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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this variety show competition focuses on animals (mostly domestic pets like dogs, birds, etc.) whose owners want to show off their nifty tricks. Clearly, the owners adore their pets -- they speak proudly of them and lovingly stroke them while they're being interviewed -- and the relationships appear to be mutual; animals aren't being mistreated here. But the whole concept of putting pets in the performance spotlight raises some ethical issues that parents may want to be on hand to comment about, particularly for the more demanding and involved tricks, or those that feature exotic animals like seals. Also, the judges' humor sometimes touches on more adult-oriented topics like dating, relationships, ex-wives, and so on.
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What's the story?
PET STAR celebrates the skills of animal owners/trainers and their pets. In each episode of the show, which is hosted by popular TV personality Mario Lopez (of Saved by the Bell and Dancing with the Stars fame), several pets (and their owners) compete for the most original and best-executed pet trick. Three judges rate each competitor on a scale of 10, with their own comic bits thrown in. At the end of the show, the audience votes for one of the top three acts.
Is it any good?
Kids young and old will get a chuckle out of these animals' antics, and the owners are people of all ages and ethnicities. Unlike Animal Tails, another animal variety show, Pet Star doesn't feature any segments on the characteristics of different species or give training tips. And parents may want to watch out for somewhat suggestive lines from judges about pets reminding them of their ex-wives or the extracurricular activities of the trainers who are so involved with their pets.
But the biggest issue here is the ethical question of whether animals should be expected to perform and compete on television in the first place. Dogs catching balls and Frisbees is one thing, a pig dressed in a tutu and asked to slam dunk like "Squeal O'Neil" is another. The judges do comment on such acts and ask whether the animals really want to perform -- or whether the owner just wants to be on television. It's an interesting topic, and one that you can discuss with your kids as well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the competing animals' intelligence and physical abilities. Did you know dogs and birds could do things like that? How do you think they learned their tricks? Do these antics test an animal's intelligence and physical agility or make them appear silly for a laugh? Parents and kids can also discuss the necessary skill and patience on the part of the trainer.