Groomer Has It: too many dog puns but just enough ass-sniffing

Recently, Animal Planet borrowed from Bravo’s industry-specific reality competition playbook and debuted Groomer Has It, in which dog groomers face off. It airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET, perhaps because it’s more likely viewers will be drunk while watching it, and that really would improve the show.

It’s really a mess, and lands just this side of the watchable/unwatchable line. A large part of that is because it comes across like its producers spent their entire budget on the HD cameras. The show is produced by 3 Ball Productions, but it doesn’t seem like it belongs in their portfolio except for the fact that it uses executive producer (and 3 Ball founder) J.D. Roth as its narrator. There’s no one else? Really?

Overall, it’s incredibly low-rent; for example, there’s obviously wrinkled carpeting on the floor. Host Jai Rodriguez calls the space “the judging arena,” but it seems like someone’s basement with a curtain, while the confessional’s background is a brick wall. The physical space seems small on TV, which means it must be minuscule in real life.

Jai Rodriguez over-hosts by attempting to exaggerate every facial expression–or maybe that’s just the Botox. The show’s three permanent judges may be experts in their field, but they are not articulate nor are they made for television, although it’s kind of hard to look away every time they’re on screen. The same holds true for the contestants, who may be talented, but egad. People may complain about how telegenic contestants are on, say, Survivor, but once they see this group in high definition close-ups, they’ll stop complaining.

Besides the pun in the title, the show doesn’t miss an occasion for ridiculous, allegedly clever word play. There’s the “quick sniff” challenge, and the winner gets a “leg up” in the next challenge, “the pick of the poodles.” After the elimination challenge, which doesn’t have a cute name but which starts with Jai saying “Ready, set, groom,” the winner gets a “leg up” in the next “quick sniff” challenge, while “one team will have to clip one of their own. The non-eliminated person goes back to the “doghouse” with his or her “tail between [their] legs.” As if those aren’t enough, there are more on the show’s web site.

Despite all of this, there are fun moments that make watching it not quite a waste of 44 minutes. By “fun,” I mean moments when it’s impossible to turn away, like when there was an extended conversation about a mat of fur on a dog’s vulva, or the first episode’s quick sniff challenge which saw one contestant trying to identify a breed of dog by literally sniffing its ass. If only someone at Animal Planet had smelled this show’s butt first, they might have known what they were getting.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.