Like most originators that eventually get upstaged by a series of upstarts, The Puppy Channel has been left to falter towards the back of the pack. Back in the 90s, Daniel Fitzsimmons attempted to sell his revolutionary cable channel idea – all puppies, all the time – to the likes of Ted Turner and Barry Diller (as told here on This American Life).
The premise wasn’t just that people love puppies, but that people would want to watch them on TV- maybe actively, maybe just as a nice living room background. It sounded like a reasonable enough idea: an orgy of puppies (I picture mostly golden retrievers) running around with tails wagging and big grins, and a great theme song to boot.
Alas, the networks didn’t buy it, but the idea lived on and has manifested in a selection of videos on The Puppy Channel’s site. But there’s not a lot to get excited about. The videos are user-generated, which means they’re much more entertaining for the owners than us.
These days, there’s far too much cute animal content out there to even begin to keep track. But I would confidently wager that the best of the current lot, if not amongst the best, is VBS.TV’s The Cute Show.
It may seem strange that Vice Magazine‘s online video extension would be home to a series showcasing furry animals given other VBS programs document pornography photographers, circumcision ceremonies, and islands of garbage. But I think that’s part of the appeal.
An equal opportunity purveyor of cute, The Cute Show includes the obvious cats and dogs, but also has an episode each on: hamsters, bunnies, baby lions, baby walruses, hedgehogs, and even non-mammalian fare like cute cupcakes. There are a several keys to The Cute Show’s success. One is context: cute on its own is nice, but having the respective owners talking about their charges and showing them off means we’re more sympathetic and ultimately more appreciative of the cute factor. Another key is the music: a fresh, bouncy, electronic keyboard soundtrack for each video – sophisticated in their simplicity, the tunes provide just the right pacing and set up for the pets, or…cupcakes.
There’s also a very touchy episode on special needs pets: a heartstring-pulling-meets-cute double whammy.
Others that ply the cute trade, like Cheezburger and Ultra Kawaii are as much about stunts (cat on a turntable; cat jumping in and out of a box; cats or dogs playing with balls) as pure adoration. Whereas on The Cute Show, the lovely-voiced narrator gently queries the owner or trainer about the animals, and the owner shares their names, their tendencies, their back stories, while the camera (clearly of decent quality, not the case with many others of the genre) goes in close and gives us a prolonged take of each animal in its full glory.
Accompanied by the effective soundtrack and subtle narrative build-up, you’re sure to crack a smile for these creatures, and maybe even a giggle- they’re being taken care of, and they’re just all too cute. Check it out at VBS.TV.