I’ve said before that I think the Hub’s Pound Puppies is one of their most under-recognized shows. It’s every bit as good as the more renowned My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, possessing the same charm and wit but with a more gender neutral slant. Like My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, Pound Puppies is a simple show, but those simple stories are the hardest in the world to tell well. Pound Puppies pulls the trick of telling them so well that they make it look easy. The latest DVD of the show, A Perfect Match, contains five more episodes of the show, and if I am disappointed that there seems to be no season set on the horizon, I definitely can’t complain about the quality of the episodes on the DVD.
Even though this is the fifth Pound Puppies DVD released so far, it’s taken until now to get the premiere episode of the series, “The Yipper Caper.” It neatly sums up the show’s pitch: the dogs of Shelter 17 are part of a secret organization called the Pound Puppies, which are dedicated to matching every puppy to his or her perfect owner. It’s a bit of an oddball move to inject World War II prison camp tropes, but that’s one of many elements that’s likely to make parents smile more than the kids that are the target audience. The Pound Puppies are led by Lucky (Eric McCormack), a sly and quick-thinking mutt. His second in command is the tough boxer Cookie (Yvette Nicole Brown), and the team is rounded out by the sweet but extremely dumb sheepdog Niblet (John DiMaggio, who often gets the funniest lines), the street-smart Chihuahua Squirt (Michael Rapaport), and the inventor dachshund Strudel (Alanna Ubach). Occasionally opposing them are the shelter’s vain administrator McLeish (Rene Auberjonois) and his simpleminded assistant Olaf (M. Emmett Walsh). “The Yipper Caper” isn’t the best the show would pull off, but it quickly establishes all the major players and gets the show off to a good start.
The next episode is “Working K-9 to 5,” which was the show’s season 3 premiere, and it’s interesting to see how the show’s formula has not changed but this episode is much sharper than the premiere. Admittedly, a lot of this has to do with the hilarious guest appearance by J.K. Simmons as a thinly-veiled take on J. Jonah Jameson, Daily Bugle publisher and perpetual blowhard foe of Spider-Man, and the episode doesn’t feel the need to explain much more than the absolute minimum required to establish the premise. A young girl named Dolores has to prove her sense of responsibility before she can adopt a dog, leading her to take a paper route from her newspaper publisher father. Things go horribly wrong, of course, and if the senior citizen jokes may be a bit stale, they’re largely saved by delivery and the twist at the end. I thought the episode was brilliant when I saw it as part of the Hub’s 2013 summer premieres, and that opinion has not changed.
“Hello Kitten” shakes things up by focusing on the Super Secret Pup Club, three younger puppies who help the Pound Puppies on occasion. The episode also introduces the Kennel Kittens, the feline equivalents to the Pound Puppies, who are all drawn suspiciously similarly to the Pound Puppies and voiced by the same actors. It’s an amusing gimmick and works nicely as the Super Secret Pup Club helps a kitten named Spoons find her perfect human and overcome some deep-seated mistrust between cats and dogs along the way. It’s cute enough, although I’m glad the Super Secret Pup Club only appear intermittently on the show.
“Beauty is Only Fur Deep” guest stars Diedrich Bader as a former rescue St. Bernard named Champ, who arrives at Shelter 17 with no fur and a major lack of confidence as a result. Unfortunately, a fur suit made by Squirt reveals an insufferable arrogance that presents the biggest obstacle to getting him adopted. The whole gag is that Champ is completely unaware of how hideous his fur suit really is, but the final moral of the story is sweet enough. Finally, “No More S’mores” may be the most outrageously funny episode of the show, as an extremely shy puppy named Millard accidentally ends up on a camping trip with Lucky’s owner Dot (a hyperactive Grey Delisle) and her troop of High Energy Scouts. The gag of ultra high-energy girl scouts on a camping trip is a whole lot funnier than it has any right to be, especially as they start tripping over the Pound Puppies trying to get Millard placed with the much calmer, more sedate Jennifer.
Shout! Factory has done its usual good job of presenting TV on DVD. Like earlier Pound Puppies DVDs, A Perfect Match features an excellent anamorphic widescreen transfer, a solid stereo soundtrack, and ample chapter stops within episodes. There are no bonus features included. I’m still disappointed that season sets of the Hub’s best shows are still rather slow in coming, but until they do, discs like this will be a fine substitute.