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Thursday, June 11, 2015

New on Video: Urban Animal Adventures in Littlest Pet Shop: Paws for Applause

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge sc_29_littlestpetshoppawsforapplause-2.jpg

I first became aware of Littlest Pet Shop when I interviewed Daniel Ingram, songwriter for both this series and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, on this very blog in November 2012. Littlest Pet Shop soon entered my regular viewing rotation, joining Friendship Is Magic as a Sunday morning breakfast ritual with my girlfriend, Marta.

Well, Marta and I broke up in late 2013, and as you often will when you associate a show with a relationship, I stopped watching Shop. (Other televisual casualties of that breakup included Sex and the City and Orange in the New Black, neither of which I've returned to, though I eventually found my way back to Cougar Town, and I never stopped watching Friendship Is Magic.) Yet Paws for Applause, an episode compilation which Shout! Factory will release on DVD June 16 — hey, that's my birthday! Thanks, folks — has gotten me back in the Littlest Pet Shop groove, because it's reminded me that Pet Shop is actually a very good show.

In Littlest Pet Shop, Blythe (Ashleigh Ball) is an aspiring teenage fashion designer who moves with her widowed and none-too-bright pilot father Roger (Michael Kopsa) to the big city. Their apartment is above the titular pet shop, and Blythe discovers that she can talk with the animals in the shop's day camp.

The strength of the series, in addition to the fact that it's very well-written and has a sometimes vaudevillian gags-per-minute ratio, is that it doesn't just focus on the animals and their frequent Muppet Babies-esque fantasies. It's as much about Blythe and the other human characters and the travails of city life, with the pets and/or the shop often relegated to the B-plot. In the "Fashion University North" video above, Blythe discovers the hard truth that doing something you love in a professional or academic context can take the fun out of it. (Boy, howdy.) The simple pressures of maintaining an independent business a recurring theme, as in this collection's remarkably "Blythe's Big Idea," in which the decision to shoot a television commercial results in the show gleefully demolishing the fourth wall, or "Super Sunil," in which much of the plot hinges on the difficulty of finding just the right parking spot for a food truck.

Though it's developed a strong supporting cast in Blythe's friends (and occasional enemies), one of my favorite aspects is that it also spends plenty of time with Mrs. Twombly, the shop's owner. Her exact age is uncertain, but among other things, in the late 1960s she was the inventor and champion of kung-fu quilting (a mix of martial arts and quilting, duh), but had to retire when she pulled her Achilles tendon. The date of her accident was July 20, 1969, and in Littlest Pet Shop's universe, her retirement was much bigger news than the Apollo 11 moon landing. It's the kind of historical throwaway gag that the show does so well, and inasmuch as any show should be burdened with messages, the character of Mrs. Twombly sends an important message to the show's young female demographic that you can get old but still keep your spirit.

The show recently finished its third season, and while Paws for Applause is Shout! Factory's eighth Littest Pet Shop DVD, they've all been five-episode compilations like this one. Littlest Pet Shop is not an especially serialized show, so the lack of full-season sets doesn't impact viewing too much, but there's no real pattern to the Shout! Factory discs; Paws for Applause kicks off with the second-season premiere "Missing Blythe," which in spite of what I said about it not being all that serialized, does start off with a recap of the first season finale, complete with portentous title card:


That previous episode, "Summertime Blues," was actually released on Shout! Factory's fourth Littlest Pet Shop disc back in December 2013. Enh, better the episodes be released out of order than not at all. And one of these days, I should probably give Orange is the New Black another try.

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Sherilyn Connelly


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