Judge Ian Visser possesses the keen eye, firm rump, and shiny coat of a true champion.
The dog show of all dog shows returns.
Each year, thousands of dogs (and their owners) gather to compete for the title of "Best in Show" at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Riches, fame, and whole lot of "Who's a good boy? You are!" are at stake. But what does it take to reach the top of the canine pyramid, and who has the fur to make it?
Facts of the Case
Famed as the world's premier canine competition, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was first held in 1877. The show originated as a competition for sporting dogs owned by hunting men who met at the Westminster Hotel in Manhattan. The prizes for these initial shows included pearl-handled pistols (of use to the men who worked with dogs in the field) and bragging rights. In 1884, the American Kennel Club (AKC) began requiring that all dogs be registered with the AKC, excluding many breeds and narrowing the focus of the competition. Subsequent shows have drifted from winners chosen based on skills and obedience to judging based on appearance alone. While this has no doubt changed the spirit of the competition, the modern Westminster show still remains popular with audiences.
New Video now presents the 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Special Collector's Edition) in a two-disk DVD set.
The 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Special Collector's Edition) presents the 2007 show as broadcast from Madison Square Gardens. Hosted by commentators Lester Holt, David Frei, and roving reporter Debbye Turner, it is a well-produced showcase of all things canine. Truncated from the weekend-long event, viewers join the contest after the herd of some 2500 dogs has been cut to 168 in seven specific groups, such as toy, working, and non-sporting. Over the course of the broadcast, we watch these 168 dogs be cut to seven (the best dog from each group), and ultimately from those seven to the triumphant "Best in Show" winner.
With judging criteria no longer tied to the abilities of a breed, the competition now hinges on which dog best fulfills its standard. A standard is a description of the ideal specimen of a particular breed, created by its parent club. Standards describe general appearance, movement, and temperament, along with specific physical traits such as height, weight, coat, color, eyes, ear shape, feet, tail, and more. The fulfillment of each standard is determined in competition by judges from the AKC. This judging is notorious for its subjective basis, as each judge applies their own interpretation of the standard to the competitors.
The four competition groups featured on Disk One are working, terrier, toy, and non-sporting. Disk Two features the sporting, herding, and hound groups. A judge assesses each dog while it runs, turns, and sits to determine which best represents its standard. The commentators remark about the dogs and their respective breed, and explain what the handlers are doing to emphasize the dog's characteristics. The judges re-evaluate 4 to 6 dogs from each group again, and then select the one who will enter the final showdown.
Although I am not really a dog person, I found the 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Special Collector's Edition) to be very entertaining. The dogs are all impressive specimens, and many breeds I had never heard of are on display in all their (often weird-looking) glory. This is a professionally produced event; editing and camera work are spot-on, with the action front and center for the viewer. The two-hour truncation of the event helps speed things along, since the broadcast eliminates much of the organization and busy-work that goes on behind the scenes. The running commentary by Holt and Frei is actually quite interesting, detailing the history of each breed, handler, or dog. There are a few inside jokes and references that a layperson may not get, but this commentary is still quite informative.
There are a number of extra features included in the 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Special Collector's Edition). The Breed Judging segments let viewers watch the judging of the akita, standard poodle, PBGV, bouvier des flandres, English springer spaniel, dandie dinmont, and toy poodle breeds. This is raw footage without commentary (essentially a montage of judging set to music) but it will be interesting to fans of the featured breeds. Each group winner gets an interview piece, and shorter features include a backstage tour of the show and a grooming lesson. The Angel on a Leash feature details a program that brings dogs to visit sick children, and the Junior Showmanship Highlights reviews the next generation of dog handlers in their own competition. The final feature is the story of Vivi, a whippet who vanished from JFK airport en route to the 2006 competition. Despite heavy local news coverage and a sizeable reward, Vivi was never found. Anyone who has ever lost a pet can certainly identify with the owner's plight.
As you would expect from a recent broadcast, the 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Special Collector's Edition) has a solid visual presentation. There are a few minor deficiencies, but for the most part this is a clear, crisp image. The audio is free of any noticeable defects, although there isn't much to challenge your system.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If there is a shortcoming with the presentation, it's that not enough information is provided for dog show newcomers. It would be nice to see more behind-the-scenes action, or an exploration of what it takes to make a champion dog. Also, several of the features (such as the grooming segment) are less than a minute long and could certainly have been expanded upon.
The 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Special Collector's Edition) serves its audience well, but more information for beginners would have been useful. One also suspects that many of the people behind the dogs are even more interesting than their pets, but viewers will have to look elsewhere for any indictments of "dog people"
Not guilty. The 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Special Collector's Edition) sits up, rolls over, and fetches like a champ.
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