A few months ago, I received the screeners for nine of the ten episodes of The Pack, Amazon’s new Amazing Race competition for dogs. Expletives immediately rose from my head to the invisible sound balloon above me. I have a low, low tolerance for dog shows on television, in part because they are usually shaped by people who don’t know anything about dogs and they bend the lives of dogs and their owners to suit their own needs. A competition show, with dogs jetting around the world, seemed like a bad, bad idea. I did not click the bait.
But the pandemic makes us try new things, so some weeks later, in the middle of a rare open afternoon, I went back to it. The first episode confirmed all my fears. It is completely insane. The first episode opens with host Lindsay Vonn and her dog in an LA traffic jam that inexplicably becomes a reenactment of the opening number from La La Land, with people and their dogs bursting out of their cars and into an elaborately choreographed dance number that features Dennis Rodman and Denise Richards (for no apparent reason.) From there, we learn how this “experience” will be really important because it will demonstrate the important bond between dogs and their owners. Okay, but wouldn’t napping with my dogs also achieve that goal?
The competition itself is also nonsense: two competing teams of “ordinary” people and their dogs, racing around the world while the production company promises to drop generous donations to animal welfare organizations along the way. The first challenge involves zip lining, serving a banquet dinner from the dogs’ backs, scent work, digging and, of course, heart tugging testimonials about the bond between man, woman and dog. I burst into tears at least once. Possibly more than once.
From LA, they are off to Mexico, Costa Rica, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France…