dogs have done at the Ronald McDonald House of New York, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the New York VA Hospital, among other health-related institutions. Frei’s first book, “The Angel by My Side” (Hay House Publishing, 2002, with Mike Lingenfelter), claimed two Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) Awards. His latest book, “Angel on a Leash” (BowTie Press, 2011), also a DWAA award winner, tells of his years of experience and work with therapy dogs. Frei was inducted into the Dog Writers Association of America Hall of Fame in 2018.

ABOUT MARIA MENOUNOS

Emmy Award-winning journalist, TV personality, motivational speaker, New York Times bestselling author, host of the Noovie cinema pre-show and co-founder/CEO of the AfterBuzz TV Streaming Networks, Maria Menounos has gained numerous achievements throughout her career in the news and entertainment industry. One of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful, Menounos holds the distinct honor of having conducted the only sit-down interview with the Obama family, an interview ABC News heralded as a deciding factor in President Obama’s historic victory. Currently, Menounos hosts the Noovie cinema pre-show seen daily in 70% of America’s movie theaters, and her weekly podcast, “Conversations with Maria Menounos,” introduces listeners to stars, newsmakers and successful women in engaging conversations on their journeys, advice and passions. As one of the only female CEO’s in the tech world, Menounos heads the AfterBuzz TV digital broadcast streaming network, which produces more than 150 hours of weekly programming for over 120 countries worldwide. Menounos’ AfterBuzz TV mentorship program has helped launch careers for the likes of Fox TV’s Eboni K. Williams, WWE Superstars Sonia Deville and Cathy Kelly, Netflix’s Koramo Brown, “Entertainment Tonight’s” Courtney Tezeno and Deirdre Behar, and hundreds of others.

ABOUT MARY CARILLO

Mary Carillo is a former professional tennis player who has earned awards and accolades for her work as a television analyst and has become a fixture at the Olympic Games for more than two decades as a reporter, analyst and host. Carillo has received two coveted Peabody Awards, one for her work on the HBO documentary “Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer” and the other for co-writing, with Frank Deford, the HBO documentary “Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sport.” She was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2018. Carillo was also named best commentator by both Tennis magazine and World Tennis magazine and broadcaster of the year by the WTA. She has co-written two books — “Tennis My Way,” with Martina Navratilova, and Rick Elstein’s “Tennis Kinetics.” Carillo played on the professional tennis tour from 1977-80. Teaming with childhood friend John McEnroe, she won the 1977 French Open mixed doubles title. In 1977 she was a doubles quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open and a doubles runner-up at the U.S. Clay Court Championships.

ABOUT AKBAR GBAJABIAMILA

Akbar Gbajabiamila is host of NBC’s three-time Emmy Award-nominated hit competition series “American Ninja Warrior,” which begins its 12th season this summer. He is also the host of “American Ninja Warrior Juniors” on the Universal Kids Network. Gbajabiamila is a former NFL star who currently hosts one of NFL Network’s highest-rated shows, “NFL Fantasy Live.” He has made headlines being parodied on “Saturday Night Live” by Drake, as well as hailed in the media as a hero for chasing down a hit-and-run suspect who sideswiped a Los Angeles motorcycle cop. Gbajabiamila made his acting debut on NBC’s “The Night Shift,” as well as hosted NBC’s 2017 “Red Nose Day Special” and “Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.”

ABOUT PURINA

Nestlé Purina PetCare promotes responsible pet care, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. A premiere global manufacturer of pet products, Nestlé Purina PetCare is part of Nestlé S.A., a global leader in nutrition, health and wellness. Subscribe here to get the latest Purina news.

*April 28, 2020 UPDATE:

· NBC will air the 2020 “Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina” on Sunday, May 17 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT). The special, which was taped on Feb. 29, was previously postponed due to post-production delays.

· In celebration of man’s best friend and with the glamour only Beverly Hills can provide, the star-studded competition is co-hosted by award-winning TV personality, author and Broadway actor John O’Hurley and American Kennel Club-licensed judge and expert analyst David Frei. Mary Carillo, Akbar Gbajabiamila and Maria Menounos serve as contributors, and this year’s dog-loving celebrity guests include Lauren Ash, Brian Baumgartner, Reece Caddell, Jade Catta-Preta, Olivia Culpo, Ester Dean, Bo Derek, Doug the Pug, Parveen Kaur, MJ Javid & Tommy Feight, Nastia Liukin, Greg Louganis, Ariana Madix, Justine Marino, Caitlin McGee, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier and Jocko Sims.

· Leading up to the May 17 broadcast, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will present “The Dog Days of Spring” primetime marathon from May 4 – May 7 (7 p.m.-3 a.m. ET) and May 8 – May 9 (8 p.m-3 a.m. ET) featuring past competitions of “The Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina,” “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina” and “Incredible Dog Challenge.”

· Last year, a 3-year-old Havanese named Bono was crowned the 2019 Best in Show. The little canine from the Toy group is the most-winning Havanese in the breed’s history with over 90 Best in Show titles. Previous Beverly Hills Dog Show winners include 2018’s King, a Wire Fox Terrier, and 2017’s Ripcord, a Doberman Pinscher. On April 5, NBC aired a re-broadcast of the 2019 Beverly Hills Dog Show, which was the second highest rated sports program of the weekend across all networks and was watched by an average of over 1.2M viewers.

· Hosted by the Kennel Club of Beverly Hills and produced by NBC Sports, “The Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina” is a new breed of dog show and must-see viewing for the whole family. Before more than 1,500 dogs representing 200 eligible breeds and varieties face off for the coveted Best in Show title, the canine competitors will mingle with celebrity guests and strut their stuff on the red carpet. For the main event, each group winner will walk the show’s unique runway for the Best in Show judge to determine which dog has what it takes to be champion.