The Week In Weird TV: Doggy Style & David Blaine

This week we had dogs dressed as Mickey Mouse and David Blaine stabbing himself in the arm, obviously...
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This week we had dogs dressed as Mickey Mouse and David Blaine stabbing himself in the arm, obviously...

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Middle America is quite frankly astonishing. It is the most fertile source of television programme ideas since the Nazi’s. It is TV’s muse – the Edie Sedgewick to countless pungent, long-haired documentary Andy Warhols. There just seems to be no end to it. No end of those good natured loonies – with apple pie accents – willing to allow someone called Crispin to follow them around while they go about their unusual interests or upsetting personal hygiene regimen.

Why does the middle bit of America produce the fringe bits of society? I think it has something to do with space. Too much space to wander around thinking of peculiar things to fill your time with, until you end up trying to build a scale model of the Battle of Culloden, using nothing more than nail clippings and Dax wax. In England we just don’t have the room to do such things. Our time is taken up by worrying about fortnightly rubbish collections and Paul Hollywood’s facial hair. It’s just too crowded to have unusual hobbies.

But one Brit who does is Su from channel 4’s new documentary Doggy Styling. This is a programme all about the world of what they call “creative grooming,” which is essentially poodle topiary. Su and her counterparts from the US compete every year in the prestigious Hershey grooming competition – imagine Crufts where all the contestants are Edward Scissorhands, dressed in gingham.

The competition is rather odd. It involves turning your poodle from a dog into something else with bit of dye and some nifty scissor skills. Last year the winner was a poor old dog that had been made to look like a scene from Pinocchio. And when I tell you that his tail became Pinocchio’s elongated nose, you might want to ring the RSPCA. The dogs certainly aren’t physically harmed, but having your arsehole turned into the mouth of a Disney character by a housewife from Louisiana has got to leave some pretty devastating psychological scars.

Back to this year and the contestants had carved an array of cartoon characters on to their poodles; everything from the Simpsons to Mickey Mouse. But when it came to the solitary Brit, the old country showed it still had just that little bit more class. Dear old Su had, astoundingly, created a scene from Memoirs of a Geisha on her poodle. Just think about that. There was an actual fur bridge.

What sort of world do we live in when those words written in that order are a description of a television programme, rather than a sign of severe mental trauma? She won of course but everybody lost.

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Another odd American is David Blaine. Now, I thought we were rid of him. He hadn’t been seen for years and I was hoping against hope that he had actually managed to perform some real magic by disappearing forever. Alas, no. Here he was again in the annoyingly named Real or Magic.

In this programme Blaine was busy impressing all his celebrity chums, with his usual mix of card tricks and affectation. But his greatest trick is that he doesn’t seem to age. Years have gone by but he still looks like that kid at school who hit puberty at 10 and never realised why people used to be scared of his upper lip. He is the perennial man-child, still trying to impress his classmates by eating worms.

But here, instead of eating worms, he was poking sharp objects through his body under the watchful gaze of, among others, Ricky Gervais. Ricky seemed, understandably, bewildered by this ‘trick.’ Except it’s not really a trick, it’s not really anything. It is just another one of his endurance gimmicks.

I suppose it’s impressive to stick something through your arm and not scream out in pain but what’s the point? Repeatedly stabbing yourself in the arm is fine if you stab your audience in the eyes first but it’s not really television. It’s just not that interesting. Feats of endurance are only really interesting to the people doing them. Is there anything more boring than listening to someone talk about their training for Tough Mudder? I’d rather stab myself in the arm.