Kitten Bowl: Playful competition for Super Bowl Sunday’s cute counter-programming

April 23, 2013

The Hallmark Channel is making a big move right meow to get in the game of sports counter-programming. The channel announced that it would be facing off against Animal Planet’s juggernaut of cute, the Puppy Bowl, with an adorable, meme-ready show of its own — the Kitten Bowl.


Kittens play on the halftime set at the taping of Animal Planet’s “PuppyBowl IX” program in New York City, NY on November 11, 2012.  (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post)

Like the Puppy Bowl, Hallmark plans to feature adoptable cats performing feats of athleticism. According to the Associated Press, Animal Planet had a one-word response to the news: “Copycats.”

But if this year’s Kitty Halftime Show was any indication of feline performance, the folks at Hallmark might have a tougher time than they think getting that Maru moment out of their feline performers. I went to the taping of the Puppy Bowl, which includes kittens as the halftime entertainment, and wrote an in-depth story about the making of the show:

The kittehs are placed on the set, which is outfitted with a circus-like jungle gym of scratching posts, hidey-holes, blowing tinsel, wagging toys, gyrating toys, rotating toys and a blast of catnip. Despite the performance-enhancing drugs, the cats are subdued.

“Cat fishing ain’t going so hot today, guys,” said one of the 13 volunteers tasked with entertaining the cats with fishing-rod toys. No one’s biting, it seems.

One particularly spunky cat bursts out of a tube in the gymnasium. “Tell your friends how to do that — you’re good!”

Most of the cats are more interested in the camera than the toys, though one black-and-white kitty with a Groucho Marx moustache treats the AstroTurf like a scratching post. For the grand finale, a glittering rain of confetti blows onto the set, bewildering the cats and settling on the backs of the camera staff.

Showbiz is harder for cats, because as any owner knows, it can be extraordinarily difficult to make them do something they don’t want to do. The directors of the Broadway show “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” know all too well — one of their cats, Montie, was recently fired for “being difficult.”


Dre Cortes shakes catnip over the kitty halftime show set prior to the taping of Animal Planet’s “PuppyBowl IX” program in New York City, NY on November 11, 2012. Kittens from a NYC shelter are then placed on the set and their playful antics are caught on tape. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post)

Besides, the show’s format will be a straight-up feline agility/cuteness contest, which has nothing to do with football, so “Kitten Bowl” is a serious misnomer. This is like the former Nickelodeon show “Guts” meets “LOLwork,” the “I Can Haz Cheezburger?” reality show on a psychedelic quantity of catnip — and you can almost guarantee these cats will be baited with catnip, just as the Puppy Bowl ones were. This cute kitten show could air any day of the year.

But hey, the Internet is made of cats. So while the Hallmark Channel is blatantly stealing the Puppy Bowl’s turf, everyone’s probably gonna watch the YouTube clips anyway, and tweet along. #squeeeeee.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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