Welcome to TV Party, VICE's weekly TV column, brought to you by resident sad-act, me, Lauren O’Neill, where I basically just talk for a bit about the best (or worst) thing on telly this week. Best enjoyed with a plate of your favourite breaded item and an open mind. Contains spoilers, obvs. This week: 'Barking Mad: The Welsh Dog Spa.'
Humans love dogs and, as such, also love dog-centric TV. Paul O'Grady has made a stellar second career out of his Battersea Dogs Home shows, and Crufts is still televised year-on-year to rapturous social media response (we will never forget you, Eric the Pekingese). However, other than The Supervet – which has the power to ruin my mood for a full week if a dog dies – we are missing a dog reality show.
A few years ago, BBC Wales spotted the gap and got going with Barking Mad: The Welsh Dog Spa. It was made in 2015, but recently made its grand resurgence on iPlayer; you can thank me from the pits of your next hangover.
*Seinfeld voice* What’s the deal with 'Barking Mad: The Welsh Dog Spa'?
This is a reality show centred around the goings on at Mucky Pups, a dog grooming shop in Cardiff. I am well versed in this type of thing (Experience: I Watched All of ITVBe's Spa Wars) and can honestly say that this is the lowest stakes piece of reality programming to ever exist. Almost nothing happens – there is not even the mildest of peril, which appeals to me as someone who used to despair watching Kenan and Kel for the reason that "something always goes wrong" – other than some dogs getting a haircut. It is now my favourite programme.
Who's even in it?
Dogs. Dogs are in this show. There are pedigree dogs, and also rescue dogs like Buster and Paris, who are welcomed into Mucky Pups for free haircuts. There is even a guest appearance by the World's Ugliest Dog 2012, Mugley, who swings by to somewhat egregiously – considering his title – judge a dog beauty contest. All of dog life is in this show.
Humans, however, hold things together. The main character is the owner of Mucky Pups, Claire, who is mostly seen carting about the seven-week-old she has recently birthed while taking canine cut-and-blow dry bookings on the phone. At one point she says the sentence: "I stop when I sleep, but I don't sleep that much," which at surface level is quite Apprentice-level chat, but then we realise she's saying it with a literal newborn on her boob.
OK fine – but is it any good?
Yeah it is, actually. For a programme where nothing happens (the narrative thread throughout this thing is so vague as to be almost abstract – like, in episode three, the major plot point is a flat tyre), Barking Mad: The Welsh Dog Spa really runs the emotional gauntlet in terms of the spectrum of feelings it forces you to have. In one episode there is a blind rescue dog with no tear ducts, a paralysed dog who needs a little cart to travel about and a dog ring-bearer at a wedding. You'll probably cry, it's wicked.
From Emmerdale to shagging, how mum-friendly is it?
I don’t care who your mum is, there's absolutely no way she won't enjoy 28 minutes where you get to: a) look at dogs; and b) judge dog owners.
Is it likely to cause a Twitter shitstorm?
Absolutely not, unless it's an all-out war on the hairdressers who had their dog dip-dyed purple.
Any last words?
I will give the final word to the gentleman who, in the intro to the show, while being clambered over by what look like three extremely large and mobile Staffordshire Bull Terriers, says: "Who needs kids and women when you can have dogs like this?"