Oh, Puppy Bowl, what have you wrought?
Animal Planet’s annual Super Bowl counter-programming stunt of frolicking fur balls and groan-inducing dogs-playing-football puns has become an annual tradition and a ratings powerhouse.
So it should come as no surprise that the two-hour Puppy Bowl, airing for the 10th year at 2 p.m. Sunday, has spawned a couple of television copycats.
Hallmark Channel’s inaugural Kitten Bowl, three hours of football-loving felines, airs at 11 a.m. Sunday.
And speaking of spawning, the Nat Geo Wild network’s Fish Bowl — which is exactly what it sounds like: four hours of a goldfish circling in a bowl of water — begins at 5 p.m. Sunday.
In short, this is the year that Super Bowl counter-programming has officially jumped the shark.
Fox’s Super Bowl XLVIII coverage starts at 11 a.m. Sunday, which means there will be more than six hours of pre-game Broncos-vs.-Seahawks analysis and hype before we even see a kickoff at 5:30 p.m.
For hard-core football fans, that’s television nirvana. But some people don’t want to spend all day, or any part of it, watching the big game.
Barking up the right tree
It was 2005 when executives at Animal Planet got the bright idea to launch Puppy Bowl. They knew they still would be pounded in the ratings by the Super Bowl, but at least the network could have a bit of fun and drum up some publicity with its unique cute/corny alternative-programming ploy.
They thought they were creating little more than a time filler, in the spirit of a televised Yule log. But the Puppy Bowl turned out to have a surprisingly rabid fan base.
All or part of the inaugural broadcast, starring adoptable puppies recruited from shelters and rescue groups from across the country, was seen by an audience of more than 5 million viewers.
Now it’s a yearly tradition that keeps getting bigger and bigger. Last year’s Puppy Bowl brought in 12.4 million viewers.
This year, Puppy Bowl X is pulling out all the stops. In addition to the main attraction (66 puppies playing on GEICO Stadium’s 10-by-19-foot gridiron), there will be interactive fan voting, an online fantasy draft, a kitty halftime show (including Internet sensation Keyboard Cat, performing Bruno Mars’ Locked Out of Heaven) and a parade of penguin cheerleaders.
The 2 p.m. telecast will rerun five more times throughout the day, with some new content woven into each repeat.
The Kitten Bowl, meanwhile, is hosted by Beth Stern, wife of Howard Stern and national spokeswoman for North Shore Animal League America. New York Yankees radio voice John Sterling will provide play-by-play commentary. The lineup of special guests includes Regis Philbin, Hoda Kotb, Rachael Ray and Lisa Vanderpump.
The Fish Bowl has a couple of celebrity guests as well: reality TV veterinarian Dr. Jan Pol and celebrated dog trainer Cesar Millan.
Here are some other Sunday viewing options:
Day of the Dead : AMC warms viewers up for the Feb. 9 return of its ghoulishly good zombie drama, The Walking Dead, with a sensory-overload 20-hour marathon that begins at 9 a.m.
It’s a chiller: Syfy’s day of killer blizzard movies begins at 9:30 a.m. The lineup includes Ice Quake, Polar Storm, Ice Twisters, Snowmageddon and The Day After Tomorrow.
Detecti-vision: USA’s 10-hour Law & Order: Special Victims Unit marathon begins at noon, while We TV counters with nine hours of the original Law & Order, beginning at 3 p.m. That’s a lot of “chu-chung” sound effects in one day.
Funny ladies: E!’s seven-hour Sex and the City marathon begins at 1 p.m. TV Land weighs in with almost four hours of Hot in Cleveland, beginning at 4 p.m.
Women behaving badly: Investigation Discovery’s 13-hour Wives With Knives marathon begins at 4 p.m. Oxygen counters with 15 hours of female murderers in Snapped, beginning at 9 a.m. Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta, meanwhile, limits the mayhem to catfights, 13 hours of them, beginning at 9 a.m.
More marathons: Dr. House encounters more mystery ailments in one day — during a 20-episode House marathon, beginning at 9 a.m. on Cloo — than most doctors will face in a lifetime. No wonder the guy was so cranky. … BBC America spends seven hours aboard the Starship Enterprise in a Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon that starts at 4 p.m. … Comedy Central wallows in frat-boy humor with nearly nine hours of Tosh.0, beginning at 3:30 p.m. … History’s 21-hour Swamp People marathon begins at 6 a.m. … Ion airs 16 hours of Monk mysteries, beginning at 10 a.m. … TLC lets viewers Say Yes to the Dress for 11 hours, beginning at 8 a.m. … UP TV’s 14-hour 7th Heaven marathon starts at noon. … Travel Channel visits 14 hours of Food Paradise destinations beginning at 1 p.m. … National Geographic Channel plays 15 hours of Brain Games, starting at 11 a.m. … And Spike challenges viewers to survive 12 hours of the Cops’ Bad Boys theme song during a marathon that starts at 11 a.m.