Cute animals go up against Super Bowl

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Dogs playing on the field during Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl X. (Animal Planet/Damian Strohmeyer)

The old bumper sticker about braking for animals has an entertainment equivalent: I pause for animals on video.

I know this very well. As my wife and I are relaxing at home, she will suddenly break into laughter, or offer a heartfelt “Awwww.” And I know, in that moment, that she has found yet another image of a cute animal online.

While the Super Bowl on Sunday will draw a big audience, an increasingly widespread competing tactic is to appeal to animal lovers. Why? Because, as the Puppy Bowl is so often promoted, critters are “really freaking cute.” In fact, it seems impossible for Animal Planet to talk about the dogs running on a small football field without assuring us of “excess cuteness” or breaking out the “cute cam.” See more at www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/puppy-bowl or check out the videos from previous games on YouTube.)

But the Puppy Bowl, which will air its 10th version at 3 p.m. Sunday on Animal Planet, is getting more and more competition. Where the Puppy Bowl has a halftime show featuring cats, Hallmark Channel is cranking up an entire Kitten Bowl (www.hallmarkchannel.com/kittenbowl) at noon Sunday. The three-hour telecast promises “the greatest feline showdown in cable television history.”

But the strangest (and potentially most watchable) animal-themed Super Bowl Sunday telecast may be that of the Fish Bowl, on National Geographic Wild. (That’s Channel 141 on Time Warner Cable in the Akron area, 1141 for the HD version.) Beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday, the network promises four hours of a fish swimming in a bowl. And, as far as I can tell, just a fish swimming in a bowl. See more at http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/wild/fish-bowl.

It’s like a yule log for the Super Bowl. Or a tribute to Andy Warhol. And there’s a replay at 10 p.m.!

The irresistibility of animals has been known since long before there was an Animal Planet; one ’90s sitcom included a fictional TV hit consisting of puppies playing in a box, At the same time, though, we’re a long way from people giving up their mid-winter football-watching parties in favor of ones built around cavorting creatures.

But some of those animal telecasts are during the pregame blather. And if the game itself is a blowout, or you hit a long stretch of commercials you’ve already seen, won’t you be wondering what the fish is up to?

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.


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