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Catwalk Dogs: A Review
pictures courtesy of ITV

Kris Marshall and Archie
A publicity shot featuring My Family’s Kris Marshall as Michael
along with the star of the show, Wire Fox Terrier Archie.

THE RECENT screening of a comedy drama set around the world of show dogs has certainly got people talking. OUR DOGS’ view is that it was a fun comedy and it should be seen in that context...light entertainment, not a true to life documentary.

Never work with children or animals, or so the saying goes! Here, the cast tell usabout working with man’s best friend on the ITV drama.

Georgia Mackenzie and Kris MarshallKris Marshall (Michael): Kris dubbed Archie, his canine co-star, Tom Cruise because he wouldn’t look him in the eye. ‘It was hard to bond with Archie on set because he always has his eye on trainer, Gill Raddings. Unless you had cream cheese smeared across your face. The dogs were all amazingly well trained. I remember reading the script and thinking, if this dog isn’t brilliant, it’s going to be a nightmare. But he was so good, better than me really - he is the only dog I’ve ever seen hit a mark. And he hit it every time. Remarkable.’

Diana Quick (Mrs Jessop): Playing a Rottweiler breeder would have been a tall order for Diana were she not such a dog-lover herself. ‘I have two dogs, a Lurcher and a Tibetan Terrier, and I really think the role would have been difficult to handle if you didn't love dogs. I had many scenes with the Rottweilers, especially the magnificent Klaus. He is a fantastic dog. He’s beautiful for a start, which helped because I had never met a Rottie and I was slightly dreading it to tell the truth. But they are wonderful animals. At the end of the film I have two big dogs either end of a scarf I'm holding and they jump up and have to appear quite aggressive. I would never have done that unless I had absolute faith in Gill (the dog handler) and her dogs.’

Georgia Mackenzie (Sally): When Georgia realised she would have to work closely with a Rottweiler she had visions of a slobbering, growling beast. She was sorely mistaken. ‘I didn’t realise how docile they could be. Klaus was like a teddy bear. He was one of those dogs who leans on you. He’d fall over if I walked away. No one actually asked me if I liked dogs when they offered me the role. Luckily, I love them or it would have been a nightmare. Especially the times I had to smear cream cheese on my face so Archie would lick me. It was gross but if it meant we got the shot I was happy. We got most things down with the aid of sausages -ˆ the trainer, Gill, would be standing behind me with a piece of sausage and that was the only way Archie could gaze at me lovingly.

‘I can’t say it made me want to start doing dog shows though. I watched a DVD of Crufts and it was quite scary. All the trimming, clipping and hair drying that goes on is incredible. These people are utterly focused.’

Gill Raddings (dog handler): For the canine stars of Catwalk Dogs, Fox Terrier Archie and Rottweiler Klaus, the filming was full of non-stop action, stunts, and a host of new tricks. Gill Raddings, founder of Stunt Dogs (and Archie and Klaus’s trainer) explains: ‘Catwalk Dogs was great for showing off the skills Archie and Klaus are capable of, but I had to teach them new things too. The script was packed full of stunts that I had to work on, ready for their scenes on set.

‘The most complicated stunt is when Archie is being chased by a Rottweiler, and he has to jump onto the hood of a car, over the wide screen, onto the roof, and then down through the sunroof. It was the biggest stunt, and not one I’ve seen done before, but I was pleased with the challenge. To film it, we had to break it down into stages and use his favourite toy to get him to jump up onto the car, and then through the sunroof.’

Georgia Mackenzie and KlausWriter Simon Nye (who also wrote Beast and Men Behaving Badly) says: ‘I knew very little about dog shows so I went to Crufts and was blown away by it all. Breeds I'd never heard of, bizarre accessories and the sheer number of competitors. To be honest, I still struggle to know why the judges pick one dog over another.’ (if he'd come and asked at the Our Dogs stand, we would have explained! Ed)

Simon is no stranger to working with animals, having penned Beast, the sitcom set in a vet's surgery. Not that that made the process any easier, he says.

‘The first thing you realise as a writer working on a show like this is that it takes a minute to write a line of action for a dog, then several days for the trainer to provide the dog with the training to shoot that scene.’

First and foremost, let’s get the programme into context....its a light hearted romantic comedy drama.

It’s on telly, so its half make believe...a bit like Midsomer Murders where every week it appears that half the village is done away by a deranged vicar with a sordid background, a claim on a will, and a quick hand with a lethal pitch fork or a golf club. But it doesn't really happen like that, and it doesn't really exist. (if it did, it would be a ghost town by now!)

So suspend your disbelief, and sit back and enjoy a comedy, based on a couples relationship, linked within the world of showing dogs.

Therefore, when the announcer introduces dogs by their name into the ring, WE KNOW it doesn't really happen, but for the many millions out there who have no idea how it works, it explains it a little, otherwise there would have been silence as the dogs came into the ring...and TV doesn't work well like that in this instance. The programme reminded me of the film based on Wimbledon, similarly shot; its where a British tennis player (male) falls in love with a nubile American player (female) and then goes and wins the Men's Singles who would have believed that! It was very British, and probably went down a storm in the USA, which is where this made for TV film like production is destined.

Let’s face it, the world of dogs is something of a sub culture to the vast majority of the British public, and those who show are in a huge minority, so most people will have no idea how the show scene really works. It was similar to the American made Best in Show movie, which also contained some fairly typical stereotypes, but there again, we all could probably identify with some of the characters anyway. The shows producers did a lot of consulting on 'the real thing' but again had to take some artistic licence to make the show watchable in a way people could follow the loose workings of a dog show.

A bit of fun, light hearted, take it in context and do not worry that it will affect the Crufts entry figures or generate an explosion in demand for cute Wire Fox terriers! If we can't laugh at ourselves a little bit in the very serious world, then its a poor could have been worse, it could have featured an aggressive, wiry haired old journalist who criticises the Kennel Club in his weekly column in OUR that WOULD have been stretching the imagination wouldn't it?