TV's Greatest Animals
In recent weeks, I've left this here column derelict owing to the fact that I was making some television up at BBC Scotland, followed by a period of sleep that blurred further my ability to differentiate between dreams and reality.
Having found myself splendidly isolated from Britain's Got Talent during its run, I was surprised to see that Pudsey The Dog and his owner had managed to muscle ahead of BGT's Axis of power: Awkward Person, Awesome Singer and 15 Piece Phat Beat Ensemble. But then I saw him and I realised what all the fuss was about. That dog has skillz to pay da billz.
And pay the bills is exactly what he'll be able to do, as he won a cool half a mil in prizemoneys for his owner. Something to consider next time you throw a stick for your unmoving dog and you feel like giving up.
Of course, Pudsey is just the latest in a long line of televised animals who have been as entertaining (if oftentimes not more) than their human co-stars, and here are but a few of the ones most likely to make even the most hardened cynic go "Look at the doggie!"
That dog who says sausages on That's Life!
Before The One Show, the British viewing public's one stop shop for magazine-style miscellaneous gubbins was That's Life! The show was famously hosted by Esther Rantzen but famouser still was Prince The Dog, who with a bit of help from his owner ( a former member of Flock of Seagulls, by the looks of it) could say words like "Anthony", "jersey" and, of course, "sausages". It was the dearth of heartwarming animal stories that put paid to modern facsimilie That's Britain!. Also because it was dire.
Eddie from Frasier
Ah, the pilot to Frasier, good times. Everyone was still giddy off Cheers' parting fumes and, as if the introduction of younger brother Niles and curmudgeonly father Marty wasn't sufficient setup for over a decade of comedy gold, the arrival of "another roommate" sealed the deal. He was also a sidekick in one of the funniest pieces of silent comedy ever. Interestingly enough Eddie (real name Moose) was so well trained he could be quite unresponsive to the cast when the cameras weren't rolling, and towards the end of the run shared the role with his son Enzo. Sadly, Moose died in 2006 and Enzo in 2010, but another one of Moose's sons, Moosie, currently lives with Peri Gilpin, who played Roz. Awww!
The Blue Peter elephant that pooed everywhere
TV stalwart and McGyver training video Blue Peter is a tight, professional broadcast, but even they sometimes have to deal with the unexpected. And as unexpected goes, an elephant going number three in studio and running a zookeeper ragged is right up there. In modern times, the clip has been made all the funnier given we have the knowledge that presenters Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves were making sweet, erotic love together.
Diefenbaker from Due South
Wee Moose wasn't the only transatlantic doggie that made an impression back in the nineties. Originally played by a dog called Lincoln and then replaced after two series by Draco, the half wolf (in actuality a Siberian husky) companion of impeccable Mountie Benton Fraser in popular crime drama Due South was named after a Canadian Prime Minister who developed a taste for donuts while living in Chicago, and like Eddie over in Seattle, Dief got more fanmail than any of the human cast. Small wonder, because he was awesome.
Come on, you didn't think I was going to play by the rules the whole time did you? Although not an animal in the strictest sense (I don't think Rod Hull's arm qualifies as its own genus) Emu certainly was wild, as Michael Parkinson notoriously found out in his most difficult TV moment apart from Meg Ryan. Recently, Emu has had a bit of a resurgence on CITV, delighting a whole new generation with his frankly anti-social antics.
Mrs Sloacombe's Pussy
Hear me out. Yes, we never actually see it (mercifully) but without those jokes where would Are You Being Served? have been without it? Ah, I see your point...