Special Shows with Special People

Margie Barron with Cesar Millan of the “Dog Whisperer.”

There is a man with a special skill who has turned his talent into the most unique TV show on the airwaves. Cesar Millan is the host of the Dog Whisperer series, which just started a new season on a new network. Cable’s Nat Geo Wild is now the new home to the show that documents Cesar’s amazing ability to rehabilitate problem pooches. It’s really fascinating to watch how he reverses intensive situations of bad behavior by his calm and assertive manner. If only his skills with our four-legged friends would work as well with two-legged critters — oh, but I digress. At a recent Nat Geo Wild party for the launch of the Dog Whisperer’s eighth season, I caught up with the proud Cesar who told me about some incredible doggy tales.

“We’re tackling cases and topics that are more complicated than ever this season, and I’m excited to share my special understanding of the way dogs’ minds factor into their overall behavior and well-being,” he explained. “Upcoming is the Army Brats episode [airs Jan. 21] focusing on the dogs of military families at the Fort Hood Army base. I helped an Australian shepherd overcome a fear of men in uniform right before her owner came home from deployment. And there was a Shetland shepherd who barked nonstop at planes and helicopters that flew overhead at the base.” After “Cesar’s boot camp” these dogs now follow orders much better.

Among other upcoming highlights are retraining dogs with phobias and obsessions; and nipping and biting problems that can be solved with retraining people along with the dogs. It was interesting to hear that a wagging tail doesn’t mean it’s a happy dog that isn’t going to bite you. And Cesar reported some home-wrecking hounds are part of the special 150th Dog Whisperer episode airing on Valentine’s Day.

Currently underway at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena is the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, where a lot of special programs have been showcased. PBS was the first up with tremendous entertainment a major part of their presentations. Anna Deavere Smith, the author, playwright, and actress, did excerpts from her one-woman show “Let Me Down Easy” premiering Jan. 13 on Great Performances. It is a thought-provoking collection of real people that she portrays as she lets their voices be heard through hers.

PBS had Michael Feinstein on hand on a different night, and he gave a cabaret performance to highlight his American Songbook II series airing Feb. 3, 10, and 17. The B-52’s retro musical group had a performance and press conference for their B-52’s with the Wild Crowd show coming in March. And seeing a cuddly Koala bear up close, as the folks from the Nature series talked about filming May’s Cracking the Koala Code show, was adorable and also very special.

Napoleon Dynamite is a new animated series, joining the Fox TV Animation Domination lineup with its premiere on Jan. 15 on Fox. The show is about the adventures of America’s most “awesomely awkward teenager” and his family and friends as they navigate small town life in Idaho. It features the voices of the film’s original cast, including Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino, Aaron Ruell, Jon Gries, Sandy Martin, and Diedrich Bader. Mike Scully is executive producer, along with Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess, who wrote and directed the original film that became a phenomenon.

Just like the movie, the best thing about the Napoleon Dynamite cartoon show is that it never gets offensive. Jared Hess said, “We have fun finding jokes that are based on characters and the environment they’re in. It pushes us creatively to find ways to be really funny, and yet make it comfortable for your whole family to watch this.” It’s a smart comedy that offers good clean humor. That’s refreshing nowadays. That makes it special.

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