The television event of the year aired last Sunday, but it had nothing to do with seahawks or broncos. For the 10th year in a row, Animal Planet went to the dogs.
“Puppy Bowl X” followed the established traditions that have defined the proceedings since their introduction in 2005.
Mimicking the Super Bowl, Puppy Bowl places batches of small dogs of various breeds inside a miniature playpen stadium. With the help of a referee to encourage the puppies to interact and run around with football-shaped toys, as well as some clever editing, the dogs unwittingly participate in a game resembling what their human equivalents are playing a few channels over.
Despite what the title suggests, dogs are not the only species that gets to partake in the festivities. The show also features penguin cheerleaders, kitten halftime performers and even a parakeet that “runs” the event’s official Twitter feed.
Compared to previous years, “Puppy Bowl X” was a relatively lavish affair. Kicking off the program, First Lady Michelle Obama made an appearance during “training camp,” where some of the participating puppies got to interact with the White House dogs Bo and Sunny. This was part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, and was not the only promotional tie-in during the event.
Not unlike the Super Bowl, several ads were tailored specifically for the event. Upcoming film releases “Lego” and “Muppets Most Wanted” were integrated into the production, as well as ads for dog food brand Pedigree and auto manufacturer Subaru, which sponsored the Kiss Cam segment featuring user-submitted videos of kids kissing their pets.
This year’s most memorable segment, the Kitty Half-Time Show, featured a performance by YouTube sensation Keyboard Cat, which “played” Bruno Mars songs on the piano. During the segment, over 20 kittens were unleashed into the pen as an elaborate, domino-propelled Rube Goldberg machine moved throughout the room.
Every year, the producers award the MVP, or Most Valuable Puppy, during the telecast. This year’s lucky pup was Loren, a Brittany spaniel from a shelter in Colorado. The puppy scored four touchdowns, including a notable field-long run that ended with him running beyond the end zone into the stadium tunnel.
While “Puppy Bowl X” is equal parts fun and adorable, it also serves as a mechanism to encourage pet adoption. Except for the penguins featured on the program, all the animals, including 66 puppies and 30 kittens, are up for adoption. Recognizing the power of the franchise’s monster ratings, reaching 12.4 million viewers last year, Animal Planet uses the platform to promote pet adoptions from rescue organizations.
The Super Bowl is defined as good or bad depending on the teams playing or how close the score is. With the Puppy Bowl, however, expectations are clear. Cute animals get to interact under zany circumstances, all for a great cause. Bring on Puppy Bowl XI.
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