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October 31, 2009

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Animals strut their stuff on TV

DOGS are the biggest winners in "America's Funniest Home Videos" now entering its 20th season. Then come cats and squirrels. In 19 years the show has paid out US$2.2 million for 260 animal videos. Sue Manning goes to the zoo. America's Funniest Home Videos" has been going to the dogs for years, even if cats make it a game from time to time.

Dogs are a clear winner as the funniest animal - especially wiener dogs, Chihuahuas and pugs - judging by payouts from the series, which begins its 20th year on ABC next month.

For example, there was the bug-eyed Chihuahua getting a bath in a sink. "It was the homeliest dog, big bulging eyes that looked in opposite directions, his tongue was hanging out, and he was soaking wet, the sweetest thing," says co-executive producer and writer Todd Thicke.

"You weren't even sure it was an animal," adds executive producer Vin Di Bona.

In the show's first 19 years, 260 animal videos have won US$2.2 million for their video creators.

More than half those winners (136) have been dogs for US$1.4 million in prize money. There have been 34 cat champs making US$210,000 and 22 birds sharing US$115,000.

Next comes the nutty part: Nine squirrels have shared US$54,000.

"We might not get a lot of squirrel videos, but when we do, they come through for us. They are high-percentage rodents," Thicke says. Almost all the clips involve people in tight spaces trying to get away from the squirrels, Di Bona says.

There have been multiple wins for raccoons, giraffes, goats, horses, monkeys, bears, hamsters, llamas, mice, praying mantises and whales. In the one-time wonder category are the ant, bull, camel, chimp, deer, elk, ferret, fish, fly, frog, gorilla, guinea pig, kangaroo, lizard, orangutan, ostrich, ram, rat, rhino, sea lion, spider, snake, tarantula and toad.

Between them, Di Bona, Thicke and co-executive producer Michelle Nasraway could come up with only one animal they hadn't seen - the tsetse fly.

And what has the show taught them over the years? Never hold food next to a monkey. Don't stand behind a horse. If you put a bowl of food in the middle of a group of puppies they will move around it clockwise. Dogs tend to howl at pianos.

But most of all, Thicke says, "People love their pets and are proud of them and have trained them to do amazing tricks."


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