Doug Coutts’ TV Preview: Star Paws


TV One, 9.30 Tuesday


By Doug Coutts

The starting date of the decline of western civilisation has been determined, and it has nothing to do with Donald Trump. Future historians will pinpoint the exact time that things started to go pear-shaped as the day back in 1984 when an American called Charlie Schmidt videoed his cat playing a Casiotron keyboard.

The tapes languished in a box, as did the cat’s ashes, for a couple of decades until the invention of YouTube. Charlie uploaded his tapes – called Keyboard Cat – and they went viral.

Fifteen percent of all internet traffic is now cat-related and 3.8 million cat photos are posted every day in the UK alone, presumably by people who are just that – alone.

Not surprisingly the advertising industry has taken to cats, and dogs, and ponies and squirrels like a creative director to nose candy. Star Paws features a lot of ad execs – some sporting waxed moustaches, even the men – rampantly unapologetic for bring about the end of the world through bad ads featuring cute animals.

“These days an idea doesn’t just need legs, it needs four legs and a tail,” says one, deadpanning in much the same way as Oppenheimer did when he quoted: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

The big animal stars are cats. There’s Grumpy Cat, whose congenital deformity is making its Stateside owner gazillions, and there’s Bounty, or Bonny, or Booger, some sort of flat-faced fluffball who’s the rage of all England. Its owner, a sad-looking but rich woman in purple hair, put the poor animal into ads and is now charging 300 quid per personal appearance. 

And people flock for far and near: “We’ve come all the way from Suffolk just to see her [the cat not the purple hair]” and, “Seeing the cat in real life has made my dreams come true…” She probably also dreams of one day winning Lotto’s fifth division or going overseas on holiday, to Woodville.

Lots of people are cashing in, from the animal owners to ad execs, and even the new breed of animal agents: “So how many frogs do you want?”  

What of the cats and dogs? They put up with the petting, the prodding, the poking and the posing with a look of benign indifference. What are they thinking? Probably “Kill me now.” I know the feeling.

What other critics said:

“Viral cat videos and cute doggy adverts were the subject of Star Paws: The Rise of the Superstar Pets. Not entirely surprisingly, the owners turned out to be far more odd than any of the sometimes doubtful talents of their pets.” — The Guardian.

“The appeal of this entertaining programme was the juxtaposition of animals that couldn’t care less about media stardom with the adults whose careers depended on it. ” — The Telegraph.

“There will be some convinced that programming of this sort is a symbol of the end times: frankly, nothing I could say in this review would convince you otherwise. For the rest of us, animal lovers and sly forwarders of the occasional cat video alike, it wasn’t a total waste of an hour.” — The Arts Desk

Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years. He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at:

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