This year some of the most powerful performances on television came from canines. James Beavis of Facebook’s Cool Dog Group picks his top 10.
I used to find the “dogs > people” sentiment extremely corny and bad, but I’m a changed person. After nearly two years of helping run the Cool Dog Group on Facebook and deleting arguments among its 140,000 members about everything from Tinder to ear clipping, I’ve begun to welcome our canine overlords.
It’s a great lifestyle and I recommend it, but there are drawbacks. For one, it ruins your media consumption. You go out of your way to watch the releases in the Air Bud series. You start arguing that John Wick’s quest for revenge over his dog’s death is the best film of all time. And your arbitrary pop culture lists become much, much more dog focused.
If you’re ready to embrace a more dog-centric lifestyle, join me in ranking every piece of culture based on a dog’s performance. Better living everyone.
10th: Bouncer 2, Neighbours
Why they’re a good doggy: Neighbours might be a lot of things that you don’t like, but it’s also probably the first soap to include an actual real dog dream sequence.
Bouncer the dog was a fan favourite for his 1987-1993 tenure, and for the show’s 30th anniversary they brought back his spirit in the form of Bouncer 2. Thanks to the magic of science, we learned he’s a direct descendant of the original Bouncer, and gets a full two minutes of screen time being petted and coddled. Bouncer 2 himself doesn’t turn in a classic performance, but the existence of a throwback to the original Bouncer’s dream sequence wins me over.
9th: Mr Peanut Butter, Bojack Horseman
Breed: Anthropomorphic Labrador Retriever
Why they’re a good doggy: OK, it’s telling rather than showing, but I mean the guy has ‘G00D B0Y’ as his licence plate. Bojack Horseman’s resident kindhearted simpleton also has enough neuroticism and unexpressed love for Bojack that he’s consistently a treat to watch.
Mr Peanut Butter is basically your bad rock uncle – never seen without aviators, remarried twice over and always ready with a Mighty Mighty Bosstones mixtape you never wanted. But you love him, because you have to.
8th: Jake, Adventure Time
Breed: Magical dog / shape shifter
Why they’re a good doggy: Jake leads by example on the “man’s best friend” front, and has done so for seven seasons now. This year, he’s hung out with a bear (Chris Isaak!) on a barge, been cursed by a bear (not Chris Isaak!) and even reconnected with his seldom-seen brother Jermaine. John DiMaggio’s voice work is almost always MVP status, but his peace-making with Jermaine is on another level.
The power of Adventure Time’s central friendship makes Jake a shoo-in for this list, but bonus points for also helping to defeat the Orgalorg. Also, Chris Isaak!
7th: Stan, Dog With A Blog
Why they’re a good doggy: Shit, Disney really cornered the market on this one. A dog that knows how to boost SEO is a true king of kings, and Stan’s been churning out G-rated web content for three insane/inane seasons.
But they really turned it on for the finale. Threatened with being taken away by a ‘Secret Alien Division’, Stan harnesses the power of television and becomes a star by speaking out and doing a goddamn musical number at an awards show. Because celebrities are immune to covert government experiments, he and his kids (also talkers) are safe to act in period dramas forever. Stan signed off the internet, but signed into our hearts.
6th: Mahershalalahasbaz, The Simpsons
Breed: Plot device
Why they’re a good doggy: More or less another episode guaranteed to make people recycle their tired lines about “the good old days” of The Simpsons, ‘Peeping Tom’ still has a tiny bundle of cute in Flanders’ new dog, Mahershalalahasbaz (Baz for short).
She takes to Homer like any dog would: as if he’s their new best pal. Eventually Homer realises he can’t keep her, acknowledging that Flanders is a better owner for her, and everyone makes peace. Even the initially resentful Santa’s Little Helper and Baz end the episode playing about. A real love-in for 6th spot.
5th: Randy, Hannibal
Breed: Fan service
Why they’re a good doggy: Ever since Will Graham adopted a stray dog named Winston and brought it home to his half-dozen other rescue pooches in Hannibal’s first season, fans have clamoured for more canine screen time.
Even though years have passed in Hannibal’s third season, and Will has moved far away from his nightmarish romance with Dr Lecter, he still can’t help filling the void in his life with pooches, which he rescues with new wife Molly. She picks up a new dog named Randy, who immediately makes an impact by thwarting Will’s attempt at phone sex.
Molly: I’m feeling Randy.
Will: Me too.
Molly: Randy’s our new dog.
Will: Oh, hell.
Molly: Randy’s got huge balls, they almost run on the ground.
Will: *Stares into distance*
Bryan Fuller might take the annoying path of shooting this episode’s best actor in a cloak of darkness, but his huge balls immediately make their presence felt. After the seven episodes of over-the-top brutality that was the Italian excursion, going back to the dogs was a perfect move for Hannibal.
4th: Rowdy, Drunk History
Why they’re a good doggy: There’s a bit in Drunk History’s ‘Los Angeles’ episode when the dog barks perfectly in time with dialogue given to him by the narrator. It’s probably just good editing, but it’s an immaculate moment. Incredible stuff. Lightning in a bottle that is wholly deserving of this spot.
3rd equal: Atticus and Poppi, Broad City
Breed: Unflappable lovers
Why they’re good dogs: Broad City has already crushed it on the dog episode front, but in their second season they truly went all out with a dog wedding (officiated by Janeane Garofalo dropping a Truth About Cats & Dogs reference, no less).
Atticus and Poppi don’t get their rings off Abbi’s swollen foot in this episode, but their perfect behaviour in the face of Ilana crashing their wedding earns them the consolation prize of making this very esteemed list.
1st: Sandwiches, You’re The Worst
Breed: Trigger for existential meltdown
Why they’re a good doggy: You’re The Worst’s second season is essentially a slow zoom-in on Gretchen’s depression, and Sandwiches is part of the tipping point where you start questioning whether this show is actually a sitcom.
In ‘LCD Soundsystem’, the season’s ninth (and best to date) episode, Gretchen steals Sandwiches, the neighbour’s dog, after stalking the owners for a few days. She projects an ideal life onto him, living out a fantasy ‘normal’ day that she views as out of reach. Sandwiches is chill about it on the outside, but you can see his internal pain too. And it really packs a punch.
Look at those eyes. Sandwiches isn’t just a device for Gretchen to project onto. He’s got his own stories, and those eyes only tell you the start of it. He’s been wrenched from his family and is making damn sure the audience knows it.
It’s an Emmy-worthy canine performance, more affecting than most by supporting actors on the show, and it immediately places this pug as my favourite television dog of 2015.
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