The Easter Pup returns Sunday on USA Network.
Host John O’Hurley and canine expert David Frei have become the stars of Thanksgiving for their wildly popular annual Turkey Day broadcast of “The National Dog Show” from Philadelphia.
They bring a canine competition to another holiday on April 1, at 6 p.m. ET/PT (right before NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live”) with the second Easter Sunday broadcast of “The Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina.”
Until 2016, Frei was also the voice of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, then aired on USA Network and CNBC. As of Feb. 2017, that New York-based show airs on Fox Sports Network (where it was entirely lost in the middle of the Winter Olympics this year), so Frei and his “National” co-star O’Hurley came up with a way to keep the canine fun going.
With the help of NBC Sports Group, O’Hurley and Frei concocted the idea to blend the glamour of Beverly Hills with a splash of Hollywood and the fun of a purebred-dog show — even if they have to go a bit far afield to find a venue big enough.
‘This is Beverly Hills-adjacent,” quips O’Hurley, sitting behind a monitor at the Fairplex in Pomona, California (also home of the L.A. County Fair), about 45 miles from Rodeo Drive. “It’s a Beverly Hills suburb — a suburb of its suburb.”
Joining O’Hurley, Frei and over 1,200 dogs representing 175 eligible breeds and varieties are Maria Menounos, covering the red carpet, and Mary Carillo, reporting from backstage.
Also on hand was GCHP Belle Creeks All I Care About Is Love, a k a Flynn, the Bichon Frise that took Best in Show at Westminster in February — and was the Non-Sporting Breeds group winner and Reserve Best in Show (or, second place) at last year’s Beverly Hills Dog Show.
And, on the social side, from NBC:
This year, Purina is encouraging pet owners to participate in the “Every Dog is a Star” program by posting photos or videos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram showing how their dog is the true star of the family. For every original post submitted between March 26 and April 8, using the hashtag #BHDogShow and tagging @Purina, Purina will donate five dollars (up to $25,000) to Mutt-i-grees, a program run by North Shore Animal League America. Mutt-i-grees helps show children the positive impact pets can have on their lives by teaching them important life skills such as empathy, friendship and kindness through interaction with shelter dogs. The funds will be used to help expand the program to more schools around the country.
Here’s some of what they had to say:
On the apparently magical relationship between family holidays and dog shows:
O’Hurley: It’s funny. It’s this quiet little thing that just slid into entertainment, and nobody could figure out why [“The National Dog Show”] is the most popular show on NBC all year long. It’s been just such a piece of synchronicity.
On how this is different from “The National Dog Show” and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show broadcasts:
O’Hurley: This was the brainchild of Gary Quinn [director of business development at NBC Sports] and myself and David. It was actually my idea on a napkin that night to have a runway. The look of the Best in Show is basically a lot like a models’ runway, like the Victoria’s Secret runway. There’s a catwalk, and you have the audience on both sides. It’s in a whole separate arena.
On the love for purebred dogs vs. the “Adopt, Don’t Shop” movement that decries anything but adopting shelter dogs:
Frei: The “Adopt, don’t shop” is an unfair mantra. Adopt is fine. Adopt, exclamation point, we’re all for that.
Shop with a responsible breeder who will make sure that they match up well with their breed. That’s so important. We want people to get a dog that’s going to be with them forever. … Predictability is the word with purebreds.
We’re not against adopting. A lot of people in our sport are involved in rescue for their own breed. That’s part of their responsibility. They’ll always take their own dogs back. Responsible breeders.
O’Hurley: Well the prevalence of rescue dogs, it’s sort of diminished the interest in purebreds a bit. Like, it’s more fashionable now to have a rescue dog then to have gone and bought a puppy from a breeder, like people used to do. Some people get looked down upon if they buy a dog.
What we’re doing here is celebrating the rich history of dogs and man, that’s all it is. It’s a way to keep the breeds alive the way they were meant to be historically. It’s a celebration of man’s association with and relationship with dogs throughout history.
On just how important our dogs should be to our lives:
O’Hurley: They are as important as you want them to be in your life, because you are all of their lives.
Images: Courtesy NBC/Kate O’Hare