Stream It Or Skip It?

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For 33 years, one of the most popular recurring bits on David Letterman’s two late night shows was “Stupid Pet Tricks.” It was exactly what the name indicated: People and their pets were invited on Letterman’s stage to show the tricks their furry friends can do. The tricks were often indeed stupid, but always fun to watch, especially when things didn’t go right. Letterman even employed instant replay to show a dog doing a flip or what have you. Now, nine years after Letterman left the air, his Worldwide Pants production company has put together a half-hour weekly series with nothing but Stupid Pet Tricks.

Opening Shot: A shot of the Warner Bros. lot, and the “Stupid Pet Tricks Offices”, which is a door attached to a large soundstage. Host Sarah Silverman thanks executive producer David Letterman for the opportunity to host this new series based on his classic Late Night/Late Show bit.

The Gist: Dave responds by producing a Top Ten List called “People We Asked To Host The Show Before Settling On Sarah Silverman.” One of the people on the list: Jake from State Farm. Sarah then leaves Dave and goes to a writers’ room full of talking animals.

Silverman hosts Stupid Pet Tricks in front of a live studio audience, with an announcer, Toby Clark (in the form of a guinea pig), and a band, Jacob Jeffries and the Stupid All-Stars. Every week, four pets come in with their people and perform whatever trick the people says they can do. Then one of them is selected the Stupidest Pet Trick of the Week.

In the first episode, we have LeRoy and Hercules; Hercules is a dog who can walk on a ball. Then there’s Scout and Gizmo; Gizmo is a goat that can do agility exercises and walk on his hind legs. After Scout and Gizmo do their trick, Gizmo gives Sarah a little session of goat yoga. Next we get Jennifer and Herbie; Herbie is a camel that can do the limbo. He nervously pees all over the rugs put out for him, but no one seems to mind. Finally, there’s Omar and Monkey; Monkey is a dog that can do CPR on Omar. Yes, you read that correctly.

In between each stupid pet trick, we get an “inside” look at the SPT offices, where Sarah shows how tough it is to pair office mates, like when Larry the lizard and Bree the penguin couldn’t agree on the right room temperature. Or when Madison the snake ate Drew the mouse; though, as Sarah says, it did give the show the opportunity to bring in Judd Apatow.

Stupid Pet Tricks
Photo: Tyler Golden/TBS

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? It’s 21 minutes (without commercials) of Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks bit. We’re not really sure it reminds us of anything but that.

Our Take: When you really think of how Stupid Pet Tricks went on either of Letterman’s shows, the segment basically took almost as much time as the part of each current Stupid Pet Tricks episode is devoted to the actual tricks. In each 21 minute episode, we have at least 5 minutes of shtick in the “SPT Offices” as well as another three minutes spent giving the “Stupidest Pet Trick of the Week” at the end. So in all, there’s about 12-14 minutes of actual pet tricks, which is why the show doesn’t have to actually be embellished much beyond what Dave did for all those years.

Silverman is a fun host, of course; she’s been doing this for so long that she knows exactly how to tone down her usual edgier comedy and make things accessible and family friendly. Though we do like how she does get in some mildly risqué things in there, like when she told Herbie “you’re beautiful from your camel nose right down to your camel toes.” She’s good with the human participants, and is able to roll with whatever they say on stage. And if the animals don’t cooperate — in the second episode, a horse is very happy to meet Sarah, and a cat does what a cat does among strangers and tries to run — she has a line at the ready. It helps that her love of animals shines through in all of her interactions with the pettestants.

The show is definitely geared towards families, as there’s no cutting snarkiness evident in how Silverman interacts with the humans. Dave, especially in his early years, cracked wise if the human or the animal did something unexpected; he wasn’t exactly punching down, but he also knew when to get in a spicy line. Silverman is showing the sunny side of her persona at all times here, and that works well in a format where the animals are the stars.

What Age Group Is This For?: Stupid Pet Tricks is definitely an all ages show.

Parting Shot: As the four person/pet groups dance around, Silverman joins Jacob Jeffries and the Stupid All-Stars in singing, “If they can get along, we can get along.”

Sleeper Star: Jeffries and his band nicely channel the vibe of Paul Shaffer and The World’s Most Dangerous Band / The CBS Orchestra.

Most Pilot-y Line: None, really.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Stupid Pet Tricks is a fun way to carry on one of the most popular bits from David Letterman’s 33 years on late-night television. Sarah Silverman does a fine job as host, and the show is something the entire family can watch and enjoy.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.

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