Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Dog's Show

Listening to: Curve - Come Clean. Not mine I confess, but an arrival from the great Fish-Sam CD collection unification of last year. I've never really listened to it. It's interesting in a late 90's crossover electro fuzz sort of way. Sounds a bit like Garbage crossed with the Prodigy. Make of that what you will.

I randomly caught a 1982 episode of 'A Dog's Show' (link with video here) on TVNZ 6 (one of the freeview digital channels) and found it unexpectedly awesome, better than I remembered it at any rate.

Screening at 6pm on Saturdays before the news at 6:30 (our news bulletins were only half an hour long then), 'A Dog's Show' was a NZ staple during the 1980's. I'm totally of the wrong demographic to make a call on if it was a cult viewing back then (I was one year old when it first screened, and sixteen when it finished), but if it screened to a wider audience now I suspect it would be. I remember it from fireside 1980's winter evenings well.

*Those locals familiar with the show can skip this paragraph of exposition*
Long the fodder for jokes about New Zealand's obsession with sheep, and cultural unsophistication (a programme about sheepdogs occupying a primetime national television slot!), each season of the show consisted of a series of competition sheepdog trials (link) from various locations around the country, culminating in run-offs, finals and champion dog and handler combinations being crowned for that year.

Its a wee nostalgic gem, with long dead dogs chasing long dead sheep guided by now much older if not long dead stoic New Zealand farmers. The hills still look the same though, and the vivid red and white pens still stand out. It is surprisingly riveting viewing if you let it. The obstacles can be tricky, the sheep often wilful and nowhere near as docile as you'd think. And all the obstacles are run for points against a time limit with little margin for mistakes, which is almost perfect 'made for TV' tension.

The sheepdogs are really the stars of the show (well, hence the title), and the amount of control and discipline exhibited between them and their handlers is both amazing and fascinating, much more of a partnership than simple 'fetch' and 'heel' stuff. Its common enough that it gets taken for granted, but being the focus of a half hour TV show makes you appreciate how sophisticated and skillful working dog handling can be.

The commentary though is true gold. I'm not sure if the host was being mock serious in a "I went to broadcasting school for this?" sort of way, or genuinely passionate in his almost shakespearean thespianic (is that even a word?) intonations (watch the clips and decide for yourself), but some of the output, most especially in withering put downs of the hapless sheep being herded, was classic. For example:

"That hurdle's a bit wet, the sheep won't want to go up there. They're not entirely dumb"
"This is tricky he [the handler] has three highly mobile morons [the sheep] to deal with"
"This sheep is getting a bit toey, arrogance all over his ignorant face"
"Here he comes, he's got a great score and two fine bitches at his side"

Etc. I was laughing out loud (yeah LOL, no really), which I don't often do when watching TV alone. I guess I never really listened to it when I was a pre teen.

Ah nostalgia. Warm fuzzy nostalgia. Plus the theme music was in Pulp Fiction.


Crafty Tuesday said...

My Grandad was on that show at one point :-)

The theme music was in Pulp Fiction? For real?

Maureen said...

Not being from New Zealand, I've never heard of this show before but from just watching the intro song clip it looks fantastic. Dogs and sheep... always a fun and humorous combination.

Andrew said...

"Flowers on the Wall" by the Statler Brothers.

I woulda been nine when I first heard the Statler Bros version. It's also where I first learned about Captain Kangaroo.

The Country Calendar theme is also awesome but I think that was custom-composed. Certainly every band I know who's covered it has covered it *as* the Country Calendar Theme, not as some prior composition. (All two bands. Bet you there's been more than that though).