Puppy Place is a big hug from a slobbery pooch [Apple TV+ review]

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Puppy Place
Ready for puppy overload?
Photo: Apple TV+

Puppy Place, the latest kids show to land on Apple TV+, is a parade of adorable dogs and teachable moments, designed to deliver lessons about personal responsibility and social issues.

Will it become a hit with either kids or the parents looking over their shoulders? In case Instagram goes down again and you need dogs in a hurry, here’s your show.

Puppy Place review

The new series, which premieres Friday on Apple TV+, Charles (played by Riley Looc) and Lizzie Peterson (Brooklynn MacKinzie) are two precocious kids who have just about everything they need. Their parents (Eric C. Lynch and Dominique Toney) love them but set reasonable, if firm, boundaries.

They created a loving family unit — and into it walks Goldie, a dog that dad Paul rescued from a burning building during one of his shifts at the firehouse. The kids naturally want to keep the adorable dog but mom is less sure. The most she’ll agree to is that they can look after the dog while they find it a forever home.

Training Goldie turns out to be something of a more involved task than they imagined, but they find him a new friend, an old golden retriever down the block, who hasn’t been the same since the other dog in the house died. Maybe that dog would like a replacement best friend?

With Goldie out of the house, they now have room for other dogs and renewed purpose. What if they became professional dog foster parents? They set about finding other dogs in the neighborhood, renovating their mud room to make room for new foster dogs. And what if every new dog brought the Peterson children life lessons as well as cute companionship?

Sit, stay, roll over

<em>Puppy Place review: The Apple TV+ kids show unleashes an awful lot of dogs to melt your heart.
Puppy Place unleashes an awful lot of dogs to melt your heart.
Photo: Apple TV+

Created by Andrew Green, Puppy Place is based on a series of books by Ellen Miles. (Her catalog numbers more than 60 as of this writing.) Green has quite the pedigree himself, having produced and written for Suddenly Susan back in the ’90s and then becoming a writer/producer on the unbelievably popular Hannah Montana show. (He also did some consulting on Insatiable for Netflix.)

Knowing all this, it’s kind of surprising that Puppy Place isn’t funnier. It’s cute, sure, but between the uncertain delivery of its young stars and the firmly middlebrow humor (lots of jokes kids are supposed to be able to get but probably wouldn’t find all that funny), it just sort of sits there like an old terrier.

The Hannah Montana connection becomes clearer when Charles starts having myriad daydreams about being famous. He imagines himself the subject of an HGTV show and later on a red carpet winning an award. It’s the kind of kid-friendly fantasy that made Hannah Montana popular, but I also wonder the extent to which some of these references are going to work on the audience for Puppy Place.

The chemistry between the two young leads (and the cast of young actors who play their friends and peers) is most winning, and gets everyone over the little hiccups in their performances. It’s just that the feeling of watching them try their best seems to be the main thing the show has banked on outside of the dogs.

Barking up the Hamilton tree

Would it shock you to learn that there are Hamilton references in this show? I thought not. After a certain point, this kind of thing becomes unconscionable. It’s part and parcel with the marching orders I can’t help but feel are given to most of the Apple TV+ showrunners and writers: Teach first, then entertain.

The kids shows this network has released are good-natured and gentle, sometimes to a fault. I’m not saying every kids show has to have the edge of some of your weirder ’90s cartoons (like Cow and Chicken or Rocko’s Modern Lifeyou know, anything that got canceled for being obviously too weird for most kids).

However, it would be nice to see this formula get broken up every now and again. Every kids show doesn’t have to be like bubble wrap around the young viewer. Especially because there is, in the case of a show like this, the sense of palpably making everything as nice as possible to the exclusion of a lot of interest.

Dogs are cute, kids are cute, and so this show will be great for some kids. But it doesn’t feel particularly challenging in even the most rudimentary ways.

Watch Puppy Place on Apple TV+

The first season of Puppy Palace premieres on October 15 on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-G

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.