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Feature Story - April 2002

Giving an Animal Its Due: Animal Actors Searching for Respect in TV Show Reference Resources
    by Jerome A. Holst    

Every year hundreds of television shows are produced in Hollywood, but within the publishing industry that documents the activities of the entertainment industry, there seems to be a conspiracy afoot to keep TV animal actors from getting their just rewards. Consistently, the  writers and researchers who document TV programming neglect to credit TV animals with acting roles in the many research databases and books that provide acting credits to TV performers. From such high profile animals like Mr. Ed or Lassie, to the average work-a-day dogs, cats, and other critters that appeared on various TV shows over the years, the existence of their contributions are being minimalized.

Now why should these TV animal stars be denied the privilege of having their names recorded for posterity? If you prick their paws do they not bleed? (I'm only referencing Shakespeare to make a point so don't report me to the SPCA). And while some animal actors may appear in opening credits of such shows as the family drama Life Goes On (Arnold the Semi-wonder carries his food bowl in hopes of getting fed) or on the sitcom Married with Children (Buck the dog gets in line for money from his master Al Bundy),  the labors of these TV animals are soon forgotten once these shows get recorded by TV researchers.

To illustrate my claim, I randomly chose ten (10) TV programs that featured animal actors.

Then I tried to find out whether these animals appeared in the actor's credits lists in standard TV reference resources including books and websites. The results across the board proved that TV Program researchers and compilers of actor screen credits routinely neglect to give TV animal actors credit for their contributions.

Internet resources such as The Internet Movie Data Base, TV Tome, Epguides and TV Chronicles all came up negative. Only TV Chronicles was the best of the four but then again they only documented one out of ten in the survey. They credited the role of Flipper to a dolphin named Susie. For the chart below: 0 = no credit for the role  X= given credit for the role.

Program Character  Imd Tom  EpG  Chr
Caroline in the City Salty the Cat 0 0 0 0
Empty Nest Dreyfus the dog 0 0 0 0
Flipper Flipper the dolphin 0 0 0 X
Frasier Eddie the dog 0 0 0 0
Fury Fury the horse 0 0 0 0
Green Acres Arnold the Pig 0 0 0 0
Mad About You Murray 0 0 0 0
Life Goes On Arnold the Semi Wonder Dog 0 0 0 0
Magnum PI Apollo and Zeus 0 0 0 0
Please Don't Eat the Daisies Ladadog 0 0 0 0

Next, I thumbed through the most relevant TV books that document TV programs and actors who played on the above  shows. The books used included The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows by Brooks and Marsh; Total Television by Alex McNeil; Television Character and Story Facts by Vincent Terrace;.and Harry and Wally's Favorite TV Shows by Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik. In every case, there were ten out of ten times that no TV animal actor credits could be found. 

All the books surveyed included a summary of each show and a list of characters. Now, the name of the TV character animal may have been mentioned in the summary but rarely did I find an entry with the real name of any animals who may have played a role on such programs. Ironically on the sitcom Frasier, the show's credits list "Dan Butler as Bob 'Bulldog' Brisco" but nowhere listed is the name of the real dog (Moose) who plays the role of Eddie, Martin Crane's pet dog.

Why this is happening is anyone's guess. Maybe there is a logical reason. Maybe, the animals don't have a Screen Actor Guild (SAG) card and so can't legally be listed in the credits as an actor?

Or maybe TV researchers and writers are simply showing their distain for another species by saying that they are not worthy of such praises. After all they're just animals. Well, I say that is just plain unfair. If TV animal actors are good enough to act on cue, to make us laugh and to earn a paycheck for their trainers and owners, then they should, at the very minimum, be given the acknowledgement of an acting credit in reference books and databases. 

After all, if a TV reference book can include a human actor's credit like "Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane" (on Frasier)  then why can't the same writers and compilers of these TV books and databases place a simple entry like "Moose the dog as Eddie the dog" (on Frasier) so that future readers and researcher of these books can easily find the real name of such animals. 

So how do we change the attitudes of the writers and compilers of reference books on TV programs and electronic databases to include the real names of TV animals actors. Well, I could suggest we carry signs out in front of studio lots and cry foul in support of these animals. But, since I live on the East Coast and I can't afford the air fare, I'll recommend a more reasonable approach. Contact animal rights organizations and let them know your opinion on the topic. Let them know that you believe that TV animal actors have the same right as their human counterparts to get credit where credit is due.

So start by sending your concerns to the following organizations listed below and see if we can't get a grass roots movement going to support our animal friends on television. Are you with me? Ruff! Meow! Moo! Oink! Now that's the spirit.
 

 PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Screen Actor's Guild

Animal Concerns Organization

 ScrewedCentral

American Kennel Club

Hollywoodpaws



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