John O'Hurley and David Frei on the National Dog Show, Presented by Purina


By Steve Dale

Thanksgiving traditions are a wonderful thing. Think Thanksgiving, and you think turkey, family, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the National Dog Show Presented by Purina.

This is the 10th year anniversary of the broadcast with dog show guru David Frei and John O’Hurley. “I don’t know what you get someone for a 10th anniversary of co-hosting the dog show; I haven’t looked that one up,” says Frei. “Maybe aluminum foil or a gold leash. Anyway, I’m glad we were able to make John a TV star.”

O’Hurley, of course, was J. Peterman on the TV-classic Seinfeld, he was the winner of the first season of Dancing with the Stars, he’s written numerous books (including some about his dogs), hosted TV game shows and is currently starring on Broadway in Chicago.

With all that — and more — O’Hurley says he’s very often recognized, but people don’t know how they know him. In New York’s Central Park just a few weeks ago, O’Hurley says he was recognized by someone who then said, “How do I know you exactly?”

O’Hurley answered, “Don’t you remember me from Junior Prom?”

“She looked confused,” O’Hurley says by phone from New York. “She really began to study me, as I then added, ‘Well, the years haven’t been very good to me.'”

O’Hurley says he loves co-hosting the dog show because it’s what television should be. He’s no fan of reality programming. “My test is that at the end of an hour or two hours, however long the show is that you can say, ‘That was a good use of my time.’ It’s that simple. After watching reality shows, I don’t say it’s a good use of my time; I say, ‘I think I have to take a shower now.'”

O’Hurley continues, “That’s the thing about the dog show — it’s for everyone in the family, from 5-year-olds to 95-year-olds. And that’s good TV.”

Of course, as J. Peterman on Seinfeld, O’Hurley was involved in one of the best sitcoms ever. “I was very blessed,” he says. “It was the right cast at the right time with great writing. It was about the language we generated, like ‘spongeworthy,’ ‘no soup for you’ or (then he lowers his already uniquely dulcet tones and transforms once again into Peterman), ‘Elaine! You’re out on your patooty!'”

On Dancing with the Stars, O’Hurley was the first season’s winner. “Oh, gosh, back then, we had no idea this show would be as big as it’s become. I may have won, but I considered myself lucky to not fall down.”

O’Hurley says that watching “Dancing” is in some ways very much like watching the National Dog Show. “It’s TV for the entire family,” he says. “I think that’s a part of the reason for the success — Grandma judges a dancer and so does that teenager in the family. The dog show is the same; everyone judges from home. That’s a part of the fun.”

The National Dog Show is a taped-for-TV scaled down version of the legendary Kennel Club of Philadelphia Dog Show. There’s just no time to see everything, but of course, the Group competition and Best in Show segments are televised.

The Philadelphia show features over 2,000 dogs representing 185 breeds and varieties. Dogs in any American Kennel Club dog show compete in one of seven categories: Herding Group, Hound Group, Non-Sporting Group, Sporting Group, Terrier Group, Toy Group, or Working Group. One is selected as ‘top dog’ in each group. The final seven move on to the Best in Show competition.

This year’s Best in Show judge for the National Dog Show is Karen C. Wilson, of Sperryville, VA. “The judge isn’t supposed to compare the dogs with one another; after all, a Toy dog and a Herding dog can’t be compared really,” says Frei. “The judge is comparing each individual dog to a written standard. The dog that comes closest to that standard should win. But at this level, the truth is you can close your eyes and pick any of the seven — and you know it’s an excellent example of the breed.”

The National Dog Show airs at noon ET, immediately following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Serivces