Nobody expects ... 'Groomer Has It'

Today's cuppa: Barry's Classic Blend Irish tea and maybe some Mystic Monk coffee later on (as it's Sunday).

Sometimes, like the Spanish Inquisition, a reality show sneaks up when a TV critic least expects it.

(If you're going "Spanish-whaaah?," you're obviously suffering from "Monty Python" deficiency. It's a serious condition, but fortunately, very treatable. For a quick pick-me-up, click on the link above, for a more lasting cure, get some DVDs or BBC America. Hot Cuppa TV -- saving the world from low "Python" levels, one dead parrot at a time. Yeah, that's another one.)

A few weeks ago, during a moment of mental abstraction, I allowed myself to watch an episode of Animal Planet's reality-competition show "Groomer Has It," which pits dog groomers against each other in search of a cash prize and a new mobile grooming van.

Only four groomers were left at the point that I entered: experienced New Yorkers Jonathan and Jorge; and two Californians, veteran Kathleen, from Escondido, and rookie Artist, from inner-city Los Angeles.

After that, I just kept watching.

I first heard about this show quite a while ago when Animal Planet called about doing a set visit, but it didn't work out at the time (apparently there's going to be a second season in 2009, so I'll have another chance).

BTW, in the interests of full disclosure, while I love dogs, I don't currently have one, and the last one I had was a smooth dachshund that didn't really need professional grooming (yes, I've cleaned ears, clipped nails and done other gross dog stuff that I won't go into here, but you dog owners know what I'm talking about). So I have no personal experience with going to a professional dog groomer.

That being said, last night was the big finale...

(IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED IT YET, STOP READING NOW. I GOT SPOILED DOING SOME INTERNET RESEARCH BEFORE I SAW IT ON DVR, AND I WANT TO SPARE YOU FROM MY FATE. WE NOW RETURN TO THE POST, ALREADY IN PROGRESS.)

...and to my joy, the charming young Artist won. He's cheerful, enthusiastic, a quick study, not arrogant or annoying (sadly, runner-up Jonathan could use some work in this area), and a dedicated dad -- and no doubt having the money and a spanking new van will change his life. And yeah, I got misty. It happened.

I've been trying to figure out why I kept watching "Groomer" once I stumbled upon it. Here are my theories:

Obviously, I love dogs. I'm also obsessed with Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl." That's a given.

It may have been because the first episode I saw featured filthy, neglected shelter dogs, a challenge which really brought out the heart and character of each contestant.

It probably was because I'm just terminally curious and like to learn the ins-and-outs of unfamiliar professions (like crab fishing, ice-road trucking, logging, oil drilling, home remodeling, etc). After attending dog shows and watching them on TV, I knew something about the grooming requirements of different breeds (hand-stripping rough-coated terriers, for example), but there were lots of techniques and challenges to dog grooming that I heard about for the first time.

Lots of TV shows label themselves as "educational," but, for me, some of the most informative shows are ones that just set out to be entertaining, while slipping in a bit of learning as an organic part of the presentation (like, for example, "Antiques Roadshow" or "Top Gear").

Will I watch "Groomer Has It" next year? Very likely.

So, what show snuck up on you?

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