Among a tide of reality TV trends of clickbait storylines caught up in catfights, backbiting and bitchiness, Pooch Perfect arrives as a welcome treat.
The series sees Australia’s most skilled dog groomers compete for a $100,000 grand prize.
It follows a well-trodden format of timed challenges, emotional backstories, professional judges and tearful eliminations.
Think Great Australian Bake Off for canine stylists.
Dog lovers will dig it and kids will love it.
The drawcard for everyone else? Host Rebel Wilson.
At first the Pitch Perfect star pounds the audience with dog puns – to be fair, it’s tough to resist (see above) – but she soon settles into the gig like she was born for it.
Which, it turns out, she kind of was.
“I know what you guys are thinking. Rebel, what are you doing hosting a show about grooming?” she says early in the premiere.
“I do have a long history with dogs, and I’m not just talking about my ex-boyfriends.”
She goes on to explain that her family has been showing dogs for five generations, and her mum is still in the game as an international dog show judge.
Cut to Wendy, her step-mum: “She puts on these Hollywood films and stuff,” she says of Rebel.
“But deep down she’s just one of us dog people.”
Rebel, actually, is a rare breed.
Even in her film career, the Sydney-born star’s self-effacing comedy style stems from juggling being the butt of a joke, being in on the joke and making the joke, all at once.
She’s wide-eyed, but with a wink.
It’s how one minute she can be natural stealing scenes in Jojo Rabbit (and then rubbing shoulders with Brad Pitt at Oscars after-parties) and also seem right at home conjuring chemistry her Pooch Perfect canine co-host, Russell, a Brussels Griffon with attitude.
“He’s brown because I thought we needed a bit more diversity in this cast,” she says before he turns away from her.
“I should have gone with one of those other bitches.”
It’s a knack.
Hamish Blake walked a similar tongue-in-check yet sincere tightrope while hosting Nine’s rating blockbuster Lego Masters.
Julia Morris also nails it while hosting I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
Rebel’s charm aside, watching passionate, skilful people do their thing makes for good viewing.
Reality TV competitions shows may have kicked off with singing, cooking, modelling and fashion design, but they’ve since morphed into covering ever more microscopic subcultures – tattooing, make-up artistry and even blade-making as showcased in the oddly riveting and knockout reality show Forged in Fire.
To the layperson the doggy styling doesn’t make for the most jaw-dropping makeovers – they pretty much morph from “cute” to “clean and cute” – but there are plenty of warm and fuzzy moments.
Episode one takes an unexpectedly emotional turn when a contestant breaks down over a personal issue and Rebel handles the whole scenario with grace and empathy.
Rebel is set to hone her hosting skills again.
In August it was announced she’ll front and executive produce LOL: Last One Laughing, Australia’s first Amazon Prime original.
It will feature 10 Australian comedic actors and stand-ups competing to make each other laugh first.
The final comedian left standing will take home $100,000.
And who knows? Maybe, some day, the winner of that show will get a shot at hosting a reality show about beekeepers.
Pooch Perfect premieres at 7.30pm, February 27, on Seven