When it comes to TV, we’ve never had so much choice. I don’t know about you, but I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of content on streaming services and can spend up to 20 minutes browsing the many menus, unsure of what I should commit to next. The combination of indecision and near unlimited choice can sometimes lead me to choose nothing, opting instead to pick up a book, flick on the radio and stroke a dog. On one occasion though, my thumb hurting a little from extensive browsing, I came across the Netflix Original Series DOGS.
DOGS caught my eye for various reasons. I’m a dog lover and owner (Ruby, a Welsh terrier, and Dasher, a whippet) and the on-screen icon (at the time) was a photograph of a husky, a breed I’ve always loved. But more than anything else, I was drawn in by its title. There was no witty strapline, no celebs, media lords, journalists or stars endorsing or featuring in it, and the single word was presented in capital letters – DOGS – as if highlighting, or even shouting, its simplicity.
Intrigued, I began to watch the first episode. Of course, as soon as a dog appeared on the screen, Ruby barked as if it had just walked in off the street with plans to steal her food and/or toys. Thankfully though, with a bit of instruction, reassurance and belly rubs, she settled down, thereafter only letting out sporadic half-woofs during any canine close-ups.
For several reasons, DOGS is a triumph, but top of the tree for me is its pace. I’m often unsettled by how quickly the world moves, how instantly people want everything (including gratification) and how concentration spans are diminishing as stress levels increase. As a musician who plays in a few bands, I know that songs have to be instantly hooky and videos have to be instantly appealing (i.e. funny, scary, profound or controversial) within the first five seconds, or the chances of losing potentially thousands of listeners/viewers is high.
In recent times, it appears the same rules are being applied to film and TV. In The Meg, the shark is on screen sharpish in comparison to a classic like Jaws. Can’t keep the audience waiting after all – I mean, what if they get bored? They might jump onto social media to see how many people have liked their recent carbonara and pinot grigiot photograph.
DOGS laughs in the face of this contemporary ‘rule’. It’s gentle in its execution, its focus on the phenomenal bond between dog and human. The shooting, direction and editing is done tastefully with no schmaltz, cheese or unnecessary emotion-stoking music. The episodes are varied, some featuring only one dog, others several (around 1200 in one episode), but whether the dogs are working, being clipped or being rescued, it’s clear how much they mean to us and how much we mean to them.